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Sports Commentary 11/1/13 Endorsement Bucks Nothing To ‘Spat’ On

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(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

ENDORSEMENT BUCKS NOTHING TO “SPAT” ON

You’ve heard or seen the disclaimers, “This is a paid endorsement by a non attorney professional announcer.”

First, the disclaimer.  This is a non paid endorsement from a party with no financial interest in the product being endorsed.  That out of the way, I heartily endorse this morning’s edition of USA Today, with some interesting and important reading in the sports section.  The banner piece is on a practice in football called “spatting”.

First, the definition.  Spats, for the young, were short leggings that were worn over shoes, for protection of the shoes or as a fashion statement.  In football “spatting” is the practice of taping the ankles, over the socks, over the shoes and around the cleats at the bottom of the shoes.  For many players it adds necessary protection for weak ankles, or ankles that have been injured.  For some it’s just a fashion statement.

“Spatting” is not the problem..  The effect of “spatting” is what’s generating concern among some of the most important people in sports, the clothing and gear manufacturers who produce the shoes, the ones with the company logo on them, the logo that gets covered up when a player “spats” his ankles.  This is where the extent of the power the shoe manufacturer holds over a program becomes evident and, sometimes, dangerous.  Those companies have little hold over National Football League teams, though their contracts with certain players prohibit those players from covering or altering the company logo, but in college athletics the shoe manufacturer, in many cases, has more control over a football program than the university or the athletic department.

The contracts with programs vary, some recieving a small stipend along with free athletic gear, while other, more high profile programs, get large payments, including separate contracts with the head coaches, along with the equipment, the amount of which make the companies and athletic programs business partners.  Manufacturers are selective in how they spread the wealth, which adds to the class system in college athletics, records showing that the schools in the, now, big five, leagues split the majority of the cash.  But the companies do give the programs their due, understanding the environment of concern over injuries, particularly in football.  The contracts with football programs allow so many players per game to “spat” their ankles, while also calling for a majority figure of shoe logos that must be visible during televised games.

This kind of attention to the details of the control a company holds over a college athletic program is most noticable on any given Saturday when teams that are traditionally identified by school colors of blue and white, or maroon and blue, or known as “Big Blue” or “Big Red” or “Crimson” or “Scarlet” or “Cardinal” show up for the kickoff dressed in black uniforms provided by the manufacturer with whom they are in partnership, that company’s marketing research showing black to be the preferred color of their target marketing groups, testosterone driven young males, many of whom have ties with gangs for whom black is the preferred indentification.

Any reading that makes you think, makes you ask questions, is important reading, and it’s important reading in USA Today this morning.  After all these years of thinking your favorite college athletic program represented you, as an alum, or the university or the state who’s name it bears, you might want to ask this question.  Who really owns your team?

With a comment from  the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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