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A few weeks ago I complained (joining what turned out to be a chorus of complainers) when Angelina Jolie besmirched the legacy of Danny Pearl by imposing absurd media-restrictions on her interviews to promote “A Mighty Heart.” Now it turns out that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, T.O, and everyone else in the sports world might be moving in the same direction. To be fair, it’s not the players here. It’s the owners. But still.
The National Football League, the superpower of all sports organizations, recently imposed a new rule limiting media outlets to 45 seconds of online audio or video footage with league or team personnel per day on NFL property. Further, the league requires media Web sites to remove such footage after 24 hours and always include links to the Web sites of pertinent teams and nfl.com. Those sites can show as much footage as they please, but no fan would consider them a destination for negative news like a player’s arrest or drug suspension. This could force many papers to change their practices: the Miami Herald, for instance, last year streamed five or six two-to-three minute interviews after Miami Dolphins games, posted an additional one or two of that length per day during the week and streamed all of ex-coach Nick Saban’s Monday press conferences, according to executive sports editor Jorge Rojas.
NFL officials say they welcome independent coverage of their 32 teams. But having made $170 million in online revenue in the fiscal year ended March 31 — up over 17% from the previous fiscal year — and with a young cable network to nurture, the league has plenty of incentive to limit the newspapers, TV and radio stations that cover it. And it can set its own rules: anyone not abiding by its media policies can have their credentials revoked without legal repercussions.
So a question: Don’t these stadiums have sweetheart deals from local authorities? Can’t the politicians who are subsidizing these facilities insist that the public, through the press, have free access to the games that are played there?