Letter to ESPN Ombudsman on Oregon Ad Cancellation

Earlier today I sent a letter on behalf of the College Sports Council to ESPN Ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber:

Dear Ms. Schreiber:

I am writing to you concerning ESPN’s rejection of an advertisement that Save Oregon Wrestling (SOW) and one of our members, the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), had contracted with ESPN to run during coverage of the 2008 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

http://saveoregonwrestling.com/?p=78#more-78
http://www.ducksportsnews.com/blog/2008/03/22/espn-bans-save-oregon-wrestling-commercial/

To recap the story, prior to this season, the University of Oregon’s athletic director informed the school’s wrestlers and coaching staff that the program would be eliminated at the end of the current academic year. In response, Ron Finley, the former head coach at Oregon, started SOW to raise awareness of the fight to keep the program alive, and to raise enough money
to make the program self-supporting, raising $2 million in the process.

In order to further publicize the plight of the program, SOW worked together with the NWCA to produce a 30-second ad to air during ESPN’s coverage of the 2008 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Initially, ESPN accepted the ad On February 29 without complaint, agreeing to run the spot once during the original broadcast and then another 11 times during its rebroadcast on ESPNU. Then, just three days before the tournament was set to begin, SOW and NWCA were informed that ESPN would not air the spot because the network does not air advertising that consists of, in whole or in part, “political advocacy or issue-oriented advertising”.

Which, to my mind, is an explanation that is too cute by half. Both yourself and a number of other critics have noted that ESPN often skews its SportsCenter coverage in favor of sports with which it has close relationships. In this case, it’s clear to me that an NCAA member organization like the University of Oregon would rather see the effort to save the wrestling program disappear without a trace — and ESPN seems inclined to give them an assist to make it happen.

In addition, while a simple plea to help save an historic athletic program might not be fit to air on the network, I can’t help point point out the seemingly endless hours of in-kind advertising that ESPN has lent to the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) and their radical advocacy of Title IX enforcement. Back in 2002, ESPN aired, “On Equal Ground,” a blatantly biased account of a Title IX lawsuit paid for and produced by the WSF. Most recently in 2007, Christine Driessen, ESPN’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer joined WSF’s Board of Trustees.

Simply put, instead of letting the public decide these questions on its own, ESPN has taken a side and seems determined to do its level best to squelch or even eliminate dissenting voices in the debate.

Sincerely,

Eric McErlain
on behalf of the
College Sports Council
http://americansportscouncil.org

I’ll let everyone know if we hear anything.

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