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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Ads on Major League Uniforms?: Calling it a "matter of time," Major League Baseball's executive vice president for business Tim Brosnan has admitted that baseball has looked into selling advertising space on player's uniforms. Brosnan has said the practice could bring in $500 million a year. "We're unashamed of the fact that we are a business," Brosnan said. "I don't think this is unreasonable."

Many fans, including Senator Charles Schumer, disagree:

    "Imagine Willie Mays bearing an ad for Exxon on his back as he turned to make 'the catch.' Envision Jackie Robinson stealing home with a Budweiser logo on his cap," Schumer wrote. "Picture Lou Gehrig declaring himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth with a Coca-Cola banner across his chest. It's just wrong."

While the images Schumer invokes are powerful, the fact remains that professional sports are a business. Professional golfers wear hats and shirts adorned with logos and manage to look classy at the same time. The fear, of course, is that all athletes will look like NASCAR drivers, but there is little reason to believe baseball would allow uniforms to devolve to that point. Similar cries have been heard over stadium advertising, but signage behind home plate and on outfield walls has not taken away from the sport.

Would I rather see players salaries go down than see advertising everywhere? Yes. But this might not be realistic, and if this practice can drive down the cost of attending a baseball game, making it affordable for all family sizes and income brackets, I say bring it on. But baseball must keep in mind -- it can only ask the fan for so much before needing to give something back. Otherwise, the fan might just walk away forever, rendering meaningless those expensive walking billboards.


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