NFL Forcing Photojournalists to Become Walking Billboards

The NFL has ruled that game photographers will be required to don red vests emblazoned with Canon and Reebok logos this season — infuriating many photojournalists and setting off a blogstorm of protest.

Tony Overman, president of the National Press Photographers Association, told News Photographer magazine that the NFL’s decision amounts to “forcing working journalists to unwillingly — and unethically — serve as advertising tools.”

It’s not the first time sports photographers have been used as walking billboards.

“Just this year at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl … photographers covering the game wore vests with the Tostitos logo on it,” said Pete Cross, assistant managing editor for photography for the Palm Beach Post. “Many a shooter wore the vests inside-out in protest. Still, the thought of having to wear anything promoting products is not something journalists would choose to do.”

Some blogger opinions:

Mark Hamilton: “The meaningful response from newspapers, if they truly believe in their statements of ethics and if they can’t convince the NFL to change this, would be to walk away from photographing NFL games.”

Mark Potts: “What’s next — requiring fans to wear matching sponsor logos in order to sit in the stands?”

John Harrington: “Your backside is no longer your own. You must do with it what your new pimp tells you to do…that is…if you wish to work the turf that the National Football League owns.”

Laura Nathan: “Next time you shoot a pro football game, don’t stress about getting dressed. The NFL has your clothes all picked out for you … Other sports leagues are imposing even harsher restrictions on photogs. Nascar, for instance, has begun asking photogs to sign agreements granting Nascar full ownership over any pix they shoot.

We have a hunch the NFL will back off on this one — at least for this season. We’ll see.

(Image is of forehead-advertising pioneer Travis Hayes.)

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