Dave Zweifel's Plain Talk: WIAA and its wicked ways

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Posted by Yep on March 16, 2009 at 14:54:46:

In Reply to: WIAA slaps newspapers with lawsuit posted by madcityradio.com on March 12, 2009 at 16:59:39:

Dave Zweifel's Plain Talk: WIAA and its wicked ways
Dave Zweifel 3/16/2009 5:20 am

Brace yourselves, prep sports fans, the day might not be far away when commercials and private sponsors will rule high school sports, just as they do college athletics these days.

The first step in that direction was taken recently by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the quasi-public organization that governs high school sports and runs all those tournaments that are culminating in state championships this month. It launched a suit against the Appleton Post-Crescent because the paper produced a webcast of a high school football playoff game this past fall, allowing its online readers to follow the game live.

It's only been recently that WIAA started claiming that it owns high school sports tournaments lock, stock and barrel. That includes "transmission, Internet stream, photo, image, film, videotape, audiotape, writing, drawing or other depiction of any game action, information or commercial used." It's a similar claim to what the NCAA long ago made.

It's not hard to figure out why. There's money to be made from private outfits that can be given exclusive rights to cover the events. The WIAA has already granted exclusive rights to tournament games for photos and videos to commercial companies that, in turn, sell pictures and videos to families and friends of the athletes. The WIAA shares in the proceeds.

So in the interest of making a few bucks, it's sticking a finger in the eye of weekly and daily newspapers and other media that have been covering and promoting high school athletics for decades. And now that most newspapers also have free online editions, WIAA wants to control the content to benefit itself.

It's a slippery slope, as all college sports fans know. The college game is now virtually held hostage to the television corporations that pay big bucks to exclusively air games at whatever time and day they demand for their own monetary interests.

If the WIAA should be successful, it will be in a position to, in essence, become a junior NCAA, bidding out sponsorships of games between teenaged amateur athletes who the WIAA is supposedly protecting.

Post-Crescent Executive Editor Dan Flannery says the paper will vigorously fight the suit.

"We are seeking to protect our rights to cover the news in whatever form or with whatever technology we have at our disposal," he adds.

Let's hope so. There's something nefarious about an organization that was formed by public high schools to administer high school athletics attempting to re-identify itself as the owner of those sports that the taxpayers and parents of every athlete have financed and nurtured for decades.

The commercialization of college sports is bad enough. We should never allow high school sports to go in the same direction.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.

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