Consumer advocate Ralph Nader and Ken Reed, sports policy director of League of Fans, today called on Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred to ban ads broadcast during baseball radio broadcasts.
See the Survey, Press Release and Letter in pdf, as well as the letter to MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred below.
March 21, 2023
Commissioner Robert Manfred
Major League Baseball
1271 6th Ave
New York, NY 10020
Dear Commissioner Manfred:
There’s a time and place for everything.
And the time and place for commercials on the radio during baseball broadcasts is before the game, after the game and between innings.
There is no place for commercials during the actual broadcast of the game.
We call on you to prohibit in-game ads, as they are known in the advertising business.
It is clear in their voices that baseball announcers are being driven to distraction by the proliferation of ads they are required to read as the game is being played.
We recently conducted a survey of all thirty broadcasts on one day last year – April 9, 2022 – when all thirty teams played.
And what we found was disturbing – a total of 847 in-game ads – or an average of 28.2 ads per game per team.
In 2012, we conducted a similar survey of in game ads for a New York Yankees broadcast and found 22 in game ads in one game. But our survey for the game last year found that the number had more than doubled for a Yankees game to more than 50.
The three worst offenders in our recent survey – the Chicago Cubs (60), the Colorado Rockies (53) and the New York Yankees (51) – each had more than 50 in-game ads in the game.
We read that you were a Yankee fan growing up in upstate New York.
We remember listening with pleasure to Mel Allen’s radio broadcasts of the New York Yankee games.
The commercials were reserved for the commercial breaks – between half innings.
Now, the commercials have become a significant part of the broadcast.
They disrupt the flow and excitement of the game broadcast, irritate the listeners to no end, and undermine your responsibilities as a guardian of the national pastime. You’re a Yankee fan. Try listening to a radio broadcast some day and let me know what you think.
The Yankees force their announcers – John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman – to read more than 50 ads per game.
Pitching matchups, double plays, home runs, pitch counts, rallies, calls to the bullpen, the umpire alignment, a pitch that paints the corners, the game time temperature, even the national anthem – were sponsored in 2012 by car dealers, insurance companies, junk food outlets, among others.
Any Yankee fan who listens to the radio broadcast this year will know the ads sometimes better than the players themselves.
What Yankee fan doesn’t know that the Yankee Radio Network is Driven by Jeep, that the 15th out of the game and the call to the bullpen are brought to you by Geico, that home runs are brought to you by Kia, that Sterling and Waldman are announcing from the Provident Bank broadcast booth?
The unrestrained corporate commercial creep into baseball games continues unabated, not only on radio broadcasts but also on the playing field.
What’s next, uniforms pasted with ads?
Wait, that’s already happening.
A number of teams have already struck sponsorship deals with major corporations.
This year, the Houston Astros will be walking billboards for Occidental Petroleum. The world champions will be required to wear an Oxy patch every game of the year. The Red Sox have a similar deal with MassMutual, the San Diego Padres with Motorola.
By allowing ads to spread into the radio broadcast booth and now onto the field, you are damaging the integrity of the game. Do you wish to associate teams with the multiple dark sides of these large corporations?
Clearly, this is not in the best interests of baseball.
Hunter Felt, in a recent report in The Guardian, said that “maybe the mere presence of the patches themselves will end up being more offensive to baseball fans than whatever corporate entity they happen to represent” – until that is, crimes or frauds are perpetrated.
“In any given situation, it’s a net-negative when advertisements start popping up where they didn’t exist before,” he wrote. “And keep in mind that these ads will appear in baseball, a sport which is particularly obsessed with nostalgia for a supposedly more innocent past, when athletes played for the love of the game rather than big money.”
“In that context, the rise of uniform advertisements could end up being more disruptive than the league has calculated. Aesthetics are uniquely important in baseball, and any change that makes the game ‘feel’ different can be perceived as a threat.”
Our guess is you are hoping that this corporate creep into the radio booth and onto the field will be overshadowed by the institution of the new pitch clock rule and the elimination of certain defensive shifts.
Don’t count on it.
Baseball fans are historically finicky. Step over the line once too often, and who knows – baseball fans could start turning off the game or the advertisers or both.
As advertising agencies have known for years, the more ads jammed into a set time period, the less response to each ad by listeners – that is, if they don’t tune out altogether.
Please take a look at the new comprehensive survey we have compiled (attached) and give us a call to discuss steps you might take to reign in this ever expanding corporate advertising surge.
Finally, why don’t you poll your radio broadcast fans and see what they think?
Ken Reed, League of Fans
PO Box 19367
Washington, D.C. 20045
Phone: (202) 387-8034
Consumer Federation of America
Congressman W. Gregory Steube (R-Florida)
Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina)
Jessica Rosenworcel, Chair, Federal Communications Commission
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington)
Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi)
Most in-game ads to least in-game ads from
15 games (30 game broadcasts) on April 9, 2022.
Cubs, CHC-WSCR: 60 ads
Rockies, COL-KOA: 53 ads
Yankees, NYY-WFAN: 51 ads
Mets, NYM-WCBS 880: 49 ads
Reds, CIN-WLW: 43 ads
Brewers, MIL-WTMJ: 41 ads
Nationals, WSH-WJFK: 41 ads
White Sox, CWS-WMVP: 41 ads
Red Sox, BOS-WEEI: 39 ads
Giants, SF-KNBR: 39 ads
Blue Jays, TOR-SN590: 37 ads
Rangers, TEX-KRLD: 35 ads
Mariners, SEA-KIRO: 31 ads
Guardians, CLE-WTAM: 31 ads
Marlins, MIA-FOX940AM: 31 ads
Padres, SD-KWFN: 25 ads
Cardinals, STL-KMOX: 23 ads
Angels, LAA-KLAA: 23 ads
Dodgers, LAD-570: 19 ads
Tigers, DET-WXYT-FM: 18 ads
Orioles, BAL-98 Rock: 17 ads
Pirates, PIT-KDKA: 16 ads
Rays, TB-WDAE: 14 ads
Braves, ATL-680 AM: 14 ads
Diamondbacks, AZ-98. 14 ads
Astros, HOU-KBME: 12 ads
Twins, MIN-TIBN: 11 ads
Phillies, PHI-WIP: 8 ads
Royals, KC-KCSP: 6 ads
A’s, OAK-A’S CAST: 5 ads
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon