That would not be too different from what the action-sports athletes have done in the past year....
The economics are not same but the drive seems to be universal.
The major theme: "The first order of business is to ask event owners for consistent rules and regulations and minimum standards for officiating the sports. "
Here is the press release:
Action-sports athletes trying to organize
January 22, 2004 @ 11:14 AM
By LIZ MULLEN AND NOAH LIBERMAN
Staff writers- Sports Business Journal
A group of action-sports athletes is signing up members to a new sanctioning organization,
which intends to seek increased prize money and standardize rules for the sports of skateboarding, BMX and freestyle motocross at major events, including ESPN's X Games.
The group, called Pro Riders Organization, is being launched at a critical time in the action-sports world, following last week's news that Casey Wasserman's Wasserman Media Group is circulating a letter to commit athletes to a tour it hopes to organize. It appears Pro Riders would be a competitor to Wasserman's group.
Pro Riders Organization, which has signed up about 50 members, plans to start negotiating
with major action-sports events in the next few weeks, said Ed Shapiro, a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer who is helping the athletes organize.
Several sources said the group will meet with NBC this week to discuss the network's planned action-sports tour, which is to launch in late 2004 or 2005. With NBC on its own and no longer under contract to televise the Gravity Games, it's clear there is a push in the industry to consolidate power where both athletes and events are concerned.
Shapiro said the group plans to discuss increasing prize money with event organizers but does not plan to issue demands right away. The first order of business is to ask event owners for consistent rules and regulations and minimum standards for officiating the sports.
"There is not any body, a controlling or sanctioning body, that takes into account what the riders themselves feel is important," Shapiro said. "There is strength in numbers, and the only way these guys are going to have a voice is if they gather together in some sort of collective. Call it a union. Call it a membership organization."
The group, led by skateboarder Chris Gentry and skateboarder and street luger Biker Sherlock, has been working to organize for more than a year. Shapiro said the group has lawyers working to form a nonprofit corporation and has funding, but he would not reveal the identity of the financial backer.
Gentry said a lot of action-sports athletes, who have depended on sponsor money for their livelihood, are struggling, especially as sponsors in the last two years cut budgets in the down economy. "I mean, I am one of them. I am top five and I should not be having to struggle," he said.
"We are building a brand for us. X Games has a brand, but we don't get any of that [value]," Gentry said.
Shapiro said, "We believe we will be able to build a brand that will be able to license merchandise." The organization is not charging dues, but may consider it in the future. It also intends eventually to charge sanctioning fees for the events it sanctions, Shapiro said.
The group was not planning on publicizing its effort yet, but Gentry and Shapiro agreed to talk about the plan after SportsBusiness Journal obtained a copy of the membership agreement given to athletes. It states, in part, that the athlete signing it agrees to "compete solely in PRO 'Sanctioned Events.' " Some contracts allow members to participate in events when they already have
Shapiro acknowledged that the membership agreement, as it is worded now, could keep an
athlete out of a major event, such as the X Games, if PRO did not sanction it. "We are an new entity and we haven't gone out there and endorsed anything. If I were to tell you we endorsed the X Games [without negotiating with the event], that would go against one of the principles of the organization ... to have a unified voice in connection with the events.
"The reality is we are going to sanction most, if not all, the big events out there," he said. Wasserman, who distributed the other letter circulating among action-sports athletes, would not comment for this story. Steve Astephen, CEO of action-sports representation firm The Familie, which Wasserman owns, said he and Wasserman want to meet with the Pro Riders and work together to form an action sports organization or league. "It is the best thing for the athletes to do as a group, and it needs to be done to control their future," he said.
Astephen said the Wasserman Media Group could provide the effort with experience in negotiating television and sponsorship deals, as well as financing and an organized infrastructure.
Gentry and Shapiro said that while they would meet with Wasserman and Astephen, they don't think agents should be part of organizing the athletes group. "Players organizations have
historically worked hand in hand with agents but they serve different roles," Shapiro said. "Keeping a definite line between those two roles is important."
According to sources, NBC will meet with a separate group of athletes and agents on the West
Coast this week and plans a similar East Coast meeting in the near future. NBC spokesman
Kevin Sullivan would not confirm the network's specific plans, but said, "As part of the due
diligence [of creating a new tour], we are meeting with athletes."