BACKBOARD ADS: NET GAIN

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We're waiting for the backlash to the news that "sponsored" basketball backboards are scheduled to go up in New York City school playgrounds. Fila USA and Foot Locker are the first marketers to pay to put their logos on backboards being erected as part of a planned National Backboard Network.

Seems like a good idea: Business dollars pay for replacing dilapidated backboards at mostly inner-city schools hard-pressed for funds. But in view of the hysterics that erupted over Whittle Communications' Channel One ad-supported TV news programs for schools, we expect some of the same in this case.

Children's media consultant Peggy Charren has already weighed in, announcing she's "horrified" at the idea of sponsored backboards "to sell kids products they don't need or can't afford."

Kids don't need shoes? Well, the point is that some people feel ardently that the learning environment should be free of any taint of commercialism. Never mind that free backboards (or the free TV equipment Whittle supplies to Channel One schools) help school systems. And never mind that outdoor ads and signs are very much a part of a city kid's experience. The important thing is that for-profit enterprises should not be part of the school experience.

These activists would agree that education is most successful when it includes community involvement. When will they realize that businesses are part of the community, and their financial input can aid the schools without corrupting the system or the kids?

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