SAG ad reaches out to athletes

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The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are breaking an ad campaign directed at athletes and their agents, in response to those who have broken ranks with the commercial actors strike.

SAG and AFTRA will run a page ad today in Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal, a weekly catering to sports marketing executives. It is the start of a series of ads in the publication that will run in coming weeks in conjunction with the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the National Football League season, both of which start next month.

"We have probably been at least partly to blame [for the strike-breaking] for not reaching out to sports agents and marketing firms," said Greg Krizman, managing director of communications for SAG, of the ad that was created in-house.

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE

The print ad, "An open letter to all professional athletes and their representatives," expresses the unions' gratitude to those who have supported the strike. It is signed by SAG President William Daniels and AFTRA President Shelby Scott.

The letter goes on to says, "Our strike efforts benefit all commercial performers, whether professional actor or athlete." This goal is to to address the issue that athletes believe they are fringe commercial performers, rather than day-to-day TV or film performers more closely tied with TV commercial work.

Top-name athletes such as Shaquille O'Neal, Tiger Woods, Keyshawn Johnson, Eddie George, Terrell Davis, Kurt Warner, Michael Johnson and Marion Jones have produced commercials since the strike began May 1. At the same time, all have expressed their support for the unions.

Though many agents have kept their sports clients on the sidelines during the strike, some aren't convinced of the unions' position -- and don't know if this marketing effort is enough.

"The issue is so gray for me," said David Bober, president of Bober Associates, a New York sports agent who represents women athletes including soccer player Mia Hamm. "I'm challenged to explain to my clients how the union was created to support them. Most will never see the union's pension or other benefits. They don't need it, or won't qualify for it."

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