Earlier today, USA Ultimate had announced that it would prevent college teams from wearing MLU logos on sponsored jerseys, as per its uniform guidelines. Now, it appears that USAU and ESPN are in direct conflict over the controversy.
ESPN spokesperson Robert Gibbs spoke to ultimate reporters at a press conference this afternoon, to explain the network’s position.
“ESPN appreciates that USAU wants to maintain a degree of autonomy with regard to jerseys and branding,” said Gibbs. “However, if we are to continue our relationship with USAU, we must insist that the MLU sponsorship program continue unimpeded.
“When we signed a multi-year broadcast deal with USA Ultimate, we didn’t have any desire to make a profit, or to get out ahead of our competition in terms of broadcasting ultimate by signing with the most advanced and high-profile organization in the world. We just wanted to promote the spirit of this beautiful and unique game to the best of our abilities, regardless of cost.”
After an explosion of rapturous applause from the gathered reporters, Gibbs continued.
“To turn around now, and to support exclusive branding—to privilege USAU over MLU—just because we happen to have a broadcasting contract with one, well, that would be hypocritical. It would be a betrayal of ESPN’s entire involvement with ultimate. If broadcasting the MLU logo for free all over ESPN3 allows MLU to take off and sign with another network, to compete against the programming we’ve already locked up and invested in, well…we’d be ecstatic. Anything for the growth of the game.”
Gibbs declined to comment on how, or whether, ESPN and USA Ultimate will resolve their differences, but at the moment, the situation looks grim.
MLU Commissioner Jeff Snader ( @JeffSnader ) weighed in via Twitter, writing,
MLU maintains its commitment to growing the sport, and like @ESPN, we’re going to do so without regard to cost. #community
Snader followed up with:
If USAU continues to put its own image and profitability before the desires of its players, then the elite players will continue to turn elsewhere. #freemuffin
At press time, USAU was unavailable for Twitter banter.