Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday May 23, 2007
Yesterday here on the Frontstretch, my esteemed colleague Mr. Tommy Thompson wrote in his weekly Thompson in Turn 5 column about how the recent court decision to allow AT&T to put their logo on the No. 31 car would ultimately be bad for the sport of racing.
Well, I respectfully assert that he is wrong! The only entity that this decision is ultimately bad for is simply the France family bank account. This court case has nothing to do with racing…it is all about pride and money. NASCAR screwed up, plain and simple, and now they’re trying to cover their butts.
But why sit there and accuse when I can simply prove it to you point blank. In the spirit of those immortal Saturday Night Live words: "Jane, you ignorant slutâ€¦" this is my rebuttal.
Thompson’s Turn 5: "In return for the gargantuan sponsorship, Nextel made no secret of the fact that for $700 million dollars or more, they would expect to be the only wireless communication company allowed to advertise in the series. This became problematic, as both Alltel and Cingular were already established team sponsors, and in the end the sanctioning body and the new prospective series sponsor compromised and agreed to allow the two competitors to continue their involvement, but only as it stood at that time. If either company merged with another competitor of Nextel's, they would not be allowed to advertise the change at the track."
Your Esteemed Jeff Meyer, Voices: The problem here is that NASCAR was making deals with Nextel back in 2003 and telling them what they wanted to hear solely because Brian France wanted Nextel's money, plain and simple. NASCAR could not see past the immediate dollar signs when they were sitting at the bargaining table, or if they could, they were downplaying any residual effects of other cell phone sponsors to Nextel. No deals or
“exclusions” were being given or said to Cingular or Alltel before the contract was made; they were already in the sport to begin with, and NASCAR couldn’t kick them out. The sport was simply trying to close the deal with Nextel and said whatever they needed to in order to do so.
The problem further lies in the actual poor wording of the 2003 NASCAR / Nextel contract itself. While I have never seen it, the “grandfather clause” must not cover everything; in fact, NASCAR's own court papers filed in March of this year prove that.
Basically, the papers say that in April of 2005, the then CEO of NASCAR, George Pyne, "told the Richard Childress-Burton team that it would not allow a change in paint scheme or logos if Cingular was bought and had its name changed."
Please remember the original promises by NASCAR to Nextel were made in 2003! All of a sudden, it says here that it wasn’t until 2005 that NASCAR is telling RCR it can't change its logo; to me, that’s a clear sign it must not have been worded properly in the original contract.
Thompson, Turn 5: NASCAR's last minute negotiating with prospective sponsor Nextel in 2003 to "grandfather" Alltel and Cingular was a good faith effort to protect both RCR and Penske from having their primary sponsors disallowed in 2004. Ironically, that intervention by NASCAR on the owners' behalf has now came around to bite them.
Meyer, Voices: Oh please, Tommy! You are starting to sound like a mouthpiece straight from the NASCAR PR offices! "NASCAR is so good. They had the owners in mind."
NASCAR didn't do anything “in good faith” for the car owner…they did it to secure the deal. They were shortsighted throughout the process, and now and only now are they trying to save their butts. If that were not true, why was NASCAR, until just recently, fighting this battle alone? Where was Nextel? This sport knew that their deal with Nextel could be upset if things went against them and they might lose some valuable future profit as a result. They understood the ramifications here, that Nextel might get smart and want to "renegotiate" their ten year deal, as it’s already rumored they might should NASCAR ultimately lose this case.
How did Nextel get involved, I reckon? Well, in the beginning of this whole thing, Nextel was sitting back telling NASCAR, “Hey, you promised usâ€¦" and letting NASCAR fulfill that promise. Now that it looks like NASCAR may lose this one, NASCAR is coming back and sayingâ€¦ "C'mon, Nextel! Help us out here. It's for the good of both of us!"
Thompson, Turn 5: Sprint Nextel has no interest in gambling on the possibility of having to award the Nextel Cup to their largest business rivals, AT&T. Winston, the title sponsor for more than three decades, never had to have the Marlboro Man prance around Victory Lane, hoisting the Winston Cup above his head; Nextel shouldn't be allowed to suffer the same fate with its changing landscape of cell phone competitors.
Meyer, Voices: This statement is just laughable! Cingular and Alltel, by Nextel's own agreement with NASCAR, were already in. Do you mean to tell me it would be "unfair" to Nextel if the No. 12 or No. 31 (even as the Cingular car) were to win the Cup? What, are they going to refuse to give it to Ryan Newman if he wins this year?
Whatever the contract actually says or doesn't say is a moot point. Nextel, by letting the whole thing go this far is, in my opinion, cutting their own throat. They could have taken the common sense approach and realized that it is just a logo on the same car. Why worry? Yes, it is still their competitor, but it is just one car that had its sponsor bought by another company.
Just in case they didn’t get what I just said…
YOU COULD LEAVE THE CINGULAR LOGO ON FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. EVERYBODY KNOWS IT IS NOW AT&T! WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?!
No matter what, Nextel has its advertising platform, a platform that can’t be taken away: it is the Series itself. They have their name on freaking everything. They already benefit from things that they have had no part of. For example, Dale Earnhardt won seven Nextel Cups. No, he didn't! He won seven Winston Cups…but that's not how it is said on TV. Earnhardt and Richard Petty, et al. are called Nextel Cup Champions. Very few people had ever heard of Nextel until 2004; guess how many know about it now? Try 75 million, and then some.
The bottom line is that Nextel is turning the very people they seek to attract, the fans, away in droves with this moronic court battle. Look at the numbers in the poll beside Mr. Thompson's article. Read the comments to his article and my past articles on this subject. They run almost 10 to 1 against Nextel. Is that the kind of advertising and perception they seek from their deal with NASCAR?
Yes, Mr. Thompson, AT & T winning this battle may be bad for NASCAR, but only because they stand to lose profits should they have to renegotiate their deal. The racing will still go on every Sunday, even if the Series should happen to go unsponsored for awhile (which it never will). In any worst case scenario, the Frances have enough money to keep it going, and you can bet that they will at all costs. They just might not get to charge so much for the rights next time.
Greed kills… Nextel and NASCAR will soon learn that.
Stay off the wall, and a Nextel phone!
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