CBS declines to run ad submitted by NFL players union

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 31, 2011; 7:34 PM

CBS is refusing to air an ad by the National Football League players union that seeks to rally public opposition to a lockout by team owners.

The network is one of four that combined to pay the league as much as $4 billion a year for television rights, and union officials have suggested the ad was pulled in deference to the networks' financial ties to the NFL.

"I'm confused and frankly a little irritated," said George Atallah, a spokesman for the players union. He said the union was informed that CBS College Sports was refusing to run the ad because of "the content."

A CBS spokesman declined to comment about why the union's ad was rejected.

The spot, which was to run on CBS College Sports Network during a college all-star football game on Saturday, shows darkened stadiums and empty locker rooms interspersed with somber fans urging viewers to "Let Them Play."

"It's not like a young boy saying 'let us play' is that controversial," Atallah said.

The dispute over the ad comes as the league and the league's players association are negotiating an agreement to replace the existing labor accord, which expires March 4.

But the sides are divided over how to split the profits, wages for rookies and whether to extend the season to 18 games.

Union officials and players have said that given the differences, they are expecting a lockout by owners.

To bring its case to the public, the union was going to use its sponsorship of a college game, the "NFLPA All-Star Game," to air the ad on Saturday - the day before the Super Bowl. Along with the branding of the game, the union has the right to four 30-second spots. There were no content restrictions, Atallah said, and the contracts between CBS College Sports, the promoters and the union had been signed nearly a year ago or more.

The NFLPA is seeking to place the ad on social media channels, such as YouTube, but had no other plans to put it on television.

Calls to the game's promoter, Overtime Sports Southwest, and to the creators of the spot, New Media Strategies, were not returned.

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