By now everybody has heard of Jeff Lee. Everybody knows that he made unsubstantiated claims on a Mobile, Al. radio show that somebody affiliated with the University of Alabama (not a booster or alum) paid Brent Calloway and his adopted father "Peaches" rather paltry sums of money for his services.
To most Alabama and college football fans this is viewed as a weak attempt to deflect the unflattering negative light in which Auburn is currently being portrayed in the national press. But if the accusations prove to be false, or at the very least, unprovable, then it becomes a case of malicious slander.
Legal action against a journalist is not unheard of, especially when it comes to the University of Alabama. In 1962 Coach Bear Bryant was accused by The Saturday Evening Post that he encouraged his players to "engage in brutality" in a 1961 game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Coach Bryant spoke out against the accusations.
In 1963 the same publication printed a story accusing Coach Bryant and the University of Georgia's athletic director, Wally Butts, of fixing the game between the Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs, which Alabama won 35-0.
Both Bryant and Butts sued The Saturday Evening Post for $10,500,000 each. Bear Bryant settled out of court for $300,000, which he received tax free because it was awarded as compensatory damages, that the IRS does not tax.
Butts, however, took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which awarded Butts $3,060,000, at the time the largest amount ever awarded for a libel suit. The amount was later reduced to $460,000 on appeals.
Could a boycott of Rivals.com from Alabama fans help get Jeff Lee removed from Rivals staff?
But that was in the 1960's.
Today the American consumer has another option available to them: Boycott.
How many Alabama fans visit Rivals? How many have paid subscriptions to TideSports.com, Rivals Alabama page? How much revenue does Alabama generate for Rivals, who allow writers such as Lee to remain on their payroll?
And don't forget about the advertisers on Rivals. On Lee's Fan Page K&N, a performance car part business, are trying to sell their wares. Their website is http://www.knfilters.com/, complete with a "contact us" button.
On Alabama's page Medifast, a weight loss program, is trying to attract customers. Their website is found on this link: http://www.medifast1.com/vip/vip_and_vip_plus_membership.jsp?campaign=yahoo22
How many emails would it take before they decided to pull their advertising from Rivals?
It is within our power to strike back at the Jeff Lees of this world. Boycotts have been a successful tool that consumers have used time and time again in this country, starting over two-hundred years ago with the Boston Tea Party.
But it takes a lot of consumers to put a dent in the pocketbook of a company like Rivals. A successful boycott is hard to pull off. But it can be done.
A high-level overview of the keys to a successful organized boycott are as follows, from Conscientious Consuming:
- A Clear Issue - Monroe Friedman, writing in the Journal of Social Issues, states "successful boycotts tended to be cognitively simple and emotionally appealing." This is perhaps best illustrated in the case of the boycott of canned tuna. The premise is simple and emotional: why do fishermen need to kill dolphins to make canned tuna?
- A Visible Target - Companies that sell consumer products are very sensitive to their corporate image. The negative publicity associated with a boycott (or threat of a boycott) can effect a company’s image in addition to its sales.
- Clear Alternatives to the Boycotted Product - In the Burger King case consumers had clear alternatives – McDonald’s, Wendy’s, etc. Boycott organizers are wise to make sure that the companies being boycotted know that consumers are not just boycotting them, but also supporting their competitors!
- Visibility of Violations - Because successful boycotts rely on damaging both the sales and image of the offending company, the visibility of violations is important. The more visible violations and violators are, the more public pressure can be applied.
- An Organized Effort - It is not uncommon for a boycott to take years to be successful. In many cases like-minded individuals have created nonprofit organizations to further their causes. This can make it easier to gather funding, create educational materials, receive publicity and promote their cause. Today, the Internet and this web site give consumers additional opportunities to organize.
- Why Boycotts Work - The bottom line is that companies survive on consumer dollars. The power consumers have is their dollars and the influence they exert comes from their consumer choices. If a company realizes that their conduct or actions are costing them dollars in sales or profits, they will change them.
Not just Alabama fans, but fans of all teams and sports that are tired of the Jeff Lees and the Scott Moores of the journalism world should join in a Boycott of Rivals until Jeff Lee becomes too much of a liability. Hit them where it hurts the most, in the pocketbook.