In an open letter to the sporting goods industry, PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh decried how top sports brands, the International Olympic Committee and many collegiate athletic directors are embracing the esports phenomenon. He wrote, “Esports are tearing down the fabric of the sports industry and they represent short-term financial gains for companies that cater to these gamers. It’s like a money grab.”
Launching PHIT America in 2013 to address the “inactivity pandemic” by increasing sport & fitness participation in America, the former president of Wilson Sporting Goods charged that the video gaming/electronics industry “continues to strongly encourage children and young adults to be sedentary” and plays a large role in causing kids to lose interest in playing sports or being physically active.
Baugh pointed to multiple threats ahead as varsity esports programs arrive at colleges, television coverage of esports broadens, and esports’ inclusion in the Olympics is being considered. He called out Nike, Adidas and other leading sports brands’ investments in esports instead of “real sports” and challenged them to embrace their leadership role in growing sports participation.
He wrote, “I wish these companies would think twice and make bigger investments in the ‘roots’ of physical activity,’ school P.E. programs, rather than invest in activities which will eventually kill the sports and fitness industry.”
The full letter from Jim Baugh follows:
Big Sports Brands Invest In the ‘Anti-Sports’ Industry: Esports Are Really Fsports
What do top sports brands, the International Olympic Committee, and many collegiate athletic directors all have in common? They are investing and promoting Esports, aka, the ‘anti-sports.’ Esports are tearing down the fabric of the sports industry and they represent short-term financial gains for companies that cater to these gamers. It’s like a money grab. This issue is bothering me so much I had to try to wake up the industry with these seven points:
- Esports should be called Fsports
Let’s tell the truth about the matter. Esports are not sports. Esports are really Fsports. F stands for ‘Fraud’ or ‘Fake.’ The leaders of this electronics industry segment stole or hijacked the name ‘sports’ and the sporting goods industry has just let it happen.
Sports have a strict definition, “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another.” Please, point out where there’s physical exertion in video gaming. Finger fitness does not count!
What’s worse is the video gaming/electronics industry continues to strongly encourage children and young adults to be sedentary. For instance, gamers who are age 26-35 are even more engaged – playing for an average of eight hours, 12 minutes per week, a 25% increase in the previous 12 months, according to Limelight Networks.
More and more kids are sedentary and not interested in playing sports or being physically active. If that’s not a cause for an alarm, I don’t know what is. The ‘anti-sports’ industry does not care about the real sports industry. Instead, the ‘anti-sports’ industry just wants more children to sit down and play video games.
What’s bugging me most is many in the sports and fitness industry are investing in this ‘anti-sports’ industry. The following are big examples.
- Colleges started the trend to invest in Esports at the expense of real sports
Guess what? 87 colleges have varsity Esports programs and more than 20 of them are giving out athletic scholarships for video gaming. Yes, athletic scholarships! That’s an insult to true athletes when you place gamers on the same level as them. When this trend started, the NCAA and our industry should have stopped it.
- Leading sports brands are making BIG investments in Esports
Iconic sports brands Nike, adidas, New Balance, Puma, New Era, Champion and Fanatics are making major investments in the ‘anti-sports’ industry. Look at some of the details in the recent SGB article, Esports Set To Take Off. I wish these companies would think twice and make bigger investments in the ‘roots’ of physical activity,’ school P.E. programs, rather than invest in activities which will eventually kill the sports and fitness industry.
- Sports entertainment companies are huge promoters of the ‘Anti-sport’ industry
Years ago, the former ESPN President John Skipper once said, “Esports is not real sports.” But, what is going on now? ESPN, professional sports teams and other ‘sports’ entertainment brands are also jumping into this ‘money grab.’ Why? Yes, short-term profits may be very appealing, but they are only feeding the ‘anti-sports’ disease that is tearing down the fabric and ‘roots’ of real sports – people who are physically active and play sports.
You could summarize this under the label of ‘short-term greed.’ I have seen it in my corporate life. Many companies, especially the big ones, are driven to produce profits now! What happens in the long-term is really not valued as much as it needs to be. Sad.
- The Olympics take the ‘Anti-Sports’ industry too far
Do you want more evidence of the ‘anti-sports’ disease? How about making ‘anti-sports’ or Esports an Olympic sport? Well, this looks like it will happen. Check it out here. Why? It’s another ‘money grab.’ What’s the next Olympic sport? Is it “How Fast Can You Move Your Fingers?”These companies in the sporting goods industry, college ADs, sports networks and the Olympics have sold out to ‘anti-sports’ which will motivate and encourage more children to remain physically inactive and play video games.
QUESTIONS: With these investments, how many kids are being sold the ‘electronic sedentary drug’ which is keeping kids off fields, courts, out of gyms or just from being physically active? Do these companies realize a $1 million investment in rebuilding the ‘roots’ of physical activity will get more than 100,000 kids active…creating lifelong participants and customers? Yes, we at PHIT America have proven you can get kids physically active for less than $10 per child.
Do you think I am mad and upset? Yes. I am also disgusted, infuriated, and embarrassed!
- Where are today’s leaders of the sports and fitness industry?
We have plenty of leaders of brands which are grabbing short-term revenues. But, when will true leaders of the sports and fitness industry start to emerge? When I was president of Wilson Sporting Goods, I realized I had to ‘give back,’ invest in our industry and grow participation on the grassroots level. How many of today’s leaders in the sporting goods industry are doing that? Or, are they just running PR programs or campaigns or investing in the growth of serious participants? I am looking for people to stand up and lead. Look at the SFIA board of directors right now. The top four sports brands on the SFIA Board are represented by lawyers, not the CEOs or business leaders. Wouldn’t it be great to get the CEOs of Nike, adidas, Under Armour, New Balance, Puma, Champion, Easton, Rawlings, and Wilson in one room at the same time in order to discuss how to grow participation and tackle common business issues and create solutions to those issues…for the good of the sports and fitness industry? Let’s include the top sports retailers, too. It’s been done before and it needs to happen again.
- Five things the sports & fitness industry can do:
What can be done? What can you do? Here are five things everyone in the sports and fitness industry should do:
- Stop using the term Esports. Call this industry the ‘anti-sports’ industry. If you don’t like the word ‘anti-sports,’ call it Fsports for Fake Sports.
- Blow the whistle. Tell companies this message: “Stop investing in Esports. Invest in real sports.”
- Make this a key agenda item for the annual gatherings of the NSGA, SFIA, NCAA, and NFHS. Lead the sports and fitness industry. It is your future.
- Study the deadly ‘Inactivity Pandemic.’ This pandemic is real, getting worse and is deadly — especially for the sports and fitness industry. Look at the recent sales and participation numbers in great detail. Look at core participants, not people who play something once or twice a year. The sports/fitness industry is not keeping up with the growth of the overall U.S. population. And, our children, who represent the future of the sports and fitness industry, are tuning out and turning their backs on sports, on many fronts.
- Start investing in the ‘roots’ of physical activity and sports in America — school physical activity and physical education programs. Students who don’t have physical education at school are half as likely to be physically active outside of school.
Let me be very clear. I have studied the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ for more than 20 years. The sports and fitness industry will never grow unless we start investing in the ‘roots’ of physical activity — school physical activity and P.E. programs. School P.E. classes are often the place where children are first taught the basics of physical activity: how to throw, catch, kick, run, and jump. At home, electronic devices are often classified as ‘pacifiers’ for children. Most electronic devices keep students sedentary and unhealthy. Therefore, to increase the number of active kids, the sports and fitness industry must go ‘where the kids are’, schools, to protect its future.
Do you want to do more? Contact me at PHIT America: firstname.lastname@example.org. Get involved with PHIT America. We are rebuilding the ‘roots’ of physical activity in the U.S. and the foundation of your very existence….and your future in the sports and fitness industry.
Image courtesy 880 Sport