The AISA’s toothless tiger

Published 4:31 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

The Alabama Independent School Association has a lot of problems. Absolutely none of them are related to the media and its coverage of AISA sanctioned events.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the AISA felt the need to draft a new policy to police media members.

The policy states that “There shall be no negative remarks made toward or about game participants or officials (referees).” The second stipulation of the policy reads, “No partiality shall be shown by any on-field media personnel during the games.” Thirdly, “True professionalism shall be exhibited at all times.”

Email newsletter signup

As a fourth part of the policy, “Any on-air (radio, TV and Internet) blatant criticism of the game officials or the officiating of the game will not be tolerated.”

Fifthly, “any violation of the above (first four) shall result in said person(s) or organization having their media credentials terminated. And finally, “the AISA’s Sportsmanship Policy applies to all persons.”

While the intention of the policy – which I assume is to protect athletes, coaches and referees from negative interactions – is all well and good, there is a distinct miscalculation with the target and execution of the association’s policy.

Simply put, the media does not work for the Alabama Independent School Association.

The AISA is aiming to control what is said by newspaper reporters, radio personalities and internet broadcasters.

Having covered countless AISA events in Linden, Troy and Montgomery,

I can confidently say that the discourse of media members is nowhere near the top of the list of things about which the Alabama Independent School Association should be concerned.

Those concerns should be aimed toward lower enrollment numbers for participating institutions, an ever-shrinking membership and increasing travel costs. That is just to name a few.

Granted, displaying partiality toward and cheering for a specific team is always in bad taste for media members who are supposed to be unbiasedly covering a game.

But most radio and internet broadcasts of AISA games are going to be done by individuals from specific schools targeting an audience that will be rooting for that school. Otherwise, virtually no one has any interest in broadcasting AISA events.

There is just not a broad enough interest in the games, not a big enough following, for the venture to be profitable if the general public is the target audience.

That said, who is the AISA to tell broadcasters – most of whom happen to be parents of players in the game or alumni of participating schools – what they can and cannot say on the air of their own broadcast?

The AISA is stepping into territory it cannot and has no right to control. The association’s job is to ensure the overall safety and well-being of the individuals involved in its events while the events are taking place.

What is being said on the radio or Internet has absolutely no bearing upon what takes place on the field of competition. The AISA’s issue should come with individuals who seek confrontation with players, officials or coaches during the game. So the wording of the policy should speak specifically to individuals making remarks “to” game participants rather than “about” them.

And as for the notion that the AISA is ready to revoke the media credentials of individuals who violate its policy?

Well, stopping newspapers, radio stations and websites from covering the AISA seems less like a punishment to media members and more of a grave misstep that would result in putting athletic competition between mostly rural private schools right back into the closet of which it has spent years trying to claw its way out.

Jeremy D. Smith is the community editor of the Demopolis Times.