If fans walk out during tomorrow night’s Pirates game at PNC Park, don’t expect to see coverage during the telecast on Fox Sports Pittsburgh. The cable TV channel, which carries the Pirates’ games, says it’s been told by the team that it’s not allowed during the broadcast to air any pictures of the protest, set to occur after the third inning. “It’s a tough call,” FSN executive producer Shawn McClintock told Bob Smizik of the Post-Gazette. “One side of you says, ‘It’s a story.’ The other side says that ‘we’re in this for the long haul and our livelihood can be affected.'”
KDKA-TV (2) has a camera on top of Gateway Center that could capture the protest, and Smizik notes that station and WTAE-TV (4) and WPXI-TV (11) could also use their news helicopters to grab pictures.
Led by Andy Chomos of Wexford, a group calling itself “Fans For Change” is calling on the Pirates (reportedly one of the most profitable teams in the major leagues) to start signing better players; the Pirates are in the midst of what looks to be their 15th consecutive losing season. “We’re hoping that, at some point, there’s a response from the Pirates that season ticket holders can grab on to and use to make an informed decision whether or not to renew their season tickets next year,” Chomos told the Tribune-Review. “If the Pirates make no commitment to improving the quality of play on the field, I don’t think season ticket holders or corporate sponsors should be required to make that commitment (to buy tickets).”
Chomos and others want fans to get up after the third inning and walk out of the grandstands — either to the concourses or out of the stadium altogether.
Besides the TV blackout, the Bucs’ radio play-by-play team has also been issued a gag order by the Pirates, and fans claim that negative messages posted to the team’s Web site have been deleted. There’s more at Pittsburgh Sports Insider and IrateFans.com.
No one, so far, has mentioned the irony of a team owned by two newspaper publishers (Bob Nutting and Kevin McClatchy) censoring news coverage.