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YOUTH SPORTS AND THE LAW:  Parental rights and team sponsors

YOUTH SPORTS AND THE LAW: Parental rights and team sponsors

5/23/2016

Q: I have a 12-year-old daughter who is beginning her fifth season of soccer in our local youth recreation program. I was quite surprised when they handed the jerseys out to the kids this season to see that a local business’ logo was prominently displayed on all the jerseys since there has never been a sponsor in previous years; and no one from the recreation department informed us that they had secured a sponsor for this season. My issue with this is the business that is now on my daughter’s jersey is not one I support for my own personal reasons. As parents, do we have any rights on what recreation departments choose to put on the jerseys of the kids, or are we forced to deal with whomever they choose as the sponsor?

A:  It’s an unfortunate fact of life that municipal sports require support from businesses to maintain programs at all and ensure they are affordable for the entire community. 

Through the support they receive from those businesses, leagues can provide better equipment, safer fields and attract better coaches.  In return for the financial support, most businesses are going to require some sort of opportunity for recognition – on scoreboards, websites and yes, jerseys. 

All of this takes place for one important reason: the development and happiness of our children in youth sports. 

A coach I once worked with said that the most important thing for a child in a youth soccer league is to walk off the field with a smile on her or his face. 

If one child does not have a smile, then the municipal sports league and their coaches have failed. If we never lose sight of that goal, then we can properly weigh a parent’s personal objection to a sponsor against other overall goals and advantages the league provides for all children. 

This is not to say that any sponsor is appropriate for a children’s municipal soccer league. We can all imagine the many businesses that are inappropriate for a child’s soccer league. They are too numerous to list here. 

If, for example, the objectionable business is engaged in online gambling, bail bonds, or acts that are illegal, you should register your objection in writing to the league. 

However, if your objection is based on your personal dislike of the business itself, the persons operating the business or even if the business is just promoting something for which a child cannot legally partake, such as a beer distributor, then it might not be a well-founded objection. 

Finally, since the season appears to have already begun, there is probably little you can do to make a change for this year; however, you might speak with the league leadership and offer to help secure a less objectionable sponsor for the next season.

David Langfitt is a partner in the Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia, Pa., where he specializes in complex commercial, mass tort and fiduciary litigation. He has also litigated multiple patent and copyright infringement claims in federal district and appellate courts. He can be reached at (215) 893-3423 or by e-mail at dlangfitt@lockslaw.com.

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