Ads on Boxers' Bodies?
GoldenPalace.com has pioneered this practice, partnering with boxers like Leonard Dorin and middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, both of whom agreed to wear temporary Henna tattoos in recent bouts. The Nevada Athletic Commission has scheduled a hearing for sometime between 9 a.m. and noontoday, when it could vote to ban such ads in Nevada.
Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, has been quoted as saying such ads are "a distraction" and "demeaning to the sport." "If they want to advertise on the trunks, that's fine with us," Ratner was quoted as saying in a Jan. 10 story by maxboxing.com. "But we feel that the body is not meant to advertise. We feel it's not NASCAR and they will have a hearing if they so desire at the end of the month and they can come and talk to us."
GoldenPalace.com officials counter that it is increasingly difficult to "demean" a sport where fighters brawl at press conferences. They believe boxers have a First Amendment right to wear such tattoos in the ring. They also wonder if the Nevada Athletic Commission would be as quick to ban such advertising if the proponents weren't promoting an online casino.
"My take is that they shouldn't have any say on what the boxers put on their bodies," said Eric Amgar, coordinator of sports and events for GoldenPalace.com. "You've seen boxers like Angel Manfredy and Johnny Tapia covered with tattoos. Nobody told them anything."
Maxboxing.com quoted Ratner as saying the ads are "a distraction to the judges. On the TV screen when you're watching the fights, your eyes are drawn on that. It's a great advertising gimmick. I'm not saying it's not. But again, if they want to advertise they can do it on their trunks."
Ratner has also raised safety concerns about tattoos smearing onto an opponent's gloves. But Amgar said there is no risk to either fighter. "We've done our research and we've learned as we've grown and we've found a way to make it stick," he said, adding that people have been wearing Henna tattoos for 3,000 years.
Amgar adds that the ads have been a financial boost to fighters like Dorin and Hopkins, and to GoldenPalace.com, which saw its traffic increase after the ads appeared.
Amgar hopes the commission eventually supports the First Amendment rights of boxers and online casinos seeking to advertise in the capital of land-based casinos.
While the NBA and other sports leagues may ban such ads, Amgar argues that boxers have shorter careers, are not organized in unions and generally make less money than their counterparts in sports with multimillion-dollar licensing agreements and players' unions.
"They're the one's who deserve it, they're the ones who wake up in the morning, train for months and take punches for 10 years of their life," he said of boxers. "I think they should be the ones getting the money and not the promoters, the arenas and the TV networks and so on. That's the bottom line, really."
In his interview with maxboxing.com, Ratner sounded sympathetic to the boxer's point of view. "Yes, their careers are short and it's a tough game," Ratner said. "When they come before the commission and put it to us, maybe they can persuade the commission to vote for it."
Amgar hopes they do just that.