It has happened, AT&T is suing NASCAR over the name change of the Richard Childress #31 Cingular car driven by Jeff Burton. As I wrote about a little while ago things didn't look good for AT&T's phasing out of Cingular's name on the #31 RCR car and now it has gotten worse - AT&T is now suing NASCAR over it.
According to the Associated Press, "AT&T spokesman Clay Owen said NASCAR officials repeatedly have not allowed AT&T to switch from a Cingular logo to an AT&T logo because of their deal with Nextel, which sponsors NASCAR's top series ... the Nextel Cup. He said AT&T filed the lawsuit ... which seeks permission to make the logo switch and damages for the "substantial harm" NASCAR has caused to the company ... Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. "This is really the last resort for us," Owen said. "We've tried to resolve this amicably for months now" ... Owen said Cingular's contract with Childress' team contains provisions, required by NASCAR because of its Nextel deal, that say Cingular can't increase the size or placement of its logo on the car and can't switch its sponsorship to another team. But Owen said that contract does not contain language preventing a logo change if Cingular is bought out by another company." - source CHRIS JENKINS AP Sports Writer.
In my post of Jan 30th I ended by saying, "The great NASCAR brain-trust needs to fix this, and fix it fast, because if they don't it is going to get very ugly, very public, and very embarrassing." Well it is now very ugly, very public, and very embarrassing for NASCAR. And who is to blame? NASCAR. Period. End of story.
Based on the fact that there is no language in the existing contract pertaining to a name change by a new company I think NASCAR and Nextel are going to loose this fight, and it'll look good on them too. With NASCAR having these 'exclusive' noncompetitive sponsorship deals they are really hurting themselves.
If even gets more embarrassing, "(On) Friday afternoon, Robby Gordon's crew was busy removing decals from his No. 7 car before qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway after NASCAR ruled his team could not switch Motorola sponsorship from his Busch Series car to the Nextel Cup car."I didn't anticipate this," said Gordon, also the owner of Robby Gordon Motorsports. "We're still not quite sure what is happening. NASCAR is working with us, and we're doing what has to be done."Gordon had hoped to move the Motorola sponsorship to his Cup car after losing another primary sponsor, Harrah's, a week earlier." - source CHRIS JENKINS AP Sports Writer. With what NASCAR is doing they are not only hurting big name teams with perceived deep pockets like RCR, but they are also hurting smaller struggling teams with smaller resources like Robby Gordon's.
With NASCAR becoming the 'Sponsor Police' (I'd like to use a Jerry Seinfeld-esque term here but I won't), what they are essentially doing is competing for sponsorship dollars with the very teams that provide NASCAR with the life blood of the organization, and since NASCAR is the governing body, race teams are at the mercy of NASCAR and the deals it makes with series sponsors.
Here is what Mike Helton had to say regarding this,
"Every now and then we have one or two (sponsors) that have a conflict," Helton said. "I think it's an indication of the size of the sport and the complexities that come along with the size of the sport." - source CHRIS JENKINS AP Sports Writer.
Excuse me Mike, in addition to AT&T and RCR having problems with Nextel, Motorola and Robby Gordon are at odds with Nextel now. Then how about the whole Sunoco vs Shell/Penzoil thing with Kevin Harvick's car? This seems to be a whole lot more than just one or two sponsors at odds with each other. Speaking about RCR cars, don't forget NASCAR wouldn't let Jack Daniels in as a sponsor for a long time too - how long before they change their minds and deem Jack Daniels to be an unsuitable sponsor and force them to leave the sport? Moving along those same lines, pretty soon Tony Stewart won't be allowed to race at Lowes Motor Speedway because he is sponsored by the Home Depot. Remember when Fox first took over the broadcasts in 2001? They blanked out the names on the cars and drivers suits in photographs and graphics because they didn't pay Fox to broadcast their brand over the TV. Ya, it was 'fixed' by the next race, but that was just the prelude of things to come. No foresight on NASCAR's part here, none what-so-ever.
"At the end of the day," Helton added, "there has be somebody policing the sport to determine what is OK and what is not OK. That's what we do and that's what we're going to do." - source CHRIS JENKINS AP Sports Writer.
I'd call this type of 'policing' more of a dictatorship than anything else because in NASCAR they are the police, judge, and jury (and executioner if they are not careful).