NFL Play 60: Stay Off Our Bus!

 The National Football League's Gambit to Commercialize School Children 

Part 1 - What Happened


Introduction

According to the National Football League, NFL Play 60 is a campaign designed to tackle childhood obesity by encouraging healthy lifestyle habits through physical fitness and good nutrition. On the surface, this is a very positive massage. However, this message escaped our children when Cathcart Elementary was named an NFL Super School and awarded an NFL Play 60 fitness grant. Our children were excluded from the NFL’s presentation at their school’s celebration assembly simply because we refused to sign the NFL’s legal paperwork which would yield to the NFL unrestricted rights to use photographic and video images of our children for promotional materials. While the National Football League contends that NFL Play 60 is a charity, we contend that it is a cleverly designed advertising campaign that uses children to promote the NFL. We are not contesting the merits of the NFL Play 60 message. However, we feel deeply offended by the implementation of this program and the disrespect shown by the NFL and the Snohomish School District towards our children.

This document is a compilation of the ethical, legal, and political issues and questions we have pondered and provides some arguments regarding the (perceived) infringement of our rights and those of our children. We are neither legal, financial, advertising nor marketing professionals and some of the facts remain to be verified. We do not attempt to answer all of the questions we raise; rather we are simply voicing our concerns for our entire society to consider. The opinions contained within this document are just that: our opinions.

So let’s start with this question for you. How are these two items related?

  1. You choose not to promote a business.
  2. The removal of your child from their classroom.

At first glance, we would suspect the first question you may raise is not how these two items are related, but why they are related at all. Yet, they are related. To put this in other words, the primary questions we are asking the reader to consider are these:

  1. Is it acceptable to segregate students in a public school based solely upon the parent’s refusal to allow their children to be used in promotional materials for a private enterprise?
  2. What educational purpose is served by having commercial cameras inside a public school during regular class hours?

Our goal is twofold: (1) to give the reader some perspective of what is happening behind the scenes, and (2) to keep our public school students free from commercial exploitation. A door has been opened that we feel needs to be closed. Commercial cameras and fundraising activities simply have no place within our public schools, at least not during regular class hours.

Although I am an individual author, I often use the term “our” and “we” throughout this document. This is done for several reasons: (1) there are two parents involved in this particular case and while my wife is not writing this document she is very much involved, (2) to remain consistent as I write this document as I will reference several letters that were submitted to various entities that were contacted as a couple rather than as an individual, and (3) considering the scope of NFL Play 60, we doubt our children are in a unique situation, so the questions and concerns we raise can be attributed to a much larger collective of children; hence, “our children” becomes a part of a much larger collective of similarly situated children from families across the nation.

Also, since I am an individual author, I lack access to professional resources such as a copy editor. While I have made every effort to provide a refined short version of our experience and opinions, it may contain a few errors. The remaining documentation - especially the extended version - may contain additional errors. Hopefully this will be limited to a few spelling or grammatical errors, but since these writings have been compiled over an extended period of time the reader may find some fragmentation or duplication of thought. These writings will be edited later and may change without any notice. For now the objective is to provide the reader with the issues we raise and some of our thoughts on those issues. Consequently, these writings will not flow like you are reading a novel.

As we include copies of many of the correspondence we have had with various entities along the way, we have removed the names of our children and have changed some wording to reflect gender neutrality in order to protect their identity (e.g., from “him/her” to “our child”). We have also removed some contact information and changed email addresses to proper names to offer some privacy for those involved. After all, we seek to preserve our own privacy and we will treat others as we would like to be treated. Otherwise, the texts of these correspondences are in their original form. Assuming this manuscript generates any media interest, we request that those media representatives exercise some common decency and restraint by leaving our children alone and showing them some respect as they have suffered enough of an indignity over this event. If anyone wants additional comments from us or to voice their criticism, then please direct those inquiries or comments at us. Our children had/have nothing to do with this, aside from being excluded from the event in question and experiencing a reduction in the quality of their education.

We are sure that NFL representatives will emphasize that NFL Play 60 is a program that promotes health and fitness. We are not arguing against that position. In fact, some of what the NFL is doing has been conducted correctly. However, what we want to present to the reader is that NFL Play 60 is much more than a program to promote good healthy lifestyle choices for children; that the primary purpose of NFL Play 60 is a cleverly designed advertising campaign to promote the National Football League. Let’s take a closer look …

Return to Contents (top of page)


You Are a Winner!

The Announcement

On 2011 November 3, our children returned home from school, each bringing with them the following announcement:

Re: NFL Play 60 Assembly - November 15, 2011

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Last week we received a letter confirming that Cathcart Elementary was selected as the Grand Prize winning entry for the Seattle Seahawks market in the NFL contest Play 60 Health and Fitness grant. Our entry was coordinated and submitted by our CPO.

The benefits to our school include:

  • A Celebration Assembly with a visiting Seahawks player who will talk with our students about the importance of health and wellness, hard work, and staying in school. This event is only open to our Cathcart Cougar Students and Staff.
  • The NFL staff will work with Ms. Olson, our PE specialist, to hold a special Ultimate Gym class with fitness stations for 50 students. (These students’ names will be drawn from the students who participated in the NFL Play 60 picture on September 9 for our entry.) Our special visitors will bring 15 footballs, 12 hula hoops, 30 cones, 30 jump ropes, and 30 3lb weights which will be gifted to our school.
  • $10,000 grant awarded to our school in the form of a check - to be used for Health and Fitness.

In order for each student to attend the assembly, and potentially participate in the Ultimate Gym class - we have been asked by the NFL coordinators to have each student sign the “Waiver of Liability and Release” which is copied on the back of this letter. Their concern is primarily that photos or video may be taken (this is a publicity event for them ☺) and the NFL needs permission to share the images.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this special assembly for our students.

Very truly,

Casey Bowers
Principal

Off to the right of the closing and Casey’s signature was the following statement enclosed within a star: “Please review, sign and return the Waiver on the back so your child can participate in our Seahawk event!”

Return to Contents (top of page)


The NFL's Waiver of Liability and Release

I have copied the text NFL's Waiver of Liability and Release below. The original version is available here.

I am the parent or legal guardian of the child whose name and birth date appear below. In return for allowing my child’s participation in attendance at the NFL PLAY 60 Super School Assembly to be held on ____________________ at ____________________ (the “School”) and all related events and activities (the “Event”), I, on my own behalf and that of my child, release and agree not to sue the National Football League (the “NFL”), its member professional football clubs, NFL Properties LLC, NFL Ventures L.P., NFL Enterprises LLC, Project Support Team, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. and each of their respective officers, affiliates, subsidiaries, directors, governing board, employees, subcontractors, sponsors, agents and representatives (collectively, the “Program Entities”), and each operator and owner of the respective venue locations (together with the Program Entities, the “Releasees”) from all present and future claims that may be made by me, my child, my family, estate heirs, or assigns for property damage, personal injury, or wrongful death arising as a result of my participation in the Event and related activities wherever, whenever, or however the same may occur. I understand and agree that the Releasees are not responsible for any injury or property damage arising out of the Event, even if caused by their ordinary negligence. I understand that my child’s participation in the Event involves certain risks, including, but not limited to, serious injury or death. On behalf of my child, I assume all risks associated with my child’s voluntary participation in the Event. I understand that the Event may be filmed and by attending the Event, I consent to my child being photographed, videotaped and/or recorded. I consent to such photography, videotaping and/or recording and to any use, in any and all media formats, including, without limitation, television and digital media and formats, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe in perpetuity, of my child’s name, nickname, image, likeness, voice, photograph, signature facsimile, and biographical information for any purpose whatsoever, without any further action required or any consideration owing to me or my child from the Releasees. I understand that this document is intended to be as broad and as inclusive as permitted by the laws of the state in which the Event is taking place and agree that if any portion of this Agreement is invalid, the remainder will continue in full legal force and effect. I further agree that any legal proceedings related to this waiver of liability and release will take place in New York, New York.

For California Residents Only

I, on my behalf and that of my child, hereby expressly waive all rights under Section 1542 of the Civil Code of the State of California, and under any and all similar laws of any jurisdiction. I am aware that said Section 1542 of the Civil Code provides as follows:

A GENERAL RELEASE DOES NOT EXTEND TO CLAIMS WHICH THE CREDITOR DOES NOT KNOW OR SUSPECT TO EXIST IN HIS FAVOR AT THE TIME OF EXECUTING THE RELEASE, WHICH IF KNOWN BY HIM MUST HAVE MATERIALLY AFFECTED HIS SETTLEMENT WITH THE DEBTOR.

I have read this Agreement and have discussed its contents with my child.

Date: ________________

Signature: __________________________________ Print Name: ______________________________

Address: ____________________________________________________________________________

City/State/Zip: ___________________________________ Phone: ______________________________

Child’s Name: _______________________________ Child’s Birthdate: __________________________

☐ I’d like to be added to the NFL database to receive updates and promotional offers from the NFL and its partners.

* Facsimile signatures of this Agreement shall be considered effective and binding on all parties hereto as actual original signatures.

Return to Contents (top of page)


Our Reactions

My wife encountered the announcement before I did and had already completed and signed the NFL’s Waiver of Liability and Release (“waiver”) on the reverse side. When I read the announcement and waiver I asked my wife if she had actually read what she had signed. I never received a reply to that question; rather the reply I received was the argument that she didn’t want our children to feel left out of an event she was sure the entire student body would attend. Knowing that she was probably right I felt the pressure to give in. However, I refused to yield. Arguing that this was hypocritical and that the NFL had no right to our children for promotional purposes, I was able to shut this one down.

This decision was far from a consensus and there are times when couples need to figure out how to handle conflicting viewpoints on issues. We still haven’t figured out how to arrive at decisions like this except it seems like the unspoken default is that when one of us gives a firm negative response, and then the lack of a consensus kills the issue. No means no.

There’s one other thing that is worth mentioning here. As I was standing my ground during our discussion, my wife suggested that we keep our children home from school for the entire day so they didn’t have to deal with the emotional fallout from being left out of the celebration assembly. I was able to repel that suggestion too, but it makes me wonder if any other parents - from any other school for that matter - actually employed this method of avoidance. If so, this represents a significant negative impact to the affected child’s education.

Return to Contents (top of page)


So What's the Big Deal?

There were several things I found objectionable to the NFL’s waiver. It wasn’t so much about the release from liability in case there was an accident, although I thought the language was a bit over the top. I mean, what did they really expect to happen; someone tripping over a jump rope or dropping a 3 pound weight on their foot? Isn’t that what insurance policies are for? I can’t imagine the premium on this coverage to be too expensive, but then again they were just covering their hide. And they appeared to cover themselves well. As one reads the waiver it becomes apparent that some thought was put into it and nothing was left to chance.

So let’s get to the real issue; the use of our children for promotional purposes. The clauses within the NFL’s waiver that bothered me were these:

I understand that the Event may be filmed and by attending the Event, I consent to my child being photographed, videotaped and/or recorded. I consent to such photography, videotaping and/or recording and to any use, in any and all media formats, including, without limitation, television and digital media and formats, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe in perpetuity, of my child’s name, nickname, image, likeness, voice, photograph, signature facsimile, and biographical information for any purpose whatsoever, without any further action required or any consideration owing to me or my child from the Releasees.

Say what? “In any media format, even those not yet devised?” “Throughout the universe in perpetuity?” “For any purpose whatsoever?” Just what does the NFL really intend to do with the images and biographical information they collected from all of these children? Not to give the NFL or any other commercial entity any ideas, but I probably would have gone along with this whole scheme if the NFL had placed some reasonable limitations on the materials they were collecting. On the surface, NFL Play 60 seems like a worthwhile program, but this was no longer just about NFL Play 60. Now you can call me suspicious, mistrustful, wary, skeptical, and a whole slew of similar terms, and you would be correct. I’ve been in this world long enough to be mistrustful and the general rule I use is that the bigger the entity and the further away they are located - whether it is government or business - the more mistrustful I have become. The predominant example being all of the big banks that are not only “too big to fail,” but now seem to have become, “too big to prosecute.” So the short story is that I just did not trust the NFL to place reasonable limitations on the use of the materials they were collecting.

Before I move on, I would like to point out just one more thing about the NFL’s Waiver since it is fresh in your mind… did you notice that last clause, the one that said, “I have read this Agreement and have discussed its contents with my child.”? Really? Are you kidding me? What does the NFL really expect either a 5- or 7-year old child to understand about the contents of their waiver? Okay, I understand, some parents have older kids, but was this really necessary? Talk about overkill!

But it just wasn’t the waiver that bothered me. I was being told that we needed to promote not just NFL Play 60, but the NFL itself. And quite frankly, the NFL was not the type of business I would choose to support, even if they offered us the entire $10,000 for just our children. In my opinion, the NFL does not conduct its affairs in an ethical manner and the proof was in my hand. I viewed the NFL’s demand to film their event as hypocritical and demanding that we be a part of their hypocrisy was unacceptable. The demands by the NFL were an example of the type of values I do not wish my children to learn.

There are other reasons why I would not choose to show my support for the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL. I believe the NFL fosters a culture of privilege and this culture is reflected by the behaviors of many of its members. Many NFL players do not set good examples of proper citizenship for anyone, let alone our children. While there are many members - even the vast majority - of the NFL that conduct themselves properly, I don’t think many people would dispute the fact that NFL players find their way into more legal trouble than the average citizen. But just don’t take my word for it… let’s hear a few other opinions here:

From columnist Chris Trapasso: “From Titus Young punching teammate Louis Delmas to Nick Fairley’s arrest for drunk driving, to Mikel Leshoure’s marijuana arrest, the Detroit Lions have lately been in the news for all the wrong reasons, but they still aren’t the NFL’s bad boys. Sure, their public relations department is earning its paycheck right now, but they’ve got a ways to go before correctly being labeled as the league’s bad boys.”

Just the title of this article by Jason Lisk says enough: “NFL Offseason Reported Arrests Are Up 61% Since Roger Goodell Implemented Personal Conduct Policy in 2007.” Jason goes on to quote Roger Goodell, “Illegal or irresponsible conduct does more than simply tarnish the offender. It puts innocent people at risk, sullies the reputation of others involved in the game, and undermines public respect and support for the NFL.” Yup, you nailed it Rodger! I simply do not respect the NFL and certainly will have no part of promoting the NFL.

Now I understand this one by Dwight Perry may be sarcastic, but something like this wouldn’t be said if there weren’t elements of truth - or at least the perception of those truths - behind it: “Chicago police say they’ve arrested the same woman 396 times since 1978. (name removed), in her latest court appearance, pleaded guilty to attacking a city alderman, trespassing, public drinking and unlawfully impersonating a Cincinnati Bengal.”

How about player conduct while on the field? Savage hits leveled towards opposing players have become commonplace and player injuries, especially concussions have become a focal point. I realize this is a competitive sport and that the opposing players are the competition, but they are also your colleagues. Rarely do players remain with the same team throughout their careers and it is quite possible the player you just crushed - even injured - will someday become your teammate. Then there is the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Now I realize the bounty scandal wasn’t exposed until after the NFL Play 60 event held at Cathcart Elementary, but this was just additional proof to my point. And this just didn’t involve the players, but the coaches as well. How does this set a good example for anybody, let alone our children?

Steve Kelly, a 25-year veteran sports columnist with the Seattle Times wrote in an article primarily aimed at the NFL’s use of replacement referees at the beginning of the 2012-13 season: “The NFL says it cares about the integrity of the game, but it doesn’t. The NFL says it cares, more than anything, about the health of its players, but it doesn’t.”

I can continue to site articles about the questionable conduct of NFL players and the organization in general and some of those will be exposed throughout this document. For now I think you get the point. And even though I’ve read statistics that arrests amongst NFL players is below the national average for men of the same age range, the simple fact is that when you are under the public spotlight you need to be more careful about your conduct. So, in a nutshell, as a matter of personal opinion, I didn’t believe that the Seattle Seahawks and the National Football League were worthy of our endorsement.

Finally, although this thought wasn’t immediate or considered until I began to voice my concerns to some of the government agencies I contacted, what occurred to me regarded the door that the NFL was opening. The NFL and their franchise teams are arguably the most popular entities in the country. Through this popularity, along with the provision of an award and presenting an educational program to children, they were able to gain entry into our public schools. But who was going to follow their example and how far would this go? Now it seemed that any business with a few dollars and a feel-good program could do the same thing. Just how long would it be before our public schools entered into the advertising business? Won’t happen you say? I wouldn’t be so sure.

Return to Contents (top of page)


Through the Eyes of Children

What is a Seahawk?

When the announcement first arrived it was no big deal for our children. After all, what was a Seahawk? While we do enjoy watching football, this activity has taken a back seat to a great many things since the kids arrived. If I do get a chance to watch football, I am much more likely to tune in a college game than watch the professionals. In fact, over the past several years I would estimate that I have managed to watch an average of 1.5 professional football games per year since the kids arrived, and that includes the Super Bowl. My wife is much more likely to watch the Seahawks than I am, but still the television is much more likely to be airing an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants or Scooby-Doo than football. What all of this means is that our children didn’t really have a concept of what a Seahawk was; it simply wasn’t important to them. However, they knew something was up as everybody at school was now talking about these Seahawks, especially the older kids. Some things in this world don’t change and like when I was attending grade school, when the older kids got excited about something and labeled it as “so cool” the younger kids followed their queue. So, as most kids do, they went along with the crowd and felt the excitement too.

Return to Contents (top of page)


The Days Prior To the Celebration Assembly

In the days leading up to the Celebration Assembly, I found it necessary to visit the school on more than one occasion (three, if I recall, but I’m no longer sure). During those visits I noticed that some of the staff members were now wearing Seahawk jerseys. The excitement was in the air and I heard staff members comment about their “win” on more than one occasion.

Cathcart staff members were keeping track of the return of the NFL waivers and did notice that we had not returned one for either of our children. While I was in the office attending to other business, I stepped over to Brandi’s desk and informed her that we had not forgotten about the waiver; rather that we refused to sign it and were not going to turn it in. I do remember offering my reasoning and simply commented that I felt the NFL’s paperwork was “rotten.” I then asked if we were the only parents who refused to sign the waiver and Brandi assured us that we were not alone. Now school personnel have been trained to not say more than necessary. This is to protect the privacy of their students and I must say that this is a good habit. Yet, I took Brandi’s response at face value and did not inquire further and it probably wouldn’t have been fruitful had I inquired anyways. However, what I did not know and what Brandi did not reveal was how few were the number of parents who refused to sign the waiver. As it turned out, this would account for the impact our children felt when the big moment arrived.

Just to make sure our children’s teachers understood what was going on, I sent the following email the day before the Celebration Assembly:

From: McChesney, Mark
Sent: 2011 November 14, Monday 4:06 PM
To: Wagner, Barbara; Ask, Juli-Anne
Subject: NFL Waivers

Hello,

I just wanted to let you know that we did not forget to sign the waivers so could attend the assembly being promoted by the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL. In case our children inquire, I (speaking for myself only) refused to sign the wavier because it was bad paper. In a nutshell, the wavier requested us to surrender our rights in exchange for virtually nothing. While it may seem like a minor issue, I see this as a teaching opportunity regarding the importance of reading and understanding paperwork prior to signing. I just wish they were old enough to fully understand the impact. If they should inquire, I believe they are entitled to the best explanation possible under the circumstances. You can always deflect them back to me should they inquire as to why they are not attending the assembly along with the rest of their peers.

Thanks,

Mark McChesney

I received one reply to this message:

From: Ask, Juli-Anne
Sent: 2011 November 14, Monday 15:22
To: McChesney, Mark
Subject: RE: NFL Waivers

I understand your concerns completely (especially as my father was an attorney). If has questions tomorrow, I will do my absolute best to respond in a way that communicates that this was a choice made for the best of reasons—with the intention to safeguard rights. Thanks for letting me know!

Juli-Anne ☺

Interesting reply, don’t you think? I’m not too focused on the fact that her father was an attorney, which may give Juli-Anne an insight many teachers may lack. Rather, I am focusing on two phrases, (1) “I understand your concerns completely” and (2) “with the intention to safeguard rights.” Okay, if Juli-Anne really understood, then why was this event allowed to proceed? I have not inquired, but I wonder if Juli-Anne voiced any concerns to Casey Bowers or other school district administrators. Were any red flags or objections made amongst staff to administrators and if so, how were these concerns addressed? Obviously the school proceeded with the celebration assembly so we do know there were no adjustments made to the day’s plan and no corrective action was taken.

The main thing to keep in mind here is that this celebration assembly was a big event. It was on everybody’s mind and quite literally thrown in the face of our children. Imaging the scene: staff members were wearing Seahawk jerseys, the posters were painted, the balloons were inflated and the banners were unfurled, all while everybody was chanting, “Yea, we’re winners!” Additionally, many of their fellow students - those that were chosen as participants in the Ultimate Gym - were wearing NFL Play 60 shirts the day of the celebration assembly. This celebration assembly was a big deal! The NFL created an environment of excitement and school district administrators and staff added fuel to the fire by hyping the event themselves.

Return to Contents (top of page)


Time For the Celebration Assembly

As much as we tried to warn our children that they would not be attending the celebration assembly, it didn’t really matter. When the time came, they were led away. Imagine the scene now: the excitement was at a crescendo, everybody was hyped and getting ready to greet their special Seahawk guests. “Yea, we’re winners!” But through their actions, the message our children received was more like, “Yea, we’re winners, except for you.” As virtually all of their fellow students went to a party, they were led off to a classroom. In fact, our children felt very much like they were placed into detention.

Return to Contents (top of page)


The Aftermath

As I met our children at the bus stop that afternoon, I routinely asked them how their day went. They weren’t happy. In fact, they were downright angry and they let me know. Our eldest child quickly responded with something like, “The stupid Seahawks were here today, but we didn’t get to go!” Our youngest quickly followed, “Yeah, we didn’t get to go!” Their tone grew angrier as I attempted to find out some details. All the way home all I got was the same answer, “We didn’t get to go!” This wasn’t going well and there was no point in pressing the issue, at least not now. These children obviously needed to cool off so they went inside and proceeded to raid the pantry. Perhaps some information can be gleaned after snack time.

It was a couple of hours later when I finally asked our eldest child the same questions. Where did you go and what did you do during the celebration assembly. Again, the response was, “We didn’t get to go.” I was definitely getting the feeling that this child felt this was disciplinary.

Eventually, we were able to obtain some information, however thin. What we did find out - according to our children - was that they were placed into a classroom (not their regular classroom or anything that resembled what would be considered as regular) with two other children within their age range. We do not know how many other groups of students were in other classrooms and that doesn’t really matter for now. The point is that they were in a strange classroom and not allowed to go to the celebration event for no fault of their own.

Return to Contents (top of page)


Some Additional Perspective

As far as the school staff was concerned, they simply told our children that their parents wouldn’t allow them to go. Go ask your parents. So with a quick clap of the hands blame is swiftly and easily transferred to the parents. Simple as that! Mean ol’ parents! This may account for the anger we received after our children returned from home that day. Another thing to keep in mind is that our children - along with all of the students at Cathcart Elementary from what I can tell - is that they respect the authority of the school principal, the teachers and staff. We reinforce this behavior as well and from our children’s perspective, what the teachers and staff say are the rules to which they abide. So, unhappy as they may have been, our children abided by what the school staff members told them to do.

Return to Contents (top of page)


The Adventure Begins

What follows are the correspondences exchanged between myself, Casey Bowers, and Matthew Shapiro to address the treatment of our children during the NFL Play 60 Celebration Assembly. You may encounter some duplication of concepts, but again, these correspondences are as they occurred.

Contacting Casey Bowers

After a couple of days, it was clear that our children were still upset and didn’t understand why they were not allowed to attend the celebration assembly. It was time to contact the Principal and explain what was going on and our perspective of the event. One thing to note is that all email addresses have been converted to proper names. I wouldn’t want somebody to freely share my contact information and I will extend that courtesy to everybody involved.

From: McChesney, Mark
Sent: 2011 November 17, Thursday 1:57 AM
To: Bowers, Casey
Cc: Wagner, Barbara; Ask, Juli-Anne
Subject: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Hello Casey,

I am not sure of your level of involvement, so please forward this message to any party necessary.

As one of the few parents that did not sign the Waiver of Liability and Release provided by the Snohomish School District on behalf of the Seattle Seahawks and the National Football League, my children were not allowed to attend the NFL Play 60 assembly held at Cathcart Elementary this past Tuesday, November 15, 2011.

Prior to the assembly, I made more than one attempt to explain to my children why I refused to sign the waiver. However, I don’t feel they are old enough to understand my reasoning.

Knowing that my children would be segregated from the majority who would attend the assembly and that I was informed that they would be placed in a classroom with other children of similar circumstance, I was led to believe that the number of children that would not be in attendance to be greater than the actual count; much greater, in fact. Consequently, I subsequently discovered that only four children, including my own, were segregated from their peers of their age grouping. Upon inquiry, I found that my children were confused about the situation, felt isolated from their peers, and denied a privilege. But that’s not all… my wife was inclined to sign the waiver out of just these very concerns, which in how causing me some distress. So, let me share the distress…

As a parent, it is my duty to protect my children, which is why I could not sign the waiver. Quite frankly, I found the waiver to be, well, garbage; where we would be required to sign away all of our rights for virtually nothing in return. Oh sure, Cathcart Elementary would receive $10K and some exercise and playground equipment, and I am sure our children will receive some benefit from the grant by the Seattle Seahawks, but was this really a grant? After all, the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL both receive something of commercial use for their generosity - the video taping of the event for promotional purposes - which no longer makes it seem so generous. I mean, what is the value of this video as opposed to its cost?

No longer speaking for the group as a whole, this now leads me to wonder about the value of this event as opposed to what my children received or were denied in the process. Primarily, they were denied attending the event with their peers, who may be equally confused as to why my children did not attend the event with them. Also, while the Seattle Seahawks were producing something that I construe to be of commercial value, my children were denied classroom time. In the case of my child in kindergarten, this would be classroom time for which I share the cost.

I don’t think adequate thought and planning were in place prior to the event. If this was planned properly, parents would have been informed more thoroughly regarding expectations and contingencies, especially considering the commercial nature of the event. In my case, all I ever saw regarding this was a waiver that was suddenly sent home with my children about a week prior to the event.

So I now find myself in somewhat of a predicament, where I am unable to fully explain to my children the reasoning for not allowing them to attend. Quite frankly, since the Seattle Seahawks were able to obtain something of commercial use, which was allowed by the Snohomish School District, I am of the opinion that both of these parties become responsible for explaining my reasoning to my children. Also, since they were separated from their peers and that they may be equally confused regarding their absence, I believe the explanation should be made to my children in front of their peers.

I did not cause this problem. I blame both the Seattle Seahawks and the Snohomish School District equally and my expectation is that you both provide the corrective action. Call it a teaching opportunity.

I would appreciate it if you would forward this message to the Seattle Seahawks and provide me with the persons whom you contacted, with mailing or email address.

Regards,

Mark McChesney

Casey Bowers responded:

From: Bowers, Casey
Sent: 2011 November 17, Thursday 8:24 AM
To: McChesney, Mark
Cc: Ask, Juli-Anne; Wagner, Barbara; Bowers, Casey
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Dear Mark,

Thank you for sharing your story, and explaining the challenge to your family. I apologize for not sending out information about the assembly sooner than we did, however the timeline between the award and the scheduled assembly date were just that close together.

In the future, should you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me personally so I can work with you in the beginning. I certainly don’t want to leave you in a complicated situation after the fact.

Our NFL contact is a man in New York, who was very supportive and shared the “big picture” for planning with us. I can provide his information should you still feel it important to share your views with him.

Please let me know if you would like to meet to share what you feel would be “a corrective action.”

Very truly,
Casey Bowers ☺

I respond:

From: McChesney, Mark
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2011 8:50 AM
To: Bowers, Casey
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Hello Casey,

Yes, please provide me with the information for your NFL contact.

I visited the Seattle Seahawks website this morning and see that the Cathcart kids are on the main page. I didn’t dig yet to see if there are more photos and video.

I will wait until I hear what the person from the NFL has to say before I propose any corrective action.

The bottom line is that I feel my children were not treated fairly regarding this event.

Regards,

Mark McChesney

Casey Bowers replies:

From: Bowers, Casey
Sent: 2011 November 17, Thursday 9:17 AM
To: McChesney, Mark
Cc: Bowers, Casey
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Mark,

I called Matt, our contact, and he is expecting to hear from you. He offered that I share both his e-mail and his phone.

Very truly,
Casey ☺

Casey did provide Matthew Shapiro’s email address and phone number, but I have removed that information. I did contact Matthew Shapiro with this message along the first message I sent to Casey Bowers that day.

From: McChesney, Mark
Sent: 2011 November 17, Thursday 9:57 AM
To: Shapiro, Matthew
Cc: Bowers, Casey; Wagner, Barbara; Ask, Juli-Anne
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Hello Matthew,

I appreciate your assistance in the matter regarding my children and the NFL Play 60 event recently held at Cathcart Elementary School here in Snohomish, Washington.

As I explained in my message to Casey Bowers that follows, I don’t feel that my children were treated fairly with regards to this event. Casey did ask what I would propose as a corrective action, so here it is:

  1. For each child whose parent(s) refused to sign the waiver, a representative from both the Snohomish School District and the NFL (preferably from the Seattle Seahawks) go to the child’s class and explain why they were not allowed to attend the Play 60 assembly. Yes, I do mean in front of the entire class. I want these children to know why their peers were not allowed to attend.
  2. While showing the children a copy of the waiver (you don’t need to explain the contents), you need to explain that not all parents agreed to its content and refused to sign it as an act of protecting them from what was viewed as potentially exploitative behavior.
  3. They need to receive an apology and assurances that the school district and the NFL will make better efforts in the future to make sure children are not excluded from future events.

I can go further since the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL are already making commercial use of this event; something that I believe has entered the realm of exploitation as opposed to community service. However, in the spirit of cooperation, I will leave it at that.

Regards,

Mark McChesney

Matthew Shapiro’s response:

From: Shapiro, Matthew
Sent: 2011 November 17, Thursday 2:43 PM
To: McChesney, Mark
Cc: Bowers, Casey; Wagner, Barbara; Ask, Juli-Anne; Margolies, Rachel
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Hi Mark,

I’m sorry to hear that your children did not have a positive experience on Tuesday. I would be happy to speak to you on the phone regarding what happened, and our national Super School program overall.

I think it might be a good idea to have Principal Bowers on the line as well. Can you all please let me know some times that may work for you to talk for a few minutes tomorrow or early next week? I can then send out a conference line so we can all join.

Thanks,
Matt

Matthew’s response did include my message along with the original message I sent to Casey Bowers that morning. One thing that is noteworthy here is that Matthew added Rachel Margolies to the CC field. A quick Google search of that name revealed something of interest; that one of the top items returned by Google showed an entry from LinkedIn as “Counsel for the NFL.” Now I know that this is not one hundred percent conclusive, but you be the judge. To me it was clear that Matthew included NFL legal counsel into the loop. While my initial message did not come close to laying out all of the issues I will cover in the pages that follow, I would have thought that my initial message would have set off some red flags. However, the NFL did not change their program and they still continue to collect promotional materials from public schools.

To continue, here is my response to Matthew et al:

From: McChesney, Mark
Sent: 2011 November 17, Thursday 2:54 PM
To: Shapiro, Matthew
Cc: Bowers, Casey; Wagner, Barbara; Ask, Juli-Anne; Margolies, Rachel
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Hello Matt,

I can make myself available tomorrow from 8:30 AM until around noon. That’s PST.

I want to address this as soon as possible while the event is as fresh as possible in my children’s minds.

Regards,

Mark

Return to Contents (top of page)


The Saga Takes an Ugly Turn

From yesterday’s communications between me, Casey Bowers and Matthew Shapiro, we were getting set to talk this over. Although my last message was sent to Matthew at 5:54 PM Eastern time, this was only 11 minutes after Matthew sent me his previous message. While 11 minutes is not a lot of time, it is possible that Matthew had left the office for the day.

I checked in with email the following morning at about 8:15 AM PST, just after I saw our children climb upon the bus for school. Nothing. Now this would be about 11:15 AM in New York. Certainly Matthew is in the office by now, right? So I wait. I check email again at 8:30, then around 9:00, and yet again at about 9:30. Still nothing. Nothing from Matthew Shapiro or Casey Bowers. No email, yet their message thorough their inaction was loud and clear; I was not important to them! Come on, just how difficult is it to send a simple message to suggest a meeting time? I presented a window of opportunity and they were eating up that window because they couldn’t send a simple message? Do they think I have nothing better to do than wait by the computer for their message to arrive like I am at their beck and call? Didn’t my messages from the previous day paint the picture that they were already dealing with a rather disgruntled parent? Now I was feeling offended. No, offended is too gentle; I was getting down right angry! So, at this time I began composing a message of my own. However the recipient was not Casey or Matthew, but William Mester, the Superintendent for the Snohomish School District. It was about 9:55 AM when I completed this message and still nothing from Casey Bowers or Matthew Shapiro. At 9:59 AM I pressed the Send button.

From: McChesney, Mark
Sent: 2011 November 18, Friday 9:59 AM
To: Mester, Bill
Cc: Hagen, Jay; Bowers, Casey
Subject: Considering Legal Action

Dear Bill Mester,

I thought you should be informed that I am now considering taking legal action against the Snohomish School District. The issues pertain to the treatment of my children during the NFL Play 60 assembly held at Cathcart Elementary this past Tuesday, November 15, 2011. Because I refused to sign the Waiver of Liability and Release requested (required) by the National Football League, my children were segregated from their peers and denied their educational opportunity (their normal classroom setting). Quite simply, my children suffered from an act of discrimination, all so the NFL and Seattle Seahawks could obtain promotional materials and the school could obtain some money and playground equipment. From my point of view, both parties willingly exploited our (collective) children for selfish reasons. In the process, my children were treated as outcasts. And they weren’t the only ones, which will complicate matters.

While we may lack standing to pursue a lawsuit against the NFL, I would imagine this would bring negative publicity which that they would probably want to avoid. However, I feel the NFL shares equally in the culpability in this case. From my perspective, any settlement will involve the NFL. I would like to avoid a lawsuit, but given the ages of my children, any resolution from which they would benefit requires prompt attention.

I have attached copies of the pertinent emails between myself, Casey Bowers, and others, for you to review.

Regards,

Mark McChesney

The messages I attached to this message included my first message to Matthew Shapiro (dated 2011 November 17, Thursday 9:57 AM), which also included my first message to Casey Bowers (dated 2011 November 17, Thursday 1:57 AM). I also sent a copy of this message to Casey Bowers and to Jay Hagen who is a School Board member for the Snohomish School District and is the Director for (sub) district #5 which includes Cathcart Elementary. Jay Hagen is also the President of the School Board.

Okay, in hindsight I must admit that I could have submitted a more carefully written communication. But like I said, I was in a state of anger and the subject line alone probably put everybody immediately on the defensive.

Like things always seem to work, I received a meeting request from Casey Bowers just two minutes later. Now, was this coincidental or did Casey just read my message to William Mester and have an “Oh, damn!” moment? The email system works pretty fast and it would only take Casey a couple of minutes to read my message and send one of her own. Whether it was coincidental or not, I’m betting that my message lit the fire under Casey’s butt. It no longer mattered as I was beyond being reasonable with these knuckleheads. What follows is my email exchange between myself, Casey Bowers and Matthew Shapiro, in the order in which they were written:

From: Bowers, Casey
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2011 10:01 AM
To: McChesney, Mark; Shapiro, Matthew
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Good morning Mark and Matt –

Trying to coordinate…I’m available from about 10:30 to 11:45 this morning for a conference call. Maybe we can find a time in that window?

Very truly,
Casey ☺

--------------------

From: Shapiro, Matthew
Sent: 2011 November 18, Friday 10:12 AM
To: Bowers, Casey; McChesney, Mark
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

I would be free from 10:30-11 pst. Mark, let us know if you’re free and I can send a call-in number. Thanks.

--------------------

From: McChesney, Mark
Sent: 2011 November 18, Friday 10:23
To: Bowers, Casey; Shapiro, Matthew
Subject: RE: NFL Play 60 Assembly

Too late for that...

As you can see from my email this morning, I am now considering legal action. In short, I feel that my children suffered from an act of discrimination.

Regards,

Mark

I can only assume that Matthew Shapiro forwarded my last message to Rachael Margolies. I would have if I were in his position.

I did not receive any further communications from Casey Bowers or Matthew Shapiro. However, what bothered me more was that I received no reply from William Mester or Jay Hagen. Not a peep. Now I know I put them on the defensive by the nature of my message and usually anybody who thinks that they may face legal action clam up. However, regardless of the possibility of any legal action they believe they may face, both William Mester and Jay Hagen have responsibilities to the see that all students in their school district are treated fairly and at the bare minimum they should have at least informed me of the proper methods for receiving a hearing before the school board. Yes, they have a responsibility to protect the taxpayers, but not at the expense of another taxpayer and some of their students. By this time I’m really getting angry!

Return to Contents (top of page)


Anger Turns Into Action

After a cooling down period I found it difficult to shake the indignity my children had suffered at the hands of the NFL and the Snohomish School District. At this point I made a promise to myself and to my children - not directly, but internally - that this behavior was unacceptable and needed to be corrected. Our children are too young to fully understand the complexities of this issue and they do not need to be burdened with the weight of the cause I am fighting for. In fact, I felt it was best to let this event slip from their minds as much as possible. Although it was not spoken, I’m sure my wife felt the same. In fact, at many points I believe she wished it would just slip from my mind as well. Obviously it has not and when the fight drug on and the feelings of defeat loomed I just had to remind myself who this was really for. As a parent I am responsible for many things and protecting my children and standing up for their rights ranks at the top of the list.

Before I made any further contact with school officials or any other government entity, I needed to collect my thoughts. This also meant that some research was in order.

Return to Contents (top of page)

Continue to Part 2 - Gathering Information

 Copyright 2014 Mark McChesney