Toronto Blue Jays

Jose Bautista is boycotting SportsNet because they won’t pay for Devon Travis’ suit

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Players boycott media outlets fairly often. Sometimes it’s because of perceived slights or the perception of bias. Jose Bautista’s boycott of SportsNet, however, is a tad different:

Jose Bautista has refused to do one-on-one interviews with Sportsnet for the past three months in protest of the broadcaster’s refusal to pay the cost of a designer suit purchased by rookie Devon Travis as part of a TV segment aired on Sportsnet on May 19.

It was one of those “let’s go shopping with the baseball player” features. Shots of Travis trying on clothes, coming out of the fitting room looking dapper, etc. Except Travis ended up paying for the suit himself and Bautista thinks the network should’ve paid for the suit. He says he will not talk to SportsNet — the Blue Jays’ broadcaster — until they pay up.

At first blush it seems sort of petty — Travis makes half a million dollars a year — but I think Bautista has a point here, I think. SportsNet is a media company that pays billions for sports rights. Travis was giving them programming for their profit-making activities. From the story it doesn’t sound as if Travis was buying the suit anyway and SportsNet said “hey, can we film you?” It sounds like an idea the network had for a segment. If a billion-dollar cable network films a segment like that, don’t they pay for wardrobe? Don’t those makeover shows — which this was a derivation of — pay for the duds?

The linked article talks to a media ethicist who thinks it’d be wrong for SportsNet to buy the suit in that it may appear as if they were paying for an interview or something. That seems rather myopic here. It’s an entertainment segment. Produced by the network which is a rights partner and is owned by the Blue Jays’ owner. Given how rights-holder politics go, I’m guessing Travis didn’t feel the same level of freedom to tell SportsNet to go pound sand over this segment as he would some local affiliate from Manitoba. You do these things for the club and so you don’t piss off ownership.

Pay for the suit, SportsNet.