The Fans Strike Back: 9 Sports Protests

In Washington, DC, Redskins fans are mailing "Fan Cards" to team headquarters and local media outlets, renouncing their fandom as a result of the actions of owner Daniel Snyder. In Cleveland, legendary fan "Dawg Pound Mike" is encouraging Browns fans to stay out of their seats for the opening kickoff of the team's Monday night game against the Ravens next week. And in Oakland, it's only a matter of time before Raiders fans think of a creative way to protest the dreadful state of the Silver and Black. Fan protests are alive and well across the NFL, but they're hardly a modern phenomenon. Take a look back at a variety of history's sports protests and then share your own additions in the comments.

1. Who Needs Tickets? The Mayor, For One

For more than a century, ticket scalpers have drawn the ire of fans hoping to attend a game for a price somewhere close to face value. In 1908, scalpers almost put a stop to the World Series. In Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era, Steven Riess writes that Chicago Mayor Fred Busse was so angry that he hadn't received tickets to the Fall Classic between the Cubs and Tigers that he threatened to dispatch police officers to prevent fans from entering Chicago's West Side Park because of alleged building code violations. A league-wide World Series policy prevented teams from selling tickets to individual games, so Cubs officials had sold the tickets to scalpers before making them available to the general public.

Busse eventually secured some tickets, but some equally annoyed Cubs fans boycotted the games in Chicago. Given that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since, some of those protesters might regret their decision.

2. The Aints

The Saints joined the NFL in 1967 and went 20 years before finishing with a winning record. The team was the laughingstock of the league, even in New Orleans.

In 1980, the Saints started the year 0-9, prompting fan Robert LeCompte to produce 5,000 paper bags for fans to wear to home games. LeCompte's bags, which provided some anonymity for Saints supporters who were too embarrassed to be associated with such a sorry team, were decorated in black and gold and labeled "Aints." The team's ugly record was listed below the eye holes, which naturally featured painted-on tears.

"It's sort of a humorous protest," LeCompte told reporters in 1980. "If anyone wants to go to the game, but doesn't want his friends to know it, he can go with the bag over his head."

According to the New York Times, Derland Moore, who played nose tackle for the Saints from 1973 to 1985, could've used one of LeCompte's paper bags when he went out in public. "We were the league's doormats," Moore once said. "When I went out and people would ask me if I played for the Saints, I would say no."

3. Giants Fans Decide They've Had Enough

The 1978 New York Giants started the season 5-3 and were within a game of the division lead when things began to fall apart, just as they always seemed to for the G-Men at the time. New York hadn't had a winning season since 1972, so it was no surprise that fans' frustrations bubbled over after the Giants slipped to 5-7 with a loss to division rival Philadelphia. Following that game, an ad appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger prompting disgruntled Giants fans to call a phone number. Those who did were invited to a meeting to decide how Giants fans could best exhibit their frustration with the team's ownership. "We wanted to do something that would truly get the Giants' ownership to take notice," Giants fan Peter Valentine recalled in a 1987 New York Times article. "Burning a ticket? Not enough. Staying away? There are a lot of no-shows late in the season when the weather is bad. What could we do that would really get attention?"

Valentine and his fellow fed-up fans chartered a plane to fly over Giants Stadium during a December game against St. Louis. The plane pulled a banner with the message, "15 Yrs. Of Lousy Football—We've Had Enough." The second part of the message was a reference to Howard Beale's famous line in Network, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore," which was released in 1977. The Giants wouldn't win another championship until the 1986-87 season.

4. Pirates Protest Falls Flat

In 2007, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the midst of yet another losing season, their 15th in a row. A group of fans who were tired of the team's hapless performance organized a pre-game rally outside of PNC Park to protest the team's ownership. The organizers encouraged fans to attend that night's game against the Washington Nationals and to walk out in protest after the third inning. According to newspaper accounts, only a few thousand fans of the crowd of 26,959 were seen leaving their seats after the third inning and only an estimated 100 actually left the ballpark, some of them to boos from other Pirates fans. "I totally understand the fans' frustration," Pirates owner Bob Nutting said during the game. "I respect the people who are trying to make a statement." An unusual offensive outburst from the Pirates in the form of a six-run second inning may have persuaded some fans to remain in their seats.

5. The Old-Fashioned Protest: A Letter to the Editor

Ken_PhelpsIn August 1989, Yankees fan Nicholas D. DeCurtis wrote a letter to the editor of Newsday. His message? Boycott the Yankees. "Realistically, the only way that baseball can perhaps rid itself of this mean-spirited, greedy, egomaniac is if we fans boycott all future games at Yankee Stadium and send the Boss a message—loud and clear—that we are not returning until he unloads the Bronx Bombers, a once-proud and great franchise." The Boss, of course, was George Steinbrenner, longtime meddlesome owner of the Yankees. Twenty years later, the Steinbrenner family still runs baseball's proudest franchise and the Yankees have added five more World Series titles to their legacy. Now, more often than not, it's the fans of other teams who write the letters protesting New York's free-spending owners.

6. MLBFanStrike.com Strikes Out

Facing the prospects of baseball strike in 2002, less than a decade after baseball's last work stoppage, a group of fans across the county organized a National Fan Boycott on July 11, the day that the league resumed play after the All-Star Break. Web sites, including mlbfanstrike.com, were launched to promote the boycott, which urged fans to refrain from going to games, watching games, and purchasing MLB merchandise. "It's time for the fans to take back the game," Don Wadewitz, one of the organizers, told reporters. "If baseball stops again, a lot of fans aren't coming back this time. We are fed up." The protest was perhaps the most organized in the history of baseball, thanks to the advent of the Internet, but the boycott didn't exactly go as planned. As one reporter wrote in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, ""¦attendance around the majors was affected. It jumped by 2,000 per game. So much for replacing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' with The Funeral March."

7. Europeans Show Us How It's Done

Some of the most effective sports protests take place across the pond among fans of European soccer teams. Recently, fans of the Halesowen Town FC promised to stay away from home matches until Morrell Maison and Kelly Gentles relinquished control of the team. It's one thing to boycott a dreadful team and quite another to boycott a winner. Halesowen fans continued the boycott despite the club's strong start to the season, helping put the club in a debt of more than 400,000 pounds. "People are still adamant they won't support the club until Maison is gone," said Gary Willets, one of the leaders of the boycott. "It's a shame because we're doing well and it would be nice to watch the team. But everyone is looking at the big picture right now." The boycott was lifted in October after two groups made bids to purchase the club.

8. Eagles Fans Are Good at Booing, Not Boycotting

Sometimes a team has to be torn down before it can be good again. That's what Philadelphia football fan Frank Sheppard thought of the hometown Eagles in 1968. "The really loyal fans of the Eagles do hope for a bad day," said Sheppard, who helped organize a fan boycott for a home game against New Orleans after the Eagles started the season 1-11. Sheppard and other fans had grown so frustrated with team owner Jerry Wolman and coach-general manager Joe Kuharich that they took out ads in the local newspapers calling for their dismissal. "To hope for a loss is the best thing an Eagles' fan could do," Sheppard said before the game against the Saints. The boycott was a flop—57, 128 fans showed up—and the Eagles won, taking them out of the running to finish with the league's worst record and the right to the No. 1 draft pick, which Buffalo would use to select O.J. Simpson.

9. Mercury Rising in Support of Brandy Reed

reed
Without fail, when All-Star teams are announced, fans, coaches, and sportswriters will clamor that someone was snubbed. In the case of the 2000 WNBA season, that someone was Phoenix Mercury center Brandy Reed. Mercury fans threatened to boycott the All-Star Game, which was being held in Phoenix, while Phoenix head coach Cheryl Miller grabbed a microphone following the final game before the All-Star break to encourage fans to go to the All-Star Game wearing black shirts in protest. WNBA president Val Ackerman stepped in and added Reed, who was sixth in the league in scoring, to the West's roster. Crisis averted. If only it worked that way in baseball.

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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