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Good corporate citizen, or buying ads in public schools? Monday, November 19, 2007

I just looked at the last few entries of this blog, and realized that they're all about high school sports. This time of year—playoffs for fall sports—definitely brings a lot of assignments in that area. I have been shooting some other stuff, honest, but nothing I can post here (yet).

Meanwhile, here's another high school sports photo (right), with a difference.

This fall, the Trailblazers coughed up an estimated $600,000 to re-floor the basketball courts at all 13 high schools in the Portland Public School system. The condition was that they could put two logos on each court. (Read about the program here.)

So are the Blazers being good corporate citizens, or have they found a loophole that allowed them to put advertising in the city's high schools?

On the one hand, it's a badly needed improvement to the schools that wasn't going to happen without the Blazers' support.

On the other hand, the schools are pretty much the last enclave free from the reach of corporate America. And the last thing we need is multinational companies picking on vulnerable youth.

Even without corporate logos on basketball courts, Portland's high schools are hardly free of advertising. Sure, companies aren't allowed to put up displays or run commercials on the scoreboards. But there are pop machines, and binders, t-shirts, cell phones, and whatever else a teen carries around with them these days. And if you look at any wall, bulletin board, or even the floor, what do you see? Posters everywhere advertising the school play, anti-drug campaigns, the services of the school nurse, the basketball team's next game, the homecoming dance, the art class's annual show, school picture day, and just about anything else going on. I don't know about Portland's high schools, but every day we had morning announcements that usually included a plug or two for some activity. The yearbooks have advertising. The school newspaper has advertising. The Oregon State Activities Association (OSAA) won't allow logos on football fields, but has no problem with the court logos. And all of the state championship events they run are well-sponsored by well-recognized companies.

By accepting money for new hardwood, has the PPS sold a part of itself to corporate America? Did the Blazers' buy some kind of influence over Portland's youth? Has PPS opened the door to some slippery path to corporate-sponsored education?

I don't know. What do you think?