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Jockeys Wearing Ads Reined In at the Derby

A federal judge in Louisville, Ky., who is weighing the case of five jockeys suing for the right to wear advertising on their turtlenecks and breeches during Saturday’s Kentucky Derby should take into account this important sartorial evidence:

Jerry Bailey and the other jockeys are not stripping to their pants and having corporate names and logos painted in henna (a temporary type of tattooing) on their backs, as boxers recently have, mostly for the online casino, GoldenPalace.com.

Horse racing is not the Hades of sports, as boxing is. But the desire of jockeys to be riding billboards, even in a tasteful fashion, may portend a future when professional players in the major team sports wear such ads. Tennis players and golfers do it. So do bowlers.

The Yankees and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays wore helmet and sleeve patches when they opened the season in Tokyo, raising anew the specter that Major League Baseball might import the idea for the regular season here at home.

It’s all about money and the perhaps rightful contention that if stadium and arena walls can be plastered with ads, why can’t athletes?

In their lawsuit filed Friday in United States District Court in Louisville, the jockeys argued that the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority is violating their constitutional rights by enforcing a rule that prevents jockeys from wearing "advertising, promotional and cartoon symbols or wording" that the state agency deems is "not in keeping with the traditions of the turf."

The jockeys also noted that covering the horses in blankets emblazoned with the name of Visa, the title sponsor of the Triple Crown races, somehow does not violate those traditions.

It appears to be a mushy, if arbitrary, standard, perhaps less definable even than indecency. J. Bruce Miller, the racing authority’s lawyer, defended the rule as necessary to maintain integrity at the state’s tracks. "If an onshore casino advertises on a jockey, will it be a question of betting on betthesports.com or Pat Day?" he said by telephone after a hearing yesterday on the jockey’s case. "But I had a difficult time getting a judge to understand the magnitude of that. We’re concerned with who’ll advertise. It could be condoms, which could impeach the integrity of the sport."

Miller also argued that the advertising could impede the stewards’ ability to see who won a race or if a jockey did something improper.

"He said the whip might blend in with the letters on the jockeys’ pants," Ronald Sheffer, the jockeys’ lawyer, said by telephone while sounding amazed at the logic. "And the judge asked: ‘What about the silks? They’re all different colors."

Read the entire article at: New York Times 

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