San Diego Chargers FanFest, the team’s annual training camp event at Qualcomm Stadium, takes place on Saturday. It’s one of the big free events that most NFL teams do every summer, where fans can get an up-close look at their teams, and enjoy it all for free. But this year one thing is different: The players won’t be signing autographs.
When the team announced the event, it noted at the bottom of the announcement that FanFest will not include a team autograph session this year.
So why, when the team is already organizing a big event for the fans to see the players, wouldn’t they want the fans to get an opportunity to get autographs from the players? Chargers PR guy Bill Johnston explained on Twitter that the autograph sessions became too unwieldy.
Fanfest note: No team auto session this year. Has become too big; too many kids going away bummed w/o autos. Still great day with your team.—
Bill Johnston (@ChargersPRguy) August 02, 2012
As I noted when Cam Newton took some heat for charging for his autograph, this is less about the athletes not wanting to give their autographs away than it is about the fact that NFL player autographs have become a valuable commodity on the sports memorabilia market. When huge crowds of autograph seekers show up to an event, with many planning to acquire as many autographs as they can and then turn around and sell them, it changes the tenor of the event from a fun opportunity for fans to a business transaction.
And as unfortunate as it is for the kids who won’t get an autograph tomorrow, there’s no reason the Chargers should use the players’ time to bolster the business of a bunch of memorabilia dealers.