Boycott Watch
Sports Fan Boycotts Do Not Work
June 25, 2007

Boycott Watch received the following letter:

I manage a well read Pittsburgh Pirates blog and I'd like to ask you a question for
publication please.

(In case you are unaware, the Pirates have had 14 consecutive losing seasons and the fans are starting to show their anger with a planned protest June 30th following Michael Keaton's remarks last year. But one media source is openly against a boycott. For the record, that newspaper was a limited partner in the Pirates until 2004).

Question: Can you name any (all) fan boycott in the sports world that achieved the fan's goals?

Any research you can point me to would be appreciated.

Jake at Bucco Blog

Boycott Watch response:

The only fan boycott I have tracked was the one stemming from the Baseball players strike, and the fans came back in full-strength the next season.

There was a similar situation, although not a declared boycott, in Cleveland in the 70's and early 80's. The fans kept away, and that only exasperated the Indians financial problems, forcing then owner Gabe Paul to trade every decent player he had to the Yankees in order to meet the payroll. What that did was make the problems for the Indians even worse while helping the Yankees win.

It took a few new owners with lots of money to bring the Indians back from years at the bottom of the standings. So, fan boycotts in sports have never been proven to be successful, unless you want to force out the owner. The problem there is once again what happened in Cleveland - Browns team owner Art Model was upset with the fans and moved the football team to Baltimore. The fans struck back though, and with help of Browns fans nationally plus Steelers fans who stood up for Cleveland and their rivalry, the NFL did not allow Art Model to take the team name or colors to Baltimore, resulting in a new Browns team in Cleveland.

This shows the strength of fans to respond, but we can not forget that team owners will stand for one another first and listen to fans second. In either case, money talks in sports.

So, in terms of sports teams, I have to conclude that fan boycotts are not in the best interests of the fans involved. The best thing for fans to do is stand by their team and attend games regardless of the team record, thus helping the team afford the players they need and preventing a move. Loyalty goes a long way.

Fred Taub
Boycott Watch

Fred Taub is a boycott consultant and is the President of Boycott Watch ( which monitors and reports about boycott activity. He lectures, is regularly quoted in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, and his work has been quoted before the US Supreme Court in two cases.

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