I love trying to explain to my better half that there are politics in skateboarding. All I get is a look that suggests: "it's skateboarding. How can there be politics?" The only answer I continually come up with is that when companies are spending lots of cash on a person pushing a piece of wood on four wheels towards some stairs they can hurtle down ... politics will always be present. That would be the politics of money, politics of the trick and of course politics of taking money for the trick. While surfing around I stumbled across the most recent unwitting victim of skate politics, Mr. Chris Nieratko.
The subject of all the worry? Why that would be Arto Saari. You know Arto, the longtime Flip and eS/Etnies skater who officially jumped ship this past spring to skate for Workshop and Gravis. That wouldn't ordinarily be a big deal but with his clothing sponsor being Analog he's tied closely to the hip of Burton snowboards who owns all three of those brands. For some reason that caused concern. Seriously. Apparently a guy who started a snowboard company can't own skate brands or something like that. OK, enough background, lets move on.
Over on Nieratko's site we get word that after sitting on his interview with Arto's for four months somebody pulled the plug. Nieratko goes on to commend Arto for answering the questions at that point in time. Overall, it leaves a big question mark. Why would Arto second guess himself? The even bigger question becomes: is somebody pulling his strings? I'm not getting all conspiracy theory here but read the interview, it's harmless. Actually, true to form, it's pretty funny. I'm sure we'll never know and to be honest we shouldn't care too much.
The only reason it's even worth talking about is that it represents the larger spectrum of what's happening in skating. People are less likely to speak their mind and their opinion. That's some scary shit. When something like skating with it's roots in being counter culture and anti establishment looks to censor and conform that's cause for worry. You should be worried on several levels. Are we going to start self censoring our graphics? If people throw millions of dollars into a contest will we lose all objectivity just to keep those dollars? I hope not. Skating doesn't have to be grimey and rough. But, we don't have to sell ourselves out for the first big paycheck.
Certainly the trend right now is to lock up skaters into one brand for all their major needs and sign them to bigger contracts. You can expect to see more of this all in-house sponsorship across the board. But, with those bigger contracts comes the caveat: you are no longer a skater who might pay off into bigger exposure. You are now a major investment and investments must be protected. It happens in the NBA, NFL and of course every professional sport around the world.
Yup, I just said professional sports. Now that's a scary thought. What's next? Uniforms? Unions? George Steinbrenner? Lets keep our eyes and ears open. OK? My favorite question and answer from the interview was simply this. Thank god Nieratko has the minerals to ask those questions.
What if you get real wasted on whiskey one night and upper decker Jake Burton’s toilet? Then you have no sponsors. You’ll lose your board, shoe and clothing sponsors.
I know, that’s going to be a very sad day. I’m going to try and stay away from that bad stuff. That is the path I have chosen to go through. They actually have that in the contract; if you show up drunk in public and they don’t think it’s cool then they can basically tell you, “That’s it. You’re done.” They’re a pretty gnarly company in that way so I gotta be careful. Don’t tell them about that naked blog I have.