PGA Tour vs Stephanie Wei


Sep 14, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Billy Horschel and his caddie Micah Fugitt walk up the eighteenth fairway next to the crowd during the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Horschel won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The PGA Tour revoked Stephanie Wei’s press credential after she posted video of Jordan Spieth trash talking and otherwise fooling around during a practice round last Monday at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship.  What’s really at issue in this situation and who are the real losers?  It depends on which side is doing the talking.

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The Basic Scenario

Stephanie Wei, best known for her enormously popular golf blog, Wei Under Par, was following Jordan Spieth during his Monday practice round at TPC Harding Park last week.  From her up close and personal vantage point Wei captured a bit of Spieth’s trash talking and other casual hijinks, and she posted the video clip on the Twitter-owned social media site Periscope.

For those who aren’t staying on the leading edge of social media innovations, Periscope is a bit ephemeral.  It’s not like YouTube, where video clips live forever and take on a life of their own.  Periscope retains uploaded video clips for 24 hours and then they’re gone.  The technology’s new enough that the tech-savvy are still experimenting with it.  Ricky Potts, for example, just announced on Google+ that he’s going to be using Periscope at the 2015 Troon Leadership Conference this week.

Wei’s been experimenting with Periscope as a strategy for bringing her extensive Twitter following — 40K and counting — closer to the game of golf.  Wei felt that the Spieth-At-Play video clips were ideal Periscope material.

The PGA Tour’s Perspective

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  • The PGA Tour disagreed.  Stephanie Wei’s pushed the envelope so far as the Tour’s concerned.  She’d been previously warned by the Tour after she posted video clips of Tiger Woods on the practice range at the Phoenix Open earlier this year.  (Those clips were taken down at the Tour’s insistence.)

    Ty Votow, the PGA Tour chief marketing officer, explained the situation from the Tour’s perspective:

    "As a member of the PGA Tour, [Jordan Spieth] assigns his media right to the Tour while on site at a PGA Tour sanctioned event. So from a video perspective, we own whatever he says."

    Golf Channel and the networks pay the PGA Tour for the right to broadcast portions of PGA events, in the same manner that television networks pay pro baseball, football and basketball leagues to broadcast games.  So from the PGA Tour’s perspective Stephanie Wei took content for which she hadn’t paid.  Basically, she’d violated The PGA Tour’s property rights.

    But What About The Fans and a Free Press?’s Alan Shipnuck makes a number of interesting points about this situation, but central to his comments and mine is the fact that the real losers in this situation are golf fans.

    Wei’s a hard-working, edgy golf writer.  There’s not much about her work that follows a conventional sports writer model.  She’s pumping energy and enthusiasm and an authentic and vital love of the game into her work and her fan base embraces her efforts.

    Wei’s not particularly daunted by the PGA Tour’s punishment and has taken the podcast airways now with conversations about credential-gate.

    What do I think?  I think the PGA Tour is operating from a media model that’s sadly outdated and Stephanie Wei is operating from a media model that’s one step ahead of most of us.  I’d rather step up the pace and catch up with Wei than settle for what’s getting through the PGA Tour’s filter.  I also think I’m going to download Periscope and start fooling around with it.

    Next: Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy Paired in First Two Rounds at THE PLAYERS