I shared my thoughts in a reply and included them below as well. There are many opinions on both sides of the discussion and I look forward to hearing them!
It’s clear that we’re all supporting the same central theme – that we have to find new and creative ways to fund school sports so that our spending can be prioritized to avoid cutting items of greater importance in the budget. Charging participation fees for sports and extracurriculars to some level is to be expected, but not for technology, lab supplies, or even art and music classes, as is already happening in other parts of the country. Let’s focus on that shared goal and finding a solution will be easier.
Dr. Munson made a valid point when he wrote, "In this case, the fine print of the deal required that the district give Adidas the right to see and undercut all competitor proposals...forever." The devil is in the details. Leaving our hands tied in the future for a little bit of wiggle room now is not the answer. When Adidas approached the school board, were other brands brought in to negotiate? Could Puma or Nike or Under Armour have created a better offer without the risk in the future? Maybe Adidas didn’t work out, but could we use the framework of that proposal to approach other companies in a similar fashion?
More importantly, were local sponsors approached as well? Even with a “can’t say no” proposal on the table, I don’t like the idea of corporate America becoming involved in local communities as they have little investment here. I’d love to see what our small businesspeople could bring to the discussion.
We can also get creative in how we fundraise. Offsetting participation fees with fundraisers is a pretty common solution for many teams. What about volunteering at concession stands, even for the Iron Pigs or Phantoms games? I did a bit of research and read about a similar option being offered to schools and organizations in Tennessee by the Titans. With the importance our local pro teams place on the community, this could be an option worth exploring as well. Let’s also look into what grants might be available. Now that Dick’s Sporting Goods is in the area, they may be willing to help.
Unfortunately, the most lasting solution to our problem probably lies well before our students even reach high school. Pay to play IS a reality of our youth sports leagues. I would have to pay hundreds if my 8 year olds qualified for a travel team. Thankfully, there’s a cheaper intramural option available, but as time goes on, our family’s budget may not be able to handle their skill development. This is a reality for many families in our district. Less athletes coming out of our youth leagues means less talent for our high school teams, less ability to fundraise, and decreased revenue due to fewer tickets being purchased by the time they get to high school. This is a bigger discussion for another day, however.