I wrote my column today about Newton signing autographs for Saturday at SouthPark Mall in Charlotte – for a fee that goes from $125 and up depending on what you want signed and what you want it to say.
Charging for autographs is a common practice in the sports world, but I still don’t like the idea of Newton doing it in Charlotte for a fee. He has already done three shows like this in Alabama and two others in New Jersey over the past year or so, but for some reason that doesn’t strike me the same way as having one in his backyard. (In the column, I also quote the man who is running this autograph show and Newton’s marketing agent for their perspective on why they believe this is a good thing).
Newton, of course, will continue to sign free autographs by the hundreds – the best chance to get him that way is at training camp in Spartanburg, where at the last camp he was often the last player off the field because he was signing so many things. The problem, of course, is even if Newton signs 100 autographs after every practice, the 101st person waiting is always miffed. There’s truly no way to satisfy everyone.
In my research about autographs, I found out a few things that didn’t fit in the column I thought I’d share with you.
-- I talked for quite awhile with Gary Takahashi, whose Hawaii-based company has Newton under a multi-year contract for autograph shows. His company will run this “for-profit” show at SouthPark.
Takahashi has about 20 elite athletes under similar contracts and is one of the industry leaders. He said Newton’s autograph costs more for fans to purchase than for some quarterbacks and less than others. “To put it in perspective,” Takahashi said, “he doesn't get paid as much [per autograph at a show] as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning. But he gets more than Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton.”
-- The best magazine story I believe that has ever been written on the practice of getting sports autographs was this one, by Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum in 2005. Here are just a couple of excerpts:
-- (From Sports Illustrated, 2005): People have been collecting signatures for centuries. In ancient China an autograph from an emperor was considered priceless, though selling an item bearing the signature was a crime. Somebody knew enough to save the signatures of William Shakespeare and John Donne, which are preserved in the British Library. In 1857 the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his diary that he had answered 70 autograph requests in a single day. The billionaire industrialist J.P. Morgan was an inveterate hunter of autographs, scouring Europe for the signatures of kings and queens and generals; he was particularly proud of acquiring Napoleon's. A 1939 Disney cartoon called The Autograph Hound shows Donald Duck running afoul of a security guard as he seeks signatures at a movie studio. Pancho Villa reportedly had a baseball autographed by the New York Giants.
-- In 1995, when linebacker Kevin Greene was a Pittsburgh Steeler (Scott’s note: this was before he became a Carolina Panther), he was stopped by a youngster seeking his autograph on a football after a preseason session at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Greene took the football and, in a variation of the little-used quick kick, punted it over a hill. The kid brought the ball back, and Greene promptly punted it away again. The father of one of the kid's friends complained in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Greene was ripped by fans. He explained his actions by saying that the kid should have been more respectful, asking for an autograph instead of demanding it. Greene may have been correct, but two punts on the same set of downs seems a little extreme.
In any case, feel free to leave your comments about this issue below and Newton’s signing Saturday (more info on that here, if you want to go). But please keep the comments clean. I appreciate very much the 99 percent of you who do.