HOLLYWOOD — Tennis star Andre Agassi, in a show of support to striking union actors, has turned down an offer to shoot a nonunion ad in Australia following the Summer Olympics.
Agassi has pledged he will do spots only under union-approved interim agreements as long as the strike against the ad industry lasts, according to his attorney Todd Wilson.
“Andre supports the unions,” Wilson said. “We’ve told the agencies that Andre is willing to do ads only if they’re done under an interim agreement.”
Wilson said the issue arose when one of Agassi’s sponsors asked specifically for a spot to be shot in Australia around late September. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which have been on strike since May 1, regard foreign-based spots as struck work if they are aimed for broadcast in U.S. markets.
Agassi is one of the world’s top players, with six Grand Slam titles, including the 1999 U.S. Open. His endorsements include Nike, Twin Lab vitamins, Head tennis rackets, Wilkinson Sword razor blades and Canon cameras.
In May, Tiger Woods delayed shooting a nonunion Nike spot, but in June, the athletic shoemarker shot nonunion spots with sprinters Michael Johnson and Marion Jones.
Woods later became a notable strikebreaker by shooting a nonunion Buick ad, heightening concerns within the unions over such defections. SAG and AFTRA are launching a major appeal this week to pro athletes and their reps to avoid struck work (Daily Variety, Aug. 11)
The unions also recently received a strong endorsement from Patrick Quinn, recently elected president of Actors Equity. In a letter to members, he admitted that some Equity members have performed struck work and warned that doing so could lead to expulsion.
“We all must look at the larger picture and realize the crippling implications of not adhering to the importance of solidarity at a time like this,” Quinn said.
With the strike entering its 16th week today and no negotiations scheduled, the unions promise to continue attacking corporate targets to pressure the ad industry into changing its negotiating position.
They plan to demonstrate at events tied to today’s opening of the Democratic National Convention, including parties at Paramount Studios and the Petersen Automotive Museum tonight in Los Angeles.
Advertisers are insisting that SAG and AFTRA agree to eliminate residuals for network ads while the unions are demanding cable residuals, a monitoring system and Internet jurisdiction.
SAG and AFTRA are not participating at events today tied to the opening of the Democratic convention at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Film & TV Action Committee, an L.A.-based org of below-the-line employees fighting against runaway production, will take part in marches today in the downtown area.
SAG and AFTRA members met Sunday in downtown Los Angeles with convention delegates that have ties to labor. “We’ll be doing a lot of behind-the-scenes activity to build support this week,” said strike coordinator Todd Amorde.
SAG and AFTRA are planning to stage a candlelight vigil Thursday outside the Shrine Auditorium prior to a Democratic Party concert featuring Barbra Streisand.
Union supporters staged pickets Friday in Los Angeles at nonunion shoots for the Wall Street Journal and Domino’s Pizza.
Also on Friday, SAG member Gary D. Mosher filed a complaint with the LAPD over an alleged battery by a nonunion actor that took place outside a casting agency on Thursday. Mosher was leafleting with his 10-year-old daughter at the time and claimed the attack was unprovoked.
“The guy who attacked Gary was blind with rage,” said eyewitness and SAG member Rob Fitzgerald.