If Phit America, headed by former Wilson senior executive Jim Baugh, intends to raise more capital to fund U.S. school projects targeting physical fitness and get the longstanding PHIT Act finally passed in Washington, it will have to do so without the support or endorsement of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
A recent email sent out by Phit America, the Baugh-led nonprofit, to member companies of the trade organization focused on the current esports climate and seven ways it is “tearing down the fabric of the sports industry” and representing “short-term financial gains for companies that cater to these gamers.” The subject line of the missive from Phit America was “We Must Stop The Esports Investment Trend.”
Tom Cove, SFIA’s president and CEO, did not respond favorably to the PHIT America dispatch that called out Nike, adidas, New Balance, Puma, New Era, Champion and Fanatics for “making major investments in the ‘anti-sports’ industry.” The Phit America missive also bemoaned the fact that 87 U.S. colleges currently have programs for esports with 20 of them bestowing scholarships for video gaming. (Last week, performance technology company Hyperice, which is working on a technology-based wellness movement within the esports community, announced it will be awarding two scholarships this fall to students at the University of California-Irvine aimed at creating an optimal playing environment for student-athletes.)
In the aftermath, Cove announced that he has resigned from the PHIT America board, requested the nonprofit remove all SFIA references from its materials and website and directed the SFIA’s research provider to cease sharing any information, research or materials with the organization.
Whether Cove and the SFIA ever patch up their differences with PHIT America remains to be seen, but their split, at least at this time, can’t be seen as a positive for the nonprofit’s mission to increase awareness over the need for regular physical fitness among U.S. youth.