Why PETA Needs an LA Laker to Go Vegan

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This post was written by KCRW Producer Evan George

For a segment on this week’s Good Food I asked if celebrities are really good spokespeople for vegetarianism. Along the way, I realized the question may not be if but which celebrities are the best spokespeople for vegetarianism.

Athletes… When I stopped by the Echo Park headquarters of PETA recently to speak with communications director Lisa Lange, she said they’ve made in roads recently with NFL players. They got retired football player Ricky Williams to host a fake-chicken wing contest and landed a bunch of big tatooed sports stars to pose for anti-fur ads (“Ink Not Mink” hehe). That includes Terrel Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens, who is sporting a Super Bowl champion ring from earlier this year.

Here’s why that’s a big deal. You will probably never see a PETA ad during a big sporting event like the Super Bowl. And we’re not talking factory farm horror footage, either. Check out this relatively tame, even funny, infomercial PETA couldn’t get played a few years ago…

Lange says they submit ads for consideration most years and they get rejected but it’s not about the money (she says they have big donors who’ve pledged to pay whatever it takes to get a 30-second spot). Their message just isn’t welcome. Is that censorship? Not really. The networks don’t have to run advertisements that will directly offend their major sponsors. And anyway PETA seems pleased to promote their ads as “banned.” But if their message is consistently barred from the world of sports, which is easily the biggest entertainment media market, they need another outlet.

Two words: Kobe Bryant. I have no idea what the guy eats, but Lange should go to town on him. Whatever they did to get Suggs on board – work that magic here. In 2012, PETA officially named Los Angeles the most animal-friendly city in the country. And Lange told me that the Lakers are on her short list. You heard it hear first, 2013 is the year a Laker shows up in a PETA ad.

Listen to my story on KCRW’s Good Food below.