Complaint: False and Misleading Advertising

Complaint: In order to participate in USTA Texas tournaments by children of age 10 and younger (herein after referred to as 10U), the USTA Texas is requiring all 10U children to use expensive,  unnecessary and potentially dangerous equipment (hereafter referred to as ROG equipment) based on false and misleading advertising about the benefits of ROG equipment. These false claims will financially benefit the USTA Texas by increasing tournament and sponsor revenues at the expense of the general tennis public.  These claims further have the potential to benefit USTA Texas executives and staff through obtaining future employment in an “appreciative” tennis industry which has obtained significant financial benefit from the sale of ROG equipment to the general public as a direct result of the USTA Texas requirement to use ROG equipment and participate in ROG tournaments if a child is 10U.

Relief:  We are asking the Attorney General to order, in whole or part,  

  1. The USTA Texas to cease and desist in requiring children 10U to use expensive and unnecessary ROG equipment and expensive and unnecessary lessons to participate in USTA Texas  sanctioned tournaments;
  2. The USTA Texas to cease and desist: (1) in making false claims about the benefits of using ROG equipment and  lessons; (2) and in making claims about the benefits of participation in  USTA ROG tournaments;
  3. The USTA Texas, for tournaments where ROG is an option and not a requirement (if any), to  make a visible disclaimer on the tournament websites and at the tournament venues that there is no proven benefit to using ROG equipment or playing ROG venues and that any use of ROG equipment by any player, or participation in ROG tournament venues, is at the player’s risk;
  4. The USTA Texas to commission a scientifically recognized independent review of ROG and publish both the pros and cons of using ROG equipment to a standard that will be acceptable to top scientific refereed journals so that Texas parents can make informed decisions about spending many thousands of dollars on their child’s tennis training, the purchase and use or ROG equipment and participation in ROG venues at USTA sanctioned tournaments;
  5. Texas retailers and wholesalers of ROG equipment to tack a disclaimer on any package containing ROG equipment that reads: The manufacturer makes no claim as to the training benefits of the ROG product contain herein;
  6. The USTA Texas to cease and desist in requiring all applicants for any USTA Texas sanctioned tournament who are 10U, and applied to play in 12U age groups in any USTA Texas sanctioned tournament, to play in 10U divisions;
  7. The Texas USTA to cease and desist in any actions that interferes with or restricts any parent’s decision, with a child 10U, to enter their child in an age group above 10U.

Background: There are 21 million tennis players in the United States. Less than 5% are affiliated with the USTA. Thus there is a powerful financial motive for the USTA to increase USTA participation by members of the general public through false and misleading advertising; while PL 105-225 states that the National Governing Body (NGB) of tennis, the USTA, is responsible to increase participation by the general public in tennis, nowhere is it stated in PL 105-225 that the NGB is permitted to do this through false and misleading advertising. 

The USTA Texas is requiring 10U children to use very expensive ROG equipment and to obtain requisite unnecessary special and expensive lessons to play 10U ROG Texas USTA sanctioned tournaments on the false assertion that doing so will accelerate their development of tennis skills; this action by the USTA Texas will, in addition to exposing parents to excessive and unnecessary costs, restrict the opportunities for players to play in their age group, regardless of skill, size or sex, based solely on false advertising claims by the USTA Texas for the use of  ROG equipment,  for tennis lessons that use ROG equipment and  for ROG tournament participation.

We believe, based on the facts, that using false and misleading advertisement to control and influence a parent’s choices for their children is an unfounded, unwarranted, misleading  and illegal  encroachment on a parent’s and player’s right to pursue a tennis career due to its restrictions on opportunities and its excessive unjustifiable cost.  We believe that the ROG claims on which the USTA has based its actions are a clear violation of Texas law governing false and misleading advertising.

Facts of the complaint

  1. The USTA Texas ROG requirement compels Texas parents to pay millions of dollars for equipment and lessons that are unnecessary to develop tennis skills which will be useful or essential in obtaining college scholarships or pursuing a professional career and which may even retard skill development or result in injury;
  2. The USTA Texas requirement to use ROG equipment restricts the opportunity for skilled and dedicated 10U players to advance their craft and their possibilities for college scholarships or to be competitive at the professional level;
  3. The actions of the USTA Texas are based on false and misleading advertisements of the benefits of using ROG equipment and participation in USTA Texas sanctioned ROG tournaments;
  4. All claimed benefits of using ROG equipment are hearsay and anecdotal and therefore deceptive and misleading advertisement;
  5. The USTA Texas actions are an effort to increase USTA Texas tournament and membership revenues and to position USTA Texas staff for good and valuable consideration, promotions and future job opportunities within the tennis industry after leaving the USTA Texas.

 

Examination of the Basis of the USTA Texas Requirement

  1. The ROG requirement of the USTA Texas staff has absolutely no scientific basis to justify restricting capable 10U students of the game from playing any age group older than their own; all advertisements, publications and so-called “research” have been examined by skilled and credible scientist who are experts in the neuroscience of athletic development and have been found totally lacking in scientific credibility;
  2. Therefore, the justification for buying ROG equipment, putting millions of dollars of revenue into the ROG equipment manufacturer’s  accounts, increasing USTA Texas membership and ROG tournament participation is less well documented  than arguments used to sell pyramid schemes on Wall Street ;
  3. The USTA Texas failed to conduct “due diligence” in implementing the 10U ROG requirement; in particular, the USTA Texas failed to review both the pros and cons of using ROG equipment and of the value of ROG generally; and the USTA Texas executives failed to call expert witnesses to present facts and  testimony and statements would refute the aims of the USTA Texas in promoting ROG generally;
  4. In the booklet Positioning Youth Tennis for Success published by the USTA and promulgated by USTA Texas can be found statements intended to mislead the consumer about the benefits of using ROG equipment; important arguments contained in the booklet lack any scientific credibility; however, as an advertising campaign, this booklet is a slick sales pitch with colorful illustrations that are intentionally deceptive, false  (for example, page 65, chart at the top) and misleading with the aim of justifying the 10U ROG requirement in the absence of sound scientific results and tests;
  5. Facts from neuroscience confirm that the requirement to use ROG equipment has the potential to be detrimental to a student’s development; and all such facts are purposefully omitted;  
  6. In general, USTA Texas advertising for ROG through the USTA booklet and on the USTA Texas website intentionally omits all scientific facts that may contradict the value of using ROG equipment that are necessary for a parent to make an intelligent and informed financial decision for their child and are hence, deceptive and misleading.

 

Expert Witness: Dr. Ray Brown will certify, under oath, that all scientific claims to the benefits of using ROG equipment and participation in any ROG program by the USTA Texas are unproven, deceptive and misleading and therefore the USTA Texas must cease and desist in making all such claims; and the USTA Texas must publish a disclaimer on its web site and on every tournament website stating that there are no proven benefits from the use of ROG equipment or participation in any ROG program or ROG tournament.