League of Fans

Founded by Ralph Nader, League of Fans is a sports reform project working to improve sports by increasing awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, exposing irresponsible business practices, ensuring accountability to fans, and encouraging the industry to contribute to societal well-being.

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Ralph Nader and League of Fans Ask Newspapers to Include a "Recreational Sports" Page


For Release: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Responding to the lack of news and information for sports and physical activities in which average citizens participate, Ralph Nader and League of Fans sent letters today to managing editors at the fifty largest U.S. newspapers to encourage them to provide communities with their own "Recreational Sports" page to help increase participation in physical activity, change attitudes toward healthy lifestyles, and improve public health. The letter follows.


We wish to inquire about the possibility of your newspaper including a daily (or at least weekly) "Recreational (or Participatory) Sports" page. Such a page would serve the well-being of people of all ages in your community.

Fans who turn out in droves for professional, collegiate and high school sports, in even larger numbers turn to their local newspaper sports section for news and information. But while most newspapers fill countless pages with statistics, syndicated columns and wire reports for "spectator" sports, these papers neglect the sports and physical activities in which average citizens participate. Long overdo is a daily page that focuses on the other sports world, that of participatory sports.

Most newspapers already include a few topics that would fall under the recreational sports umbrella such as hunting, hiking, fishing, and occasional marathons or other running events. These are good blueprints for how your newspaper could expand coverage for the full range of sport and physical activity participation.

Special pages for specific groups of readers of your newspaper are certainly not uncommon. These pages make newspapers more responsive to the public and need not eliminate other important news or involve huge sacrifices. One large segment of the populace that receives no specific attention from most newspapers are people who participate, or would like to participate, in recreational league, intramural or entirely unorganized sports and other physical activities in and around their communities.

There is an ever-growing list of subjects that editors of large newspapers say they cover more than ever before. For instance, there has been an increase in health, fitness, lifestyle, outdoors, recreation and community news coverage over the last few decades.

A central location is needed for dispersal of news and information on recreational sports and other physical activities. And a good newspaper should be willing to make it a priority to represent the diversity and character of the full variety of sports activity whether spectator or participatory.

Adequate coverage of recreational sports and physical activity is relevant to the lives of your readers. Problems associated with sedentary lifestyles and physical inactivity are not just a personal responsibility but one shared by family, community and government (eg. facilities). And with the millions of people in this country who do incorporate sufficient physical activity into there lives, it is very short of even minimal coverage.

Obesity is an epidemic, with many environmental causes and many health complications resulting from its surge. Since 1970, the percentage of the U.S. population that is obese has increased by over 60 percent with its sharpest rise over the past decade and showing no signs of slowing. It's not that surprising considering the dominance of television, video games, fast food chains, soft drink and junk food companies, "fad" diet scams and the boom in advertising for all of the above, some even in our schools.

Marketing-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and smoking-related illnesses could be reduced by a better informed, active, healthier and more confident citizenry. And if a newspaper has one job to do in its community, it is not to do "for" citizens, but help them to help themselves.

If your newspaper were to take a pro-active role and provide the community with its own "Recreational Sports" page, that would help increase participation, change attitudes toward a healthier lifestyle and expand improvements in public health. A page of news and information regarding the benefits that sports and physical activities contribute, along with how to start participating in classes, leagues, clubs, programs, clinics and camps for all ages, is essential. Participatory sports can take youngsters, adults, senior citizens, people with disabilities everyone away from the TV and couch and actively into community and nature.

Coverage of recreational sports would draw attention to the best sports programs locally, nationally and internationally for ideas and breakthroughs to improve opportunities and benefits for many. Reports on the amount of taxpayer dollars used for major professional sports stadiums and arenas that serve only franchise owners and professional athletes would be compared to the amount of public spending on athletic facilities for school and public use that benefit everyone.

Better newspaper coverage would introduce and explore nonphysical benefits of sports participation like self-confidence, teamwork, character-building, skill development, self-efficacy, perseverence, sportsmanship and so on. Participatory sports are about "doing," while spectator sports are about "watching." This valuable difference can even be carried at times beyond one's life in sports as participants learn skills to become citizen "doers" working to correct social problems rather than just spectators watching them worsen.

Unfortunately, word of mouth is often the only way to get involved in organized sports and physical activities. The popularity of recreational sports despite lack of coverage is a sure sign newspapers have dropped the ball and are neglecting countless citizens. As a member of the community, what better opportunity exists for your newspaper to make connections between journalists and the communities they cover?

Spectator sports and the stories we read about them in the sports section often reflect a set of values, based on money, marketing, commercialism, greed and profit. The benefits to society that participating in sports or other physical activities can provide, and the life lessons they teach are undeniable. Recreational sports have always had great potential for representing the diversity and character of American culture while overcoming isolation and stereotypes.

Consider a page on recreational sports and physical activities in your newspaper.

We look forward to your response.


Ralph Nader

Shawn McCarthy
Director, League of Fans


The mission of League of Fans is to improve sports by working as a sports industry watchdog to increase awareness of the industry's relationship to society, expose irresponsible business practices, ensure fan accountability, and encourage the sports industry to contribute to societal well-being. The League of Fans website is at: http://www.leagueoffans.org.


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