By Ken Reed
Junior Seau’s suicide has spurred conversations throughout the sports world about whether football can survive in its present form. Andy Staples writes that “given everything we’ve learned in the past few years about the brain damage caused by repeated trauma, the immediate reaction is to point the finger at football … It’s the mounting evidence that repeated shots to the head could be slowly killing football players. Even if it had nothing to do with Seau’s death, football has lost the benefit of the doubt. Every time a far-too-young ex-player dies after suffering some sort of mental distress, football will be the prime suspect.”
A powerful “stop and think” article written recently by economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier entitled, “What Would the End of Football Look Like?” paints a death scenario for football that isn’t so far-fetched.
According to Cowen and Grier, pre-collegiate football is already sustaining 90,000 or more concussions each year.
“If ex-players start winning judgments, insurance companies might cease to insure college and high schools against football-related lawsuits,” wrote Cowen and Grier.
Various reputable observers and analysts are predicting the end of football as we know it anywhere within the next 5-20 years. The demise will likely start with high school football. As the evidence continues to pile up on the short-and-long-term damage resulting from concussions — along with sub-concussive brain trauma — a MADD-like group of parents could very well form calling for the end of football — as they pull their children from the sport. Other parents would likely follow their lead. They will raise the question, “Why should educational institutions sponsor an activity that turns young brains to mush?” But the big blow to high school football will most likely be of financial origin: insurance companies saying “No more!” to high school football.
“This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years,” continued Cowen and Grier. “Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players — or worse, high schoolers — commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family … Soon high schools decide it isn’t worth it.”
Don’t think a scenario in which football is marginalized is possible? Ask your grandfather about the time when boxing was second in popularity to only baseball in this country …
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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