By Ken Reed
The tendency today among sports skeptics (yes, I often qualify) is to denigrate everyone and everything in sports, especially the highly commercialized big-time college and pro sports. It’s not fair. There are some outstanding people in sports, from the little leagues to the big leagues. There always have been and there always will be.
One of the best — on the basketball court and off — died recently. His name was Jack Twyman. Twyman was a very good — not great — but very good basketball player. He was a six-time NBA All-Star during his 11-year career, spanning the late 50’s and 60’s. But he’s remembered as much for his humanity and the compassion he showed a fallen teammate, as he is for any of his basketball exploits.
Twyman’s Cincinnati Royals teammate, Maurice Stokes, suffered a paralyzing brain injury in the final regular season game of the 1958 season. Stokes was nearly destitute and Twyman became his legal guardian. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Stokes to pay for medical care, and helped him to communicate by blinking his eyes for each of the letters in the alphabet. Twyman and his wife Carole became co-trustees of the Maurice Stokes Foundation, which was initially set up to defray Stokes’ medical costs but which became a foundation to help other needy NBA veterans as well.
“Maurice was on his own,” said Twyman about Stokes’ predicament after his injury. “Something had to be done and someone had to do it. I was the only one there so I became that someone.”
As AOL/Sporting News columnist David Whitley wrote, “A 23-year-old white guy basically adopted a paralyzed 24-year-old black man.”
Years after his tragic injury, when Stokes had recovered enough finger flexibility to type, his first message was: “Dear Jack, How can I ever thank you?”
Stokes died in 1970. At the time, columnist Arthur Daley of The New York Times wrote about the “nobility and grandeur” in Twyman’s actions, likening him to the biblical good Samaritan.
Whitley called Jack Twyman the best teammate in the history of the NBA. It’s hard to argue with that.
The Twyman-Stokes story is a model of compassion and courage that we all — athlete, fan, human being — could grow from if followed.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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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.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
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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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon