By Ken Reed
It’s been well over a week since the Washington Redskins lost to the Seattle Seahawks in a game most notable for the controversy surrounding Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III regarding whether or not he should’ve continued playing after his right knee had been clearly damaged early in the game. The buzz continues this week in terms of what was the right thing to do and who’s ultimately responsible for RG III needing to undergo major knee surgery after the game.
The consensus is that he shouldn’t have remained in the game. The blame for why he did has been spread around to Griffin himself, his head coach Mike Shanahan, the Redskins’ training and medical staff, and even team owner Dan Snyder. In a blog post, Sam Simon seems to blame RG III for his ego and Shanahan for his poor leadership. All of those targeted share some blame but the primary culprit in this situation is the macho football culture that demands that a true football player must always play hurt.
Football players and coaches are indoctrinated early on in the “tough guys must play hurt for the good of the team” mindset. If one doesn’t follow this axiom — even in youth football — the risk of of being ostracized is real. Ask Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears quarterback who was ripped from all angles last year for not “gutting it up” and playing hurt, about the repercussions of not following the unwritten “play hurt” rule.
RG III wanted to stay in and Mike Shanahan allowed him to stay in. The result is RG III might miss the start of next season. Potentially, the rookie QB may never be the same because of the decision he and Shanahan made; a decision that had its roots back when the 9-year old versions of RG III and Shanahan first took the football field and heard a coach yell at them, “Get up you sissy! Do you want to be a football player or not?”
Marc Tracy captured the absurdity of football’s macho man culture in his recent New Republic piece, “The NFL Playoffs Offer Little Reward for All Their Risk“:
“‘When adversity strikes,’ Griffin wrote on Twitter, ‘you respond in one of two ways … You step aside and give in, Or you step up and fight.’ He might truly believe this, but it’s worth remembering that by stepping up and fighting last Sunday — because he wanted to, or because he felt pressured to — he can’t step up right now, period: He can’t even stand.”
Football’s macho man culture is archaic, especially given what we now know about the dangers of concussions and brain trauma. “Getting your bell rung,” as old school football coaches were fond of saying, is something we need to take very seriously now. Players refusing to go back in after a head injury, and coaches who refuse to let them back in, are the real football heroes today, not some tough guy who stays in the game limping around on one leg.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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