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 #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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