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 #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
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.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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