By Ken Reed
As Taylor Branch said in an interview with the League of Fans a few months back, the plight of college athletes is “definitely a civil rights issue.” In that interview Branch talked mostly about how college football and basketball players are getting screwed by the NCAA and its member schools due to the fact they aren’t receiving any financial compensation beyond a scholarship despite producing a multi-million dollar product. When it comes to fair compensation for college athletes, the NCAA is clearly more interested in perpetuating the amateur myth than in doing the right thing.
Similarly, the NCAA and its member schools apparently don’t care about doing the right thing when it comes to brain trauma in college football. They’ve adopted a “stick your head in the sand” approach to the issue because they believe to do otherwise would risk the golden goose that is college football, a money-making machine that operates under a non-profit umbrella.
Patrick Hruby, our best writer/reporter/analyst when it comes to important sports issues, has written a masterful feature article at Sports on Earth on the unethical approach the NCAA and its power conferences have taken on the concussion/brain trauma issue. As Hruby points out in his piece, “Head Games,” the NCAA hasn’t done a thing to reduce brain injury risk. They haven’t developed a comprehensive concussion diagnosis and treatment protocol. They haven’t provided any support for brain-damaged former players. They don’t even warn players about the long-term brain conditions associated with contact sports like football.
“You might think potential brain trauma would fall under the ever-expanding umbrella of the NCAA’s warm, solicitous concern,” wrote Hruby. “After all, colleges and universities have a longstanding moral duty to act en loco parentis. Football can be hazardous to cognitive health; experts say that the still-developing brains of college-age men are particularly vulnerable to injury. If the NCAA’s television commercials and justification for its tax-exempt status are to be believed, campus sports are supposed to help develop young minds, not damage them. Indeed, given that making football acceptably safe was the NCAA’s original raison d’etre — the organization was founded in 1906, after Teddy Roosevelt summoned campus administrators to the White House to address a rash of gruesome football injuries and deaths — you might think that sheer institutional muscle memory would prompt college sports’ governing body to adopt a more aggressive, less laissez-faire approach.
The NCAA and its power brokers, including college presidents, have done the unthinkable. They’ve made the NFL appear enlightened when it comes the concussion/brain trauma issue.
Hruby has turned a flashlight on the NCAA’s morally-bereft response to the brain trauma issue in football. It’s up to the rest of us to turn that flashlight into a flood light.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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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.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
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.
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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