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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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.
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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