By Ken Reed
The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are designed to be a celebration of the game of football in general and the NFL in particular. Things aren’t going so well for Roger Goodell and the boys in that regard this year.
First, there was the news that Junior Seau’s family is suing the NFL, claiming wrongful death. The suit is based on acts or omissions that concealed the risk of repeated hits to the head during Seau’s 20 seasons in the league, according to representatives of Seau’s family.
Then President Obama weighed in on the risks of playing football when he said that if he had a son he would have to “think long and hard” about letting him play football. Obama, a big Chicago Bears fan, added: “I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try and reduce some of the violence.”
(Note to the President: In terms of brain trauma, there’s not much that can be done, other than going to flag football. Helmets are designed to prevent skull fractures, not concussions.)
The Harbaugh brothers, Jim, head coach of the San Francisco 49’ers, and John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, responded to Obama’s comments with statements that displayed a lack of understanding regarding the seriousness of brain trauma.
“Well, I have a 4-month old, almost 5-month old son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little bit less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets old,” said Jim Harbaugh.
“I don’t agree with that (Obama’s comments),” said John Harbaugh. “I like Jim’s comments … I think it’s (football) a huge part of our educational system in our country and it’s going to be around a long time.”
Ravens safety Bernard Pollard sees a bleaker future for football.
“Thirty years from now, I don’t think it (the NFL) will be in business,” said Pollard this week in New Orleans, site of the Super Bowl. “The only thing I’m waiting for … and Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it (stinks).”
Some wives and girlfriends of current NFL players are also starting to let their feelings known about the risks of football.
Kristin Cavallari, the fiancée of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, said Monday that she’ll try to talk their five-month old son, Camden, out of playing football when he gets older.
“I will try to steer Cam in a different direction, maybe a sport that isn’t so aggressive,” said Cavallari.
Things will continue to get more uncomfortable for NFL owners and executives (and football power brokers at all levels, for that matter) in the coming months and years. The NFL is facing massive legal action brought by former players who believe the NFL failed to properly inform them of the risks associated with head trauma, or in some cases, failed to properly care for them after they received brain injuries.
Moreover, it’s just a matter of time before the NCAA and individual schools begin to get slapped with concussion-related lawsuits. High school football, especially, is in jeopardy as insurers will undoubtedly raise premium costs in the coming years for school districts sponsoring football. That could quickly spell the end of football in our high schools.
Not much of a celebration, is it?
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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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.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
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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