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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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