By Ken Reed
Two of the most active advocates for social justice and human rights in the NFL have been released within a month of each other.
Punter Chris Kluwe, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, and Linebacker Brandon Ayanbadejo, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens have been cut this NFL offseason. Kluwe and Ayanbadejo were outspoken champions of LGBT rights and marriage equality. Kluwe also spoke out on player safety issues and was vocal about the lack of punters in the NFL Hall of Fame.
The reasons for their releases aren’t clear but their outspokenness undoubtedly was part of the equation given the NFL’s “be seen not heard” culture. This is especially true for Kluwe, who was coming off one of his best NFL seasons statistically. Last season, Kluwe, an eight-year veteran, averaged 45.0 yards per punt (his career average is 44.4 yards) with a career-best 39.7 net average. Ayanbadejo is a 10-year NFL vet who has been primarily a backup linebacker and special teams standout. There were no obvious signs that his level of play had deteriorated in 2012, but he drew a lot of media attention for his work campaigning for the successful ballot measure in Maryland legalizing same-sex marriage last year.
“As athletes, we have an opportunity to be role models,” said Kluwe after the Vikings cut him. “And I think we have a platform to do a lot of good in the world by taking advantage of the opportunity to speak out on important societal issues. I’d hate to think that would be considered a major distraction on equal footing with all the arrests that go on around the league.
“I’ve always spoken for myself. I’ve never said anything denigrating about coaches or players or management or whatever. It’s simply speaking up on things I feel strongly about.”
Who knows what really went into the firings of these two NFL social justice role models. Maybe the cuts truly were based on their performance on the field.
But I seriously doubt it.
I do know that the NFL needs to come out of the Stone Age on social issues, and realize that the league’s players are citizens, too — not just employees expected to operate like robots.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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 long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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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.
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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.”
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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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