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 #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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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