By Ken Reed
In many ways, and in many instances, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, has shown himself to be an immature spoiled brat. Comedian Argus Hamilton described Manziel’s past year this way: “In one year he’s gone from Johnny Football to Johnny Walker to Johnny Hancock.” Character-wise, it doesn’t appear that Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, is in the same category as a Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, or even Curt Flood, who fought for baseball players’ right to free agency.
However, by allegedly taking money to sign his autograph on helmets and other items, he’s helped put the spotlight on the NCAA’s absurd amateurism rules (e.g., Manziel can sign autographs at a Texas A&M function that raises thousands of dollars for the school but can’t take a few hundred bucks for himself at an autograph show in a hotel). A Texas A&M study showed that Manziel was responsible for generating $37 million in media exposure and public relations benefits for the school as a result of his stellar Heisman trophy season. In return, A&M let’s him go to class for free.
Here’s where we’re at: If an investigation reveals that Manziel did indeed accept money for his autograph, he would be in violation of an NCAA rule that prohibits athletes from profiting commercially from their athletic ability. Manziel could be suspended for several games, perhaps the entire season, if the allegations are true.
But here’s the deal: Americans are more upset with the NCAA and their crazy rules than they are at Manziel. They should be. This is an economic justice issue. In fact, it’s today’s civil rights issue.
If Manziel did indeed take the autograph money for purely selfish reasons as most people suspect — Manziel comes from a wealthy family and there’s no indication at this point that he took the cash-for-signature deal for a greater cause, i.e., social justice for his college athlete peers — he won’t go down in history as a social change agent icon.
Nevertheless, if his actions lead to the dismantling of the NCAA’s archaic amateurism rules, the world of college sports will be a better place.
— 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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