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 #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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