By Ken Reed
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt called university presidents from the college football powers of the day to the White House to address the growing concern among the American public over the dangers of football. The brutal game on campus was injuring — and killing — young men at an alarming rate. Roosevelt loved the game but feared it was on a course to be banned. Ultimately, what’s known today as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) came out of the meetings, as well as rule changes to make the game safer and the legalization of the forward pass to open up the game more. The New York Times‘ Gregg Easterbrook recently wrote an excellent piece on this subject.
Let’s face it. There’s too much money in football — at both the NFL and college levels — for the powers to be in the game to make any significant changes on their own. But significant change is exactly what’s needed. The evidence that football is extremely dangerous to the human brain has turned from a molehill to a mountain in the past two decades. And it’s not just concussions that are cause for concern but repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head which might lead to a debilitating brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Nobody but Roosevelt was going to push the football barons to act in 1905, and nobody but President Obama is going to get the football powers to take action today. At stake is the brain health of over 3 million boys currently playing tackle football at the youth level and 1 million plus playing high school football.
While changes definitely need to occur at the college and NFL levels, the societal focus now needs to be on our young people who are playing football at the youth and high school levels.
As Easterbrook writes, “In an education-based society, having millions of young people spending ever more time bashing one another’s heads can’t be good.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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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.
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.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon