By Ken Reed
Fay Vincent was the last real commissioner in pro sports and Bart Giamatti was the last real commissioner who was good at his job: protecting the best interests of baseball.
MLB owners fired Vincent because he wasn’t focusing on what they wanted him to focus on — making them more money. They then hired one of their own, Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, to become commissioner and, in effect, told him “You are now CEO and in charge of revenue generation. That guardian of the game bit? You can forget that.”
Will Leitch, writing in New York Magazine, has come up with a good idea (actually Joe Sheehan, one of the founders of Baseball Prospectus, originated the idea), let the commissioners of the four major pro sports leagues — NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — focus on being the owners’ financial representatives, and create a new position in each league charged with protecting our games. These new positions could be called chief baseball officer, chief football officer, chief basketball officer, and chief hockey officer.
As Leitch writes:
“This person would be in charge of game play — the gentle tending of the game and its place in American life — solely. He would have nothing to do with the financials whatsoever. Think of it like the church-state separation that exists between the editorial and advertising departments of a newspaper. (Well, the church-state separation that used to exist, anyway.)”
The people in this new role would truly focus on what’s best for the game and all of its stakeholders. They’d be caretakers for their sports, which are huge socio-cultural institutions in the United States. As public ambassadors for their sports, they’d have a significant public relations role.
This type of model would have helped the NFL during the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson nightmares (and saved commissioner Roger Goodell from making a total fool of himself). Goodell, who makes about $44 million a year, might be good at making his owners and himself a lot of money but he’s terrible in the role of caretaker of the game.
For our sake, for the sake of the sports we love, and to save Roger Goodell from himself, this model should be adopted by our four major pro sports leagues.
— 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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