By Ken Reed
The recent Special Olympics event held in California was a great success, from many perspectives.
But in my mind, the most exciting development is the growth of Unified Sports, teams made up of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. Unified Sports is a great tool for mainstreaming athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“The real sort of long-term vision (for Special Olympics) is total inclusion,” says Bart Connor, a former USA gymnast and now a Special Olympics board member.
“What we are really promoting now is this division of Special Olympics called Unified Sports made up of a team of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities playing together. And if we get that right, that could be mainstream in public schools. This is about inclusiveness. This not only raises the play and the experience for the athletes; it also is a catalyst for a connection. So, you might likely become friends with an athlete that you might have never had the opportunity to meet. And that means you will invite them to your house or to a movie. That is what we are talking about. It’s social acceptance, and sport is the vehicle to help make that happen.”
Scott Gleeson wrote a terrific piece on the Unified Sports movement within Special Olympics in the “For the Win” section of USA Today. He points out the importance of inclusion, not just for Special Olympics athletes but society as a whole.
“[Unified Sports} is a movement, and one that needs as much fuel as possible,” wrote Gleeson. “Whether it’s in school or in the workforce, people with intellectual disabilities are undoubtedly stigmatized. Weird. Stupid. Different. The list goes on.”
Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver also stresses the importance of inclusion, which was highlighted in this year’s Games.
“We know without a doubt people with intellectual disabilities are isolated and excluded,” said Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver.
“Our mission is not to run big events. Our goal is to create an opportunity for connection. Sooner rather than later, we need to have an inclusive sports program in every school in the nation. We should have a Title IX for every school for those with intellectual disabilities and call it Title Unified.”
— 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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