By Ken Reed
Brave New Films, a non-partisan, non-profit documentary film organization has put together a short documentary about the future of college football and how university presidents are avoiding the tough issues associated with sponsoring football on campus: 1) The medical science around brain trauma and concussions; 2) The growing number of lawsuits dealing with football concussions and brain disease; and 3) the large percentage of student fees that go toward supporting the athletic department, during an era of record student debt.
There are several interesting findings in this short documentary, entitled University Presidents Tackle Football’s Future. However, the two things I found most revealing were that university presidents don’t want to talk about the football-related issues noted above; and 2) the media doesn’t want to ask university presidents about these issues.
Brave New Films wanted to know what university presidents were thinking about sponsoring a sport that causes brain damage and poses a high risk of litigation. So, they contacted the president of every NCAA Division I university to find out. Of the 131 university presidents contacted, only six responded with any comments at all and none of them addressed, in any substantial way, the three issues mentioned above.
As a second part of their research, Brave New Films asked a Kent State researcher to find every media article published in which university presidents have addressed the student health aspect of concussions in football, the risk of litigation in the area of football concussions and brain injuries, and the costs of athletics (in particular, the use of student fees to fund football and other sports on campus). The researcher found zippo on each of these topics. There simply weren’t any media articles which included quotes from university presidents on these issues.
Brave New Films then asked executives at top media companies why their reporters had never done interviews with Division I presidents on these topics. The media executives either didn’t respond or refused to speak with Brave New Films. The clear takeaway is that major media outlets simply don’t want to hold university presidents accountable on these issues.
Big-time college football is such a huge socio-cultural institution in the United States today that both university presidents and our nation’s media are practicing classic avoidance behavior when it comes to some of the key issues surrounding the sport.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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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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