By Ken Reed
College athletes are young, impressionistic and vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse from coaches and trainers.
Unlike their professional peers, college athletes don’t have a union representing them and looking out for their best interests. They also aren’t paid, apart from their scholarships. Thus, many college athletes — especially those from lower economic backgrounds — fear losing their scholarships if they don’t put up with abusive training regimens.
The power discrepancy situation in college athletics between young athletes and their coaches and trainers is especially dangerous in football, due to the preponderance of injuries in that sport, most notably brain injuries.
The latest example of alleged abuse in college sports involves three former UCLA football players who are suing the university for negligence in the handling of injuries they suffered while playing for the Bruins under head coach Jim Mora, who led the UCLA football program from 2012 to 2017. Each of the lawsuits is seeking damages of $15 million.
Former offensive linemen John Lopez and Poasi Moala claim that UCLA mishandled multiple head injuries they suffered. They claim the head injuries continue to negatively impact them today. Lopez believes his mistreated head injuries might have contributed to a suicide attempt. Former offensive lineman Zach Bateman claims UCLA was negligent in handling severe foot injuries he suffered while playing for the Bruins.
“While the lawsuits involve many of the same facts, each case is distinct in its own way,” says Pamela Tahim Thakur, an attorney representing all three former players. “But what they all have in common is the pattern of brutality and intentional disregard for player health and safety by coach Mora and his staff at UCLA.”
All three lawsuits name Mora, former offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, associate trainer Anthony Venute, the UCLA regents and the NCAA. Lopez’s lawsuit cites three concussions he suffered at UCLA, leading to his medical retirement after the 2015 season. He alleges that UCLA didn’t follow protocols after he suffered his first two concussions. He also says Klemm verbally abused him and other injured players.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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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.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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