By Ken Reed
Despite the fact long-time track coach Alberto Salazar was banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for encouraging his athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs. And despite the fact that former Nike Oregon Project runners — including Mary Cain and Amy Yoder Begley — have accused Salazar of abusive coaching techniques, including body-shaming them, Nike executives decided it was okay to reopen a renovated building, named after Salazar, and put images of Salazar all over the inside of the building’s walls.
That decision triggered a protest of the company’s treatment of women from at least 400 Nike employees this past week. The employees marched around Lake Nike, carrying signs and occasionally chanting for better treatment of women. One sign read: “Just Do Better.”
The Nike Global Communications department warned the protesters that they were not permitted to speak with the news media regarding any Nike-related matter. If that company policy was breached it could result in being fired. Two employees told a reporter that Nike actively attempts to stifle dissent.
Nike’s decision regarding the naming of the Salazar building, and the resultant protest, comes a few weeks after former professional runner Lauren Fleshman wrote a powerful op-ed in the New York Times about the need to reform the coaching system in this country for women. As Fleshman points out, the current system is built by and for men.
“We currently don’t have a sports system built for girls. If we did, it would look very different — and it would benefit everyone,” wrote Fleshman.
According to Fleshman, the abuse that athletes like Mary Cain were subjected to at Nike regarding body shape and size have been justified and allowed to continue for decades.
“It is still a very common practice for coaches to directly create an eating-disorder culture in the name of performance by focusing on weight and appearance,” wrote Fleshman.
Girls develop differently than boys. Males have a more linear performance curve. But the natural improvement curve of girls and young women often includes a performance dip, or plateau, as the body adjusts to the changes of adolescence. After the dip, women are often rewarded with steadier improvement through their mid-20s and 30s.
Too many track and distance running coaches don’t know that, or simply don’t care. Fleshman writes:
“Despite decades spent submerging athletes in environments of negative body image and eating-disorder culture and contributing to a mental health crisis, very few coaches and administrators have been held to account. … If coaches are found to create or contribute to a culture of negative body image or eating disorders, they are committing abuse, and they should be fired.”
And they certainly shouldn’t be glorified by having their names placed on buildings on Nike’s campus.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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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. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
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.
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.
- 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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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon