By Ken Reed
Don Shula was an old school football coach but he was a progressive thinker in many ways, and not just from a football strategy perspective.
When it came to treating female reporters as equals, he was on the right side of history long before his peers.
In the early 1980s, NFL teams made female reporters wait outside the locker rooms for players to be brought to them after they had spoken with the male reporters inside. In 1981, Shula had his players wear robes in the locker room because there was now a female reporter covering the team, Christine Brennan. Shula wanted to make sure women had the same access as men did. It was four years later, in 1985, before NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle made equal locker room access mandatory for every team. Here we are in 2020, and some of today’s macho sexist football coaches still resist treating women reporters equally. Shula was doing it nearly 40 years ago.
At times, Shula was an irascible old school football coach like many of his peers. Nevertheless, Shula, the only coach in NFL history to lead a team to a perfect season (17-0 in 1972) was known throughout his career as a class act. He preached sportsmanship and he and his teams exhibited it. Shula’s teams were usually among the least penalized in the league.
“The key is having respect for the people you’re competing against,” said Shula when asked to define sportsmanship in 2002.
“As the head coach, I always tried to convey to the people I was responsible for that winning certainly was the ultimate goal, but we always wanted to be a team that was known as being good sportsmen and winning within the rules and doing things the right way.”
Ted Hendricks, the Raiders Hall of Famer, once called Shula “the most honest man in the U.S.” Basketball coaching legend and current Miami Heat president Pat Riley says there has been no better man or coach in the history of the profession than Don Shula.
Above all, above the 347 wins, most in NFL history, Don Shula was a man of integrity.
“If I’m remembered for anything, I hope it’s for playing within the rules,” said Shula. “I also hope it will be said that my teams showed class and dignity in victory or defeat.”
Let it be said.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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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.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
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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