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 #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.
Episode #4 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Biggest Issue in Sports Today? Brain Trauma – The guest is Patrick Hruby, a journalist who has done extensive research and in-depth writing on the topic of brain trauma in sports, most notably football.
Episode #3 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Styles with Sports Sociologist Jay Coakley – The guest is veteran sports sociologist Jay Coakley, a former college athlete who went on to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology from Notre Dame.
Episode #2 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: College & High School Athletics: Where Do We Go From Here? The guest is John Gerdy, a former college athlete and NCAA and SEC administrator who became a sports reformer later in his career.
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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