By Ken Reed
Undoubtedly, in the future when someone says “2020” the first thing that will pop to mind for the vast majority of the world’s citizens will be the Covid pandemic.
But from a sports perspective — more particularly, a United States sports perspective — 2020 will be known as the Year of Women.
Females broke several glass ceilings in 2020. Kim Ng became the first female general manager in any of the major men’s professional sports leagues in North America (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) when the Miami Marlins picked her to lead their baseball operations department. Sarah Fuller became the first female to play and score in a Power Five conference football game while kicking for Vanderbilt. And Callie Brownson became the first woman to coach a position group in an NFL regular-season game when she coached the Cleveland Browns’ tight ends on November 29th.
SportsWorld has long been dominated by men. For decades, men have ignored half the population when looking to fill positions they thought only males could fill. Ng, Fuller and Brownson — along with the Marlins, Vandy and Browns — took big steps to help change that approach in 2020. It took courage by these women — and these organizations — to break sexist barriers, just like it took courage for Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers to break baseball’s color barrier in 1947.
Women also led the social justice movement in sports during 2020. Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka wore seven different masks at the U.S. Open, each with the name of a Black victim of police brutality. She also said she wouldn’t play her semifinal match at a US Open tuneup tournament in order to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The tournament followed her lead and paused the tournament in protest.
“To be honest, I really didn’t stop to think about what others would think of my actions. Other people’s opinions weren’t going to stop me from doing what I know in my heart was the right thing to do,” Osaka said.
Osaka won the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year award for her work on (US Open champion) and off (social justice activist) the court.
“She successfully completed the difficult task of taking excellence in sports performance and using that platform to succeed outside of sports on a much bigger stage,” said Billie Jean King, a 12-time Grand Slam singles title winner and pioneering advocate for women in sports.
“She ignited a conversation on social justice, the results of which were bigger than tennis, larger than sports, and in doing so raised the bar for all those who want to leverage the gifts and talents we have to make a difference in our world.”
Osaka’s goals for 2021: “Work hard, do better, speak up, be kind.” Goals that would make better people of all of us if we chose to follow them.
Elsewhere in sports during 2020, WNBA and NWSL players of all races conducted unified league-wide protests following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman.
While female athletes still lack the sports opportunities available to men, and lack the visibility afforded male athletes, they took several big steps toward changing that in 2020, the Year of Women in Sports.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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.
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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