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 #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, a SHAPE America board member, former national physical education teacher of the year, and 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.
Episode #1: The inaugural episode of League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast. The topic is Title IX and equal opportunity in sports. The guest is long-time Title IX and civil rights activist Donna Lopiano.
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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