By Ken Reed
Denny Doyle loves football and the Roman Catholic Church but he doesn’t think they should be connected. He strongly believes the church should stop sponsoring Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) football because of the risk of brain injuries (youth players are particularly vulnerable to concussions), as well as the legal risks to the church.
“I think that they’re making a terrible mistake and they’re injuring children’s brains,” says Doyle. “It’s the second child abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.”
Doyle, former general counsel for Chiquita Brands International, and his family have donated millions to Catholic causes through their family foundation. It’s that love for his church, along with his concern for the safety of youth athletes, that has spurred his campaign to get the Catholic Church out of the youth football business.
The church is resisting all his efforts.
“With abortion, the church says whenever a life is on the line, we do the ultimate to protect life,” says Doyle.
“They hang themselves out there to protect life, but when someone says they should be protecting a life from brain damage, they don’t want to look.”
Doyle fears the church could be sued if a player sustained a catastrophic brain injury on the field or developed neurological or cognitive problems years later. For four years he’s been lobbying church officials to get out of youth football sponsorship. He hired a Catholic sports law professor to write opinions outlining the legal risks the church faces by allowing youth football to be played on its property. He offered to fly church officials to visit scientists who study the links between brain disease and repetitive blows to the head. He donated money to the Concussion Legacy Foundation to pay for videos promoting flag football for children under the age of 14. He’s sent scientific research papers on brain trauma to 40 dioceses across the country.
But Doyle has mostly received silence from the church. He believes the church is afraid to upset football-loving parishioners — especially young parents.
Nevertheless, he’s going to keep up his efforts because he wants to protect the church from legal and financial risks and because he believes the church is a steward of children and has the responsibility to protect children from unnecessarily risking their short-and long-term brain health.
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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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.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
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.
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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