By Ken Reed
Simone Biles is on the cover of Time magazine for being named “Athlete of the Year.” That’s not surprising. The surprise is why she received that honor.
Going into the Tokyo Olympic Games, Biles was a big favorite to win multiple gold medals. She didn’t do that. In fact, she barely participated in the Games.
Physically she was fine. But mentally she was struggling.
While performing high above the vault one day in Tokyo, Biles suddenly got a case of the “twisties,” a situation in which a gymnast loses his/her whereabouts during a gymnastics exercise. Shortly thereafter, Biles withdrew from her next four events. She told her teammates she wouldn’t be able to participate with them in the team event.
Impressively, Biles embraced her vulnerability in Tokyo and talked openly to a world-wide audience about her mental health struggles.
As Alice Park and Sean Gregory write in the Time cover story article, “Biles’ assuredness in speaking her truth and taking ownership of her fate offered permission for athletes and non-athletes alike to talk more openly about challenges they’d once kept to themselves.”
Biles, along with other elite athletes like Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps, and Kevin Love, who publicly talked about their mental health struggles in recent months, demonstrated how athletes can be role models in ways beyond their athletic accomplishments in the athletic arena.
Olympic track star Allyson Felix believes Biles will be a stronger role model for young people like her daughter Camryn now that she’s put her mental health first.
“To see her choose herself, we’re going to see the effects of that for the next generation,” says Felix, who became the most decorated female track-and-field athlete of all time in Tokyo. “When thinking about role models for Cammy, wow, here is someone showing you can choose your mental health over what the world says is the most important thing.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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 long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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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.
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.”
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.
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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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon