By Ken Reed

World Mental Health Day took place this past week (October 10th) and it got me wondering what types of things pro sports leagues and franchises are doing in the area of mental health initiatives.

The world of male sports has been slow to progress in lots of social and cultural areas due to an overabundance of machismo. Given that reality, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Indianapolis Colts have an excellent mental health program called “Kicking the Stigma.” It’s a model that every pro sports franchise would do well to study.

The Colts are the leader across pro sports in making erasing the stigma around mental health an organizational priority, both inside and outside the franchise’s facilities. The Colts launched its Kicking the Stigma initiative in 2020 to bring awareness to the prevalence of mental health issues in our communities and to raise and distribute funds for treatment organizations. The Colts have directly committed more than $4 million in grants to the effort and Kicking the Stigma fundraising efforts have raised more than $17 million to expand mental health research and treatment in Indiana and across the country.

“I just feel unbelievably blessed to be in an organization that understands the importance of people’s mental health and creating it and fostering a space, a family-oriented environment, to allow players to speak how they feel and make sure everyone is doing well,” says Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer believes the Colts program can provide a model for other pro teams to adopt. “This is a tremendous service the Colts are providing not only to the organization but to their local community and throughout their state and beyond.” Sills has helped create the NFL Life Line, which connects former and current players to counselors.

The Colts ownership, shared by Jim Irsay and his three daughters, chose to make mental health its primary philanthropic effort because it was personal to their family, which has suffered with anxiety, depression and alcoholism and addiction challenges.

The good news is Kicking the Stigma has resulted in Colts players and other employees talking about mental health challenges.

“We are asking each other about family. ‘Where are you mentally?’” according to Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard. “No one is shying away from that conversation.”

Good for the Colts. Here’s hoping other franchises across the pro sports landscape launch similar initiatives. College athletic departments could develop similar programs.

Here’s a link to the Colts’ Kicking the Stigma Impact Report.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.