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
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.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon