Stop acting as PR agents for the sports leagues
By Ken Reed
The mainstream sports media continues to avoid any serious examination of important social, cultural and economic issues in SportsWorld.
Any reporting on sports policy issues is typically done at a very superficial level. At best, reporters identify the symptoms and then move on to lighter fare. And it’s typically not the sports reporters’ fault: they are at the mercy of their bosses.
There are exceptions for sure, but for the most part, sports media organizations, and their reporters, simply don’t do in-depth research regarding why these issues exist and what can be done to fix them. There’s no systemic investigation of root causes and no analysis of the sports models leading to the problems.
The reason is simple enough: there is a strong symbiosis between the mass media and sports organizations. That symbiosis is cemented by a shared quest for profit-at-all-costs (PAAC). In effect, sports media organizations are partners with the leagues and individual franchises they “cover.” As such, sports reporters serve – many reluctantly, in order to keep their jobs – in the role of PR agents for the sports leagues and teams on their beat. When that happens, the interests of other important sports stakeholders, like athletes and fans, are at best ignored and at worst deemed irrelevant.
There certainly isn’t a lack of sports issues to examine. Consider just a few:
1) brain trauma at the high school and youth levels, particularly in football, where games and practices are often conducted without any medical personnel present;
2) the emphasis on elite athletics and spectator sports while completely ignoring “sports for all” initiatives for athletes of all ages;
3) the serious decline in physical education and intramural sports programs in K-12 education during a childhood obesity epidemic, and as a growing mound of research reveals fit kids perform better academically;
4) the physical, mental and emotional harm that occurs when kids are pushed to specialize in a single sport at an early age;
5) the widening gap in opportunities and funding between female and male sports;
6) taxpayer and consumer rip-offs in the subsidized construction and operation of stadiums, arenas and ballparks, while simultaneously local public recreational athletic facilities are crumbling or, in some cases, non-existent;
7) the over-commercialization and professionalization of youth and high school sports;
8) the win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mentality of too many adults (coaches and parents) in youth sports; and
9) the societal acceptance of tyrannical youth and high school coaches when classroom teachers are fired for similar abusive behaviour.
Unfortunately, executives at sports media organizations view sporting events at the professional and college levels (and increasingly at the high school level – and sadly, even the little league level) as simply vehicles for selling advertising and not activities deserving true journalistic oversight.
From a journalism ethics perspective, the sports media has the social responsibility to provide more than game stories, coach firings, player trades, and the latest injury news. All of us who love sport and want to see it more consistently at its best have to do a better job of holding the sports media’s feet to the fire when it comes to fulfilling their journalistic responsibility to cover sports policy issues in a serious manner and hold sports power brokers accountable.
— Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
Sports Forum Podcast
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. Linda writes extensively about how youth sports can hijack families, and family outings, non-sports activities and bonding time are lost in the pursuit of the next club team game or travel tournament.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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.
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.
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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