The sports media has to do better to address major issues within the world of sports
By Ken Reed
For the most part, the sports media is falling dreadfully short when it comes to examining major sports problems, why they exist, and what can be done to mitigate them or prevent them.
Even when key issues and scandals are identified, sports journalists provide neither root cause analysis nor possible remedies.
As such, the following 2024 New Year’s resolutions are proposed for the sports media.
Resolution One: Revisit CTE and change the focus of your coverage
The latest research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) reveals that the primary cause of (CTE) is not concussions but repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head.
And more emphasis needs to be placed on the impact of brain injuries on young athletes. A Boston University CTE Center study found that of contact sports participants who died under age 30, 41.4 percent had signs of CTE.
“This study clearly shows that the pathology of CTE starts early,” says Ann McKee, director of the Center and a professor of neurology and pathology at BU.
“The fact that over 40 percent of young contact and collision sport athletes in the UNITE Brain Bank have CTE is remarkable considering that studies of community brain banks show that fewer than one percent of the general population has CTE.”
Resolution Two: Spotlight the physical inactivity epidemic
A new study in the American Journal of Medicine found that, on a national level, physical inactivity prevalence is unacceptably high.
Especially troubling is that children and adolescents are heavier, less fit, and less active than ever before.
According to The 2022 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, children and youth earned a D- in “Overall Physical Activity” and a D in “Sedentary Behaviors.”
Resolution Three: Take a deep dive into the holistic health of college athletes
One of the costs of the greed-based college sports industry is the declining mental health of athletes. During a very short span in 2022, five college student-athletes committed suicide.
A University of Michigan study found that 63 percent of student-athletes reported having an emotional or mental health issue that had affected their athletic performance in the four weeks before the survey. Only 10 percent of athletes with mental health conditions reached out for help with mental health challenges compared to 30 percent of college students in general.
Resolution Four: Seriously examine the role “adults” have played in the broken youth sports system
It’s parents and coaches who push kids to specialize in a single sport long before they reach the age of 10, which too often leads to overuse injuries and emotional burnout. It’s parents and coaches who focus on college athletic scholarships for young athletes despite statistics that show that only one to two percent of high school senior athletes get any type of financial aid for sports. It’s parents and coaches who verbally – and sometimes physically – abuse game officials, some of whom are only teenagers.
The sports media should look at any existing or potential solution that gives youth sports back to the kids.
Resolution Five: Bring attention to Title IX and the growing gaps between male and female athletes in the areas of funding and opportunities
After celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23, 2022, we collectively padded ourselves on the back and took our eye off the issue of gender equity in sports.
According to an excellent USA Today study, for every dollar colleges and universities spent on travel, equipment and recruiting for men’s teams in recent years, they spent just 71 cents on women’s teams.
Title IX is a fair and just law. It’s shameful that, more than 50 years after its enactment, our schools still aren’t treating each gender equally. The sports media should pressure the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to aggressively enforce Title IX and to improve education initiatives regarding the law.
Resolution Six: Investigate legalized sports gambling dangers and recommend necessary checks and balances
Legalized sports gambling has proliferated quickly, state by state, across the United States in a hodgepodge way. In many respects, we’re in a Wild Wild West era of legalized sports gambling, in which almost anything goes.
Consumers are being bombarded with excessive – and, in some cases, dangerous – ads and promotions for sports gambling today.
Legalized sports gambling must be effectively and efficiently regulated, taxed, and policed. To that end, a lot more guardrails need to be implemented.
— Ken Reed, sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader. Reed’s work involves advocating for what he sees as positive changes in the sports world, focusing on issues like safety, equity, ethics and fair play. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
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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
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