By Ken Reed

This is my last column for League of Fans – at least in an official capacity as Sports Policy Director.

I’m “retiring,” although I plan to still be involved in sports in multiple capacities moving forward.

I truly love sports. After family, sports have been the central passion in my life. I’ve had so many great experiences in sports — as an athlete, coach, administrator, marketer, consultant, writer/columnist, talk show host, referee, basketball scout and adjunct sports studies professor.

For the last 13 and ½ years, I’ve been blessed to be Sports Policy Director for League of Fans, a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader. For a long-time, my career goal was to be able to research, analyze and write about sports issues on a full-time basis. I’m so grateful that Mr. Nader gave me that opportunity.

I’m sure at this point, some of you who have read my columns, essays, books, position papers or blog entries through the years are wondering, “If this guy loves sports so much, and has been blessed by sports as much as he says he has, why is he so often critical about the state of sports today?”

Fair question. To answer that, I’ll refer to what I wrote in the preface of my book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan.

I believe those who truly love sports should continually work to improve the sports experience for everyone involved. Collectively and individually, we should strive to enhance the positives and mitigate the negatives for all sports stakeholders.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country.” I agree with that sentiment. And, if you replace the word “country” with the word “sports” you’ll have a pretty good idea why I can come across as negative – even angry – in my writings.

Even though I love sports, I’m also an idealist who believes the world of sports can be better, especially for those stakeholders with little or no power. Through the years, I’ve tried to be an advocate for athletes, fans, and anybody in the world of sports without a voice.

Now I’m going to get a little spiritual on you. I believe when sports are at their best, they’re driven by our souls. At their worst, they’re driven by our egos. Here’s how I explained it in my book, Ego vs. Soul in Sports: Essays on Sport at Its Best and Worst:

To me, when sports are soulful, they have a spiritual quality about them. They bring out the best in us, not just as athletes but also as people. Soulful sports have a unifying, cooperative nature – even between competitors. There’s a sense of fairness and honorable behavior involved. Integrity and character are of utmost importance.

On the other hand, when sports are ego-based, there’s a noticeable lack of spiritual awareness. Win-at-all-costs (WAAC) and profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) mentalities dominate. Ethically-objectionable – and sometimes even corrupt – decisions, behaviors, and policies dominate the landscape.

When the human spirit shines through in sports, it’s a beautiful thing to witness. Done right, there can be a lot of love in sports. There are certainly moments that will bring a tear to your eye. For example, I love witnessing acts of sportsmanship. I just wish there were more of them today.

Moreover, many athletes, working from their hearts, have made the world a better place. Consider what Jackie Robinson and Billie Jean King did for equal opportunity. And numerous athletes and coaches today use their sports platform to advocate for worthy causes and charities.

Unfortunately, too much of SportsWorld today suffers from soul sickness. If you examine every issue and problem in sports today – big or small – you will find WAAC and/or PAAC at their foundation. Ego and greed are the essence of WAAC and PAAC thinking. Too often, ego and greed are driving the sports policy-making bus. That’s true not just at the professional and college levels, but at the high school and youth levels as well.

In closing, I want to thank you for reading, listening, and commenting through the years. I’ve enjoyed the relationships I’ve made in this position.

I must note here that there are a bunch of terrific sports reformers out there working hard to make a difference. I interviewed several of them for my book, The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place.

I’m hopeful that more and more of my fellow sports lovers will become sports activists, reformers and change agents. Please join those currently fighting for justice, fair play, equal opportunity, safety, and civil rights in sports – whether it be at the local, state, or national level.

Sport is inherently good, but it can be better.

Carry on.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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