I'm Working on an Open-Letter to the ESPN Television Network
I haven’t been blogging blogging because I’m working on a letter to ESPN asking them to reconsider their decision to broadcast high school sports. ESPN shows high school basketball and (I believe) some high school football state championships.
Yes, I know that they are making money on it and that they will only do it more and more in the future, but I still want to ask them to reconsider their decision.
Here are my primary justifications:
Nationally televised high school basketball games create undue pressure for young teens.
In America, sports are over-emphasized already. ESPN telecasts of high school athletics exacerbate this societal problem.
Even though televising sports is prima facie harmful, televising only young men is harmful to women and skews already imbalanced gender equities.
Media coverage and attendant financial considerations have a corrupting influence on sports. Once, professional sports were primarily almost exclusively televised. Then college sports were televised – and college athletics has become big business (raising complicated questions about what it means to be a student-athlete). Coverage of high school sports should bring similar and pejorative influences.
Media coverage may de-emphasize academics at the high-school level
Media coverage of high school sports may increase the rate at which high-school athletes opt out of college and go directly to professional sports.
Media coverage may increase the rate at which college athletes leave school early to go to professional sports careers.
The notion of the amateur athlete is eroded.
Media attention will undoubtedly influence high school choice (oft-televised schools will attract ambitious and talented athletes at a disproportionate rate).
Media attention will undoubtedly influence college choice (if selection at favored/oft-televised schools like North Carolina and Duke increase the chances that an athlete will be televised, both the athlete and his coaches will promote those schools – adding external criteria to college choice and creating/exacerbating a competitive advantage for favored/oft-televised schools).
Media attention may compel high school coaches to recruit players.
I hope to support my arguments with research. I plan to send the completed letter to the director of programming at ESPN. Also, as crazy as it sounds, I’d like to try to get a copy to LeBron James. ESPN first started televising high school basketball (the McDonald’s All American Games excepted) when LeBron became a phenomenon. My hope is that he will reject this component of his legacy and encourage big business to let high school sports stay closer to amateur than pro. And I’m not naïve. I know that there is a lot of pressure on high school athletes today. High school sports are already a very serious matter, but it’s up to us whether we expand that or restrict it.