Aspen Institute announces Sports & Society program

By The Aspen Institute
May 3, 2011
The Aspen Institute announced the formation of its Sports & Society Program, a vehicle for convening leaders and fostering dialogue around topics of critical importance. The program will help inspire solutions to major issues so that sport can best serve the public interest, starting with the health needs of children and communities.

Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson, who oversees the organization's public and policy programs, said the addition of a Sports & Society program to its lineup "speaks to the significance of sport as a pivotal cultural institution." He added: “Sports, and leaders from across its vast landscape, deserve a forum where ideas and ideals can be explored in a structured, thoughtful format. The Aspen Institute is perfectly suited to serve in that capacity."

The program will be guided by director Tom Farrey, an Emmy Award-winning journalist for ESPN and author of Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children. His work over the years has explored the connections between sport and the largest themes in society –– education, globalization, technology, race, poverty, and ethics, among others.

"This innovative program presents the opportunity to engage key figures on sport-related issues that could benefit from a rich, collective, productive dialogue," Farrey said. "The right questions will get asked of the right people in the right settings, creating the conditions to identify future directions in policy, practice and research that may serve the public good."

The inaugural meeting of the Sports & Society Program will take place May 13 at the Institute's Washington, DC headquarter offices, where the sport activity trends of US children will be considered. The "Sport for All, Play for Life" roundtable will convene more than two dozen leaders from the realms of sport, government, philanthropy, academia, medicine and media, to begin addressing the barriers that limit participation in sports into the teenage years.

Roundtable participants include: Scott Blackmun, US Olympic Committee CEO; Robin Schepper, executive director of the White House anti-obesity initiative Let’s Move!; Craig Robinson, Oregon State University men’s basketball coach; Stephen Keener, president and CEO of Little League International; Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Patrick McEnroe, US Tennis Association general manager of player development; John Walsh, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor; Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse; Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; Tab Ramos, US Soccer Hall of Fame member and current youth coach; Christine Brennan, USA Today columnist; and Apolo Ohno, eight-time Olympic speed-skating medalist, among others.

Joining the group to help launch the national dialogue on lifting athletic participation rates will be four members of the Sports & Society advisory board: Former US Representative Tom McMillen, co-chair of President Clinton's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; Olympic champion swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, now the senior director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation; William E. Mayer, owner of the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League and chairman emeritus of the Aspen Institute; and former NHL All-Star goaltender Mike Richter.

"Progress starts with connecting the silos in our disjointed sports system so that breakthrough strategies can be shared and explored," McMillen said. "The response Tom Farrey has received to the 'Sport for All, Play for Life Roundtable' shows that key leaders want to come together to address topics of great importance––and demonstrates what this program is capable of."

For more information on the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, please visit While the May 13 roundtable is closed to the public, the web page will live stream a moderated conversation with the USOC’s Scott Blackmun from 11:40 a.m.-12:00 p.m. which can be found at

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