Gov’t Report Could Lead To An Infestation Of Federal Regulation Into Youth Sports, Experts Say


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Will Kessler Contributor
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A key report recently released by a federal government commission could result in a slew of new regulations being pushed onto youth sports, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics & Paralympics, which was established by Congress in 2020 to address concerns about the U.S. Olympic Commission, including the handling of sexual abuse cases, outlines several key policy changes that it believes the government should pursue, including expanding the reach of government in youth sports at the grassroots level, according to the report. The injection of federal oversight and government into an already functioning youth sports system could create undue regulations on leagues and possibly force diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in local areas, hurting young athletes while also forcing Americans to pay into a sports league that they may not be interested in, experts warned. (RELATED: Jamaal Bowman Earmarks Over $1 Million For Org That Seeks To Teach Kindergarteners About ‘Climate Change’)

“The biggest danger is the federal government would try and standardize youth sports in a way that doesn’t make sense,” Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Education Freedom at the Cato Institute, told the DCNF. “They may try to do everything from standardized rules, including how many minutes each kid is supposed to participate. It could start to create DEI for youth sports. There are all sorts of things it can do.”

The commission, in its first recommendation, wants to limit the Olympic Commission’s focus to just high-performance athletes and delegate the development of youth and grassroots sports to a new Office of Sports and Fitness under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), according to the report. The new office would be in charge of setting national standards and practices for sports as well as tracking data and assisting other governing bodies.

“I think if you’re into the Olympic sports, which tend to be sometimes more kind of esoteric — things like judo or fencing or lots of other sports like that — there’s a feeling that many people don’t do those sports, and I got the sense that maybe the people who wrote this report would like more money put into those sorts of sports to try and drive them to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be interested and to try and get them to participate in those sports,” McCluskey told the DCNF. “Which is, again, not the role at all of the federal government. Its job isn’t to try and export sports to people who may not have an interest in it.”

Around 54% of children from the ages of 6 to 17 participated in a sport during 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Families with higher incomes were far more likely to have their kids play a sport, with 70.2% of children in families that make 400% or more of the federal poverty level participating, while only 31.2% of kids played a sport if their family made at or below the poverty level.

“Youth sports, even relatively obscure Olympic sports, do not need federal funding,” Jim Lakely, vice president and director of communications at the Heartland Institute, told the DCNF. “If, say, Malaysians can field stronger badminton teams than the United States, most Americans will be fine with that. No gold medal is worth paying for via taxpayer funds. Besides, the private sector already provides all the coaching and programs the market demands.”

DEI efforts are already widespread in the federal government, with a number of different entities in the executive branch having DEI offices, such as the Department of State, the Interior, the Treasury and more. It was revealed by the DCNF in February that the Department of Defense approved a contract to fund DEI programming and consultations for military-run schools for kids.

The commission, in its ninth recommendation, calls for the proposed HHS Office of Sports and Fitness to establish grant programs that would upgrade, repair and build new public sports facilities, as well as launch new public leagues specifically for “underserved communities,” according to the report. To be eligible for the grant, though, applicants would have to adopt “leading practices in youth-development programming, safety and coaching education.”

The commission points out that in every other country there is a governing body that regulates and oversees sports policy at all levels, and while it does not call for such a body to be created, it does argue that the federal government should have a greater role in “equity, accessibility, and accountability in sports.”

Following the report, the U.S. Olympic Commission released a statement applauding the recommendations.

“If your interest is growing somewhat obscure sport, then you can say, ‘Yeah, there’s benefit for that sport,'” McCluskey told the DCNF. “I don’t see any net social benefit, because people are better off when they can keep their own money and spend it on their priorities, priorities that they know they have, that they weigh against all their other priorities, rather than government putting their thumb on the scale of ‘Well, now, this is going to go to somebody who is into luge,’ instead of you using it to pay for your kids’ college education or expand your business or something like that.”

The commission also called for addressing gaps in participation among LGBTQ people, as well as for racial and ethnic minorities, and for promoting more “equitable access.” The report argues that current sports programs are almost exclusively pay-to-play and that costs related to youth sports should be tax-deductible.

“If the government is involved, then bad add-on ideas are sure to follow — including imposing DEI on the ultimate meritocracy,” Lakely told the DCNF. “Sports are for everyone, but excellence knows no color.”

The Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics & Paralympics did not immediately respond to a request to comment from the DCNF.

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