Durbin Wants Network to Sack 'Friday Night Tykes'

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 07:50 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin is tackling the Esquire Network reality program "Friday Night Tykes," saying the show that follows Texas youth football teams "exploits these children for purely entertainment purposes."

Durbin sent network president Adam Stotsky a letter Thursday to ask that the "shameful, dangerous display" be pulled, saying it endangers the health of children while sending the wrong message about concussions in football, Politico reported.

"With all we know about the risks of concussions in youth sports today; it is unconscionable to televise and celebrate the conduct of a league that directly endangers the health of children," Durbin said.

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The show focuses on 8-to-9-year-old players on competitive youth football teams in Texas and their tough coaches.

"Coaches on 'Friday Night Tykes' are shown screaming, 'I don't care how much pain you're in, you don't quit!' and, 'I want you to put it in his helmet. I don't care if he don't get up,'" the senator wrote.

The show has many critics besides Durbin, The Washington Examiner says.

ESPN analyst and author Tom Farrey told ABC News that the show "feels like you're watching child abuse … sanctioned child abuse. There's no evidence to suggest that this kind of coaching is effective in building athletes over the long-term."

Further, Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik called the program a "horror show" that "comes with a creepy feeling of complicity, with the added realization that we are watching kids risking more than just their self-esteem."

Earlier this year, ABC News reports, two of the coaches were suspended for encouraging violent, dangerous tackles and play, and bad behavior. The coaches have apologized for their actions.

But some parents whose children play in the Texas Youth Football Association are quick to back the coaches' tactics.

"Sometimes the coaches can be rough and they're trying to bring out the best of the kids," one parent, Lisa Connell, told ABC.

Durbin said over the last 10 years, emergency room visits for sports brain injuries have increased by 60 percent among children and adults, and the sports culture often prevents young athletes from reporting problems.

The senator, who last fall introduced the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act to set minimum requirements for concussion prevention in high schools, also wrote to the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Thursday to urge a concussion safety and management plan for its members.

He praised the NCAA for adopting its concussion policy in 2010, but said it has not set standards outlining when it is safe for players to return to the game after suffering a concussion.

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