Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is no fan of the new reality show "Friday Night Tykes” and has called on the TV show's network to yank the program from its lineup on the grounds that it's exploitive and "glorifies a culture of violent competitiveness."
The program showcases the exploits of youth football teams in Texas. But Durbin says the show sends a dangerous message because it glosses over the health and safety of children.
In a Thursday letter to Esquire Network President Adam Stotsky, Durbin cited instances in the show where football coaches encourage 8- and 9-year olds to deliver repeated blows to the head and to play through injury.
“Many school districts are making progress in reducing concussions by educating students, parents and school personnel about how to recognize and respond to concussions," Durbin wrote. "A show such as ‘Friday Night Tykes’ sends the opposite message and exploits these children for purely entertainment purposes.
“For the sake of America’s youth athletes, I call on you to immediately end this shameful, dangerous display on your network."
Durbin isn't the only critic of "Friday Night Tykes". ESPN analyst and author Tom Farrey told ABC News the show was "sanctioned child abuse." And Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik said the program was "disturbing" and exhibits "a creepy feeling of complicity."
Two coaches featured in the show, which debuted in January, were suspended for encouraging dangerous play and bad behavior among their young players. They since have apologized.
Durbin also urged the National Collegiate Athletic Association to implement a concussion safety and management plan for its 1,281 member institutions that includes a strict "when in doubt, sit it out" policy, which would require athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion to end their participation in their athletic event for the rest of the day.
During the last decade, emergency room visits for sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries among children and adolescents increased by 60 percent, Durbin said. He added that the sports culture prevents many young athletes from reporting suspected concussions.
Durbin in September introduced the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, which calls on states to develop concussion safety guidelines for public school districts.