When are the leaders in the sports and fitness industry, sports governing bodies, and the leadership of the U.S. Olympic Committee going to put a stop to e-sports being considered a sport? Yes, this is a big deal. This issue of e-sports being considered a sport started a few years ago. It must stop. It’s just not right.
A few years ago, U.S. colleges started awarding athletic scholarships to e-sports competitors. One of the first schools to grant financial aid for gamers was Robert Morris University in Chicago, Illinois. PHIT America reported on the issue in 2015 with written response back then.
Now, e-sports are being considered for Olympic competition, beginning in 2024! That is unacceptable.
E-sports are not a sport. E-sports contribute to young children, teenagers, and adults not being physically active and playing sports. E-sports have hijacked the name sports. And the powers-that-be in sports need to get it under control.
PHIT America is not alone on this issue.
“In support of PHIT America's stand against e-sports, I agree that any agenda to add e-sports as an Olympic Game category is a trend that will damage missions invested in increasing physical activity of U.S. children,” said Michelle Metzler, athletic director, Berean Christian School (West Palm Beach, Florida). “The scope of the major sports and fitness organizations and governing bodies should be focused on reversing the current decline of participation in youth sports. Seeking revenue by classifying gaming as an e-sport is a deceitful strategy which will ultimately lead to sweeping levels of profound inactivity. We need to rebuild and boost physical education. Campaigns should be empowering children to adopt healthy lifestyles with a strong foundation in fitness, recreational level sports graduating to intramural and interscholastic sports. The long-term benefits are in true physical activity - not the misrepresentation in a scheme of e-sports.”
"We do not recognize e-sports as a sport and don't expect to change our stance on the issue,” said Wayne Ryan, Assistant Executive Director, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (Parkersburg, West Virginia).
According the Wikipedia, the definition of sport is as follows: “Sport or sports includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through casual or organized participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators.”
E-sports don’t match that description or definition of sport.
The power structure in the world of sports should not give into the pressure of giving electronic games any kind of official recognition of being labeled a sport just because it’s expected to exceed $1.5 billion in global revenue with a fanbase of 600 million users by 2020.
A recent interview on Fox Business and a recent article in Fortune magazine clearly show that one of motivating factors for including e-sports into the Olympics is money. Clearly, the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee are looking for more viewers and additional TV revenue.
While this short-term thinking may be good for an organization’s profit & loss statement, it sends a negative message about the concept of playing sports. Recent sports participation statistics are a concern. According to the Physical Activity Council, the number of U.S. children who are actually physically active in team sports is declining. In the past five years, team sports ‘play occasions’ (practices and actual games) have declined by 19%, or five billion play occasions, in the U.S. And, American children are ranked in fitness 47th out of 50 countries in the world, based on a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Not surprisingly, only seven percent of U.S. children (age 6-17) are active to physical activity standards, as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Olympics and leading sports companies are chasing top, high-performance athletes – who spend most of the money in sports. The Olympics and top sports companies are not investing in the ‘grassroots’ programming and the delivery mechanism for physical activity – that being, physical education classes in our schools.
There are organizations and governing bodies which proclaim that they are going to create baseball players or basketball players, but they don’t really care that there are fewer and fewer physically active kids overall. We have generations of kids who will never play any sport because they don’t know how to throw, catch, skip, run, jump or even have the balance to stand on one leg.
Sadly, the only thing that many of today’s children know how to move is their fingers, as it relates to cell phones and tablets. This behavior trend is deadly for children and the future of the sports and fitness industry.
Get off the sidelines and speak out against this Olympic ‘movement’ of getting e-sports included in the Olympic Games. More importantly, with 82.4 million physically inactive Americans, it’s important to rebuild the grassroots of physical activity in the U.S. by investing in P.E. in the schools. PHIT America is working to rebuild P.E. with its GO! Grants. The general public and the private sector can help be a part of the P.E. solution, too, in the U.S.