SGMA’s 10th National Health Through Fitness Day Was Dynamic
SGMA Membership Conducted 120 Congressional Meetings on the Issue of PEP and PHIT Bills
Athletes, Sports Industry Executives, P.E. Teachers, and Physical Activity Advocates Urged Congress To Support Physical Activity Initiatives
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 4, 2009 – The facts about physical activity levels in the U.S. are startling: recess has been eliminated in many schools, less than 10% of U.S. schools have daily physical education classes for their students, 46% of high school students receive no physical education, and the military is struggling to find recruits in tip-top shape. To reverse that negative trend, a delegation of physical activity proponents met today with members of Congress in Washington, D.C. to talk about what can be done to ‘Get America Moving.’ To make the point, one Heisman Trophy winner; three Olympic gold medalists; a former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ; an ex-World Series MVP; and a host of other current and former star athletes joined the advocacy effort. The setting was the 10th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day, organized by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA).
The game plan was to have a series of face-to-face discussions with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators about the importance of federal funding for quality physical education and increasing physical activity for families by making it more accessible and more affordable for all Americans. The group conducted 87 meetings with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators and an additional 33 meetings with key Congressional aides and key staff members. Every year since 2000, SGMA has organized a day on Capitol Hill to push physical fitness initiatives as a way to improve overall health in America.
The celebrities participating in National Health Through Fitness Day included 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker (University of Georgia); former U.S. women’s soccer World Cup champion and Olympic soccer gold medalist Mia Hamm; 1984 Olympic women’s marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit-Samuelson; former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; current U.S. women’s soccer star/2008 Olympic soccer gold medalist Abby Wambach; former IBF welterweight boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi; 1989 World Series MVP pitcher Dave Stewart (A’s); 9-time UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes; active NFL players Chris Draft (Panthers & Rams), Trent Cole (Eagles), Vernon Davis (49ers), and Kerry Rhodes (Jets); current Canadian Football League player Claude Harriet (Toronto Argonauts); former NFL players Ken Harvey (Redskins & Cardinals) and John Booty (Cardinals, Jets, Giants, Eagles, & Buccaneers); and Bernie Salazar from the NBC hit show “The Biggest Loser.”
There were a number of representatives from SGMA member organizations which participated in the lobbying process. Those companies included Accusplit, Brain Pad, Century Martial Arts, Continental Sports Supply/Reusch USA, Cramer Products, Easton-Bell Sports, Everlast Worldwide, Franklin Sports, Head, HOPSports Training Systems, Horizon Fitness, ICON Health & Fitness, Jarden Team Sports, Lifeline International, Mizuno USA, New Balance Athletic Shoe, Nike, Polar Electro, Prince Sports, Reebok, Rollerblade, Russell Athletic, Spalding, SPRI Products, Under Armour, and Wilson Sporting Goods.
The advocates walked the halls of Congress generating support for two physical activity initiatives:
(1) Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) provides the only federal money to school districts and community based organizations for physical education and innovative physical activity methods;
(2) Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act; PHIT can encourage physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness, and recreational activities more affordable -- through the use of tax incentives.
The SGMA-led industry delegation has asked Congress to provide $100 million in PEP funding.
PEP provides grants to local school districts and community based programs to purchase equipment and train instructors in innovative physical education methods. Since 2001, PEP has successfully enhanced K-12 physical education programs across the country through more than $500 million in grants used for training in state-of-the-art health and wellness-based physical education methods. PEP uses new technology such as heart-rate monitors, pedometers, and the acquisition of state-of-the-art fitness equipment and facilities.
The PHIT Bill, which will be introduced U.S. Representative Ron Kind (R-WI), has risen from a concept in the fall of 2005 to a viable vehicle for improving the health of Americans through physically active lifestyles. The PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. Once an individual or family spends 7.5% of their income on qualified medical expenses, they can deduct physical activity expenses directly. More than 45 million Americans live in families that meet the 7.5% threshold to deduct medical expenses. PHIT would also allow Americans to invest up to $1,000 annually in existing pre-tax medical accounts to pay for physical activities. PHIT would only expand the eligible expenses for pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), and/or medical reimbursement arrangements. PHIT would not increase contribution limits to these accounts.
The consortium asked Congress to approve the PEP Bill in Fiscal Year 2010 for $100 million. In Fiscal Year 2001, the PEP Bill was approved for $5 million; $50 million in FY 2002; $60 million in FY 2003; $70 million in FY 2004; $73.4 million in FY 2005; $72.7 million in FY 2006; $73 million in FY 2007; $75.7 million in FY 2008; and $78.0 million in FY 2009.
In addition to the lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, there was a physical education demonstration which was held in the Rayburn House Office Building. It featured a PE class and their teachers from the greater Washington, D.C. area. This demonstration featured a group of students from a DC-area school which was the recipient of a PEP grant. It was coordinated by Cindy Sisson Hensley of HOPSports. The event was also supported by SGMA, NASPE, and the National Coalition for the Promotion of Physical Activity.
“The sports and fitness industry has been influential in demonstrating that physical activity is the foundation for a healthy nation,” said Tom Cove, SGMA’s president. “PEP will help give Americans of all ages an opportunity to learn about the importance of physical fitness in their daily lives. PHIT will help encourage physical activity by making it more affordable and available. Adults need regular exercise and the PHIT Act will help them achieve that goal.”
“PEP helps finance a new way to approach P.E. for children and PHIT encourages physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness and recreational activities more affordable,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s vice president of government relations.
“This issue will help the new Administration’s focus on preventative health care,” said Ron Sutton of Accusplit. “We are the right industry with the right message points at the right time to have reduce overall health care costs.”
“We have to change the national consciousness on this issue,” said NFL veteran linebacker Chris Draft (Rams). “The connection between good health and being effective in the classroom or the workplace is undeniable.”
“The PHIT Bill and PEP work hand in hand on this issue,” said Colleen Logan of ICON Health & Fitness. “PEP can help keep children active through high school, while PHIT can help make physical activity expenses more affordable for adults.”
“I understand the severity of this issue,” said NFL tight end Vernon Davis (49ers). “Both PEP and PHIT will help improve health levels, reduce absenteeism, and increase productivity.”
“Physical education is as important as other subjects in school and it needs to be given the attention and support it deserves,” said football legend Herschel Walker, who was the honorary chairman of National Health Through Fitness Day.
“I have seen first-hand how a PEP grant can transform a PE program in a school,” said Ellen Smith, a physical education teacher at Gove Elementary School in Belle Glade, Florida.
Anybody who was unable to attend National Health Through Fitness Day can get involved in this advocacy effort by contacting their local U.S. Representative and their two U.S. Senators to express their interest in seeing both pieces of legislation get passed.
Accusplit, General Mills, Polar Electro, Tennis Industry Association, National Sporting Goods Association, and the United States Tennis Association were Supporting Sponsors of this advocacy effort. The Active Network and leaders in the SGMA’s Legal Task Force -- Snell & Wilmer, LLP; Frilot, LLC; Duane Morris, LLP; Morrison Mahoney, LLP; and Liner, Yankelevitz, Sunshine & Regenstreif, LLP – generously supported National Health Through Fitness Day as Special Event Sponsors.
Part of Accusplit’s support was a gift of a pedometer to every person participating in the National Health Through Fitness Day congressional meetings. Most people walked between 8,000 and 12,000 steps while walking between Congressional offices.
Century Martial Arts, Easton-Bell, Everlast Worldwide, Franklin Sports, Gatorade, HOPSports, NFLPA, Mizuno USA, Nike, Prince Sports, Reebok, and Under Armour supported National Health Through Fitness Day by donating the services of celebrity athletes to help in this lobbying effort.
The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry. SGMA helps lead the sports and fitness industries by fostering participation through research, thought leadership, product promotion, and public policy. More information about SGMA membership, SGMA's Sports Research Partnership, and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.SGMA.com.