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SGMA Members Educate Congress About Necessity Of Physical Activity Bills

Date: 3/2/11

21 Celebrity Athletes Support National Need for Regular PE in Schools
HOPSports & Chicago Bulls Organize PE Demonstration Inside U.S. Capitol

SILVER SPRING, MD – March 2, 2011 – While members of Congress are focused on cutting spending, the sporting goods and fitness industry arrived on Capitol Hill today with an investment opportunity.  Nearly 150 leaders from organizations in the sports and fitness industries joined together to meet with Congress to request support for policies to “Get America Moving.”   The event was SGMA’s 12th annual National Health Through Fitness Day.  In all, there were more than 120 Congressional meetings ‘on the Hill’ today.

The targets of the industry lobby effort were two pieces of legislation:

1.)    The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) Bill funds a competitive grant program to give school districts and community based organizations resources to provide students with quality, innovative physical education;

2.)    The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act would promote improved health through increased physical activity by making it more affordable to engage in sports, fitness and recreation activities -- through the use of tax incentives.

“The budget-cutting environment on Capitol Hill was a huge challenge today, but I feel that the industry delivered a strong and convincing message to Congress,” said SGMA President/CEO Tom Cove.  “SGMA will continue meeting with individual congressmen to generate continued support for these two key bills.  The need for PEP and PHIT has never been greater and the legislative challenge to get them passed has never been more difficult.” 

“We fundamentally believe in this cause,” said Elizabeth Avery, vice president of global public policy & government affairs for Pepsico.  “It’s important to balance the calories you consume with the calories you burn.”

“I challenge the U.S. Congress to do right thing and support this legislation,” said football legend Herschel Walker, the honorary chairman of National Health Through Fitness Day.  “As a nation, we can’t afford not to pass legislation of this kind.”

“Our industry needs to support events like this which encourage physical activity,” said SGMA Chairman Larry Franklin (President; Franklin Sports).  “It’s necessary to support major initiatives for young people that help educate them about the importance of a healthy mind and healthy body.”

“PE is an important class for school children,” said two-time Olympic softball gold medal winning pitcher Michele Smith, one of the 21 celebrity athletes in the group.  “Americans must get young people moving.  Active children are more successful in the classroom and in life.”

“Winston Churchill once said, ‘The youth of the nation are the trustees of posterity,’” said Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player, 75, who is adamant in his support of PEP and PHIT.  “When I went to school, the first class each day was physical training.  And, I still do 1,000 push-ups a day.”

While the industry was busy meeting with U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, and their staffs, a simulated physical education class was held inside the U.S. Capitol to showcase how diverse and dynamic today’s PE classes have become.  The goal was to explain and demonstrate why federal funding of PE programs is vital and must continue.  Executives from HOPSports and the Chicago Bulls worked with children from Washington, D.C. Public Schools on the simulated PE class.  The mascot of the Bulls (Benny the Bull) and the local school children worked together to demonstrate new types of fitness routines that are geared at putting the ‘fun’ back into fitness and taking the ‘work’ out of the workout.  This demonstration was coordinated by Cindy Sisson Hensley (President; HOPSports). 

“With this demonstration, we are providing a real-life example of where the PEP grants have gone and what a difference they make in the modern PE experience,” said Hensley.

“The children had lots of fun as we showcased what a PEP grant can provide,” said Dave Kurland, senior director of community relations for the Chicago Bulls. 

“It helps our lobby day effort to have a group of children actually demonstrating how a modern PE class is conducted,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s vice president of government relations.  “For a congressman or a U.S. Senator to have the chance to get a first-hand look at what the federal funds are being used to support, it helps our lobby-day effort.  It’s one thing to describe how a program will work and it’s entirely different to get a first-hand look at it.”

A number of sports celebrities participated in the lobby day experience.  They were former NFL running back and 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, 1972 U.S. Open and Wimbledon tennis champion Stan Smith; Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith; LPGA Hall of Fame member Annika Sörenstam; World Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player; U.S. Olympic softball gold Medalists Michele Smith and Natasha Watley; Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Art Monk; 2008 Olympic gymnastics silver medalist/World Champion Alicia Sacramone; current WBA super middleweight world champion Andre Ward; PGA Tour professional Brad Faxon; former Cy Young Award runner-up John Tudor; sportscaster Bonnie Bernstein; 2010 Olympic speedskating bronze medalist Allison Baver; 7-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Torry Holt; New Orleans Saints place kicker Garrett Hartley; U.S. Olympic middle distance runner Jenny Simpson; and former NFL stars Jay Fiedler, Ken Harvey, James Thrash and John Booty.    

For the PEP Bill, this consortium asked Congress to continue funding the program in FY 2012.  PEP is the only Federal funding dedicated to physical education.  In FY 2001, the PEP Bill was approved for $5 million.  The success of PEP has led to a steady increase in funding.  In FY 2002, Congress allotted $50 million; $60 million in FY 2003; $70 million in FY 2004; $73 million in FY 2005; $73 million in FY 2006; $73 million in FY 2007; $75.7 million in FY 2008; $78 million in FY 2009; $79 million in FY 2010; and $80 million in FY 2011.  To date, more than $600 million in PEP grants have been distributed across the country by the U.S. Department of Education. 

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. Americans could invest up to $2,000 annually to reimburse physical activity costs using PHIT-designated contributions to existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), and other medical reimbursement arrangements.  PHIT would only expand the eligible expenses.  It would not increase contribution limits to these accounts.  Once an individual or family reaches the 7.5% threshold on income spent for qualified medical expenses, they could deduct physical activity expenses directly.

On the evening of Tuesday, March 1st, SGMA hosted the National Health Through Fitness Day Award Reception in the U.S Capitol Visitors Center. At the event, SGMA recognized four individuals for their support of physical activity policies in America.  Former U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion Stan Smith was presented with SGMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award “in recognition of his lifelong commitment to promoting physical education and active lifestyles in America.”  SGMA also recognized three Members of Congress with its Congressional Health & Fitness Award for their “promotion of healthy and active lifestyles in America.”  Those three legislators were Senator Mark Warner (VA), Representative Mary Bono-Mack (CA), and Representative Joseph Crowley (NY). 

There were more than 40 companies and organizations which sponsored National Health Through Fitness Day.  PepsiCo was the presenting sponsor.  The United States Tennis Association, The Active Network, and SGMA’s Legal Task Force were special event sponsors.  Supporting sponsors included Accusplit, Active Network, Century Martial Arts, Cramer Products, Easton, Entertainment Software Association, Everlast, Flaghouse, Franklin Sports, Gatorade, General Mills, GeoFitness, Head Penn, HOPSports, Human Kinetics, Good Sports, Gopher Sport, Mizuno, Motion Fitness, Musco Sports Lighting, NFL Players, National Sporting Goods Association, New Balance, Nike, PE4life, Play Core/Everlast Climbing, Polar, Pop Warner Football, Precor, Prince, Rawlings Sporting Goods, Reebok, Rollerblade, Speed Stacks, Sportime, SGMA’s Legal Task Force, Suunto, Tennis Industry Association, Under Armour, Wilson Sporting Goods, Women’s Sports Foundation, and XaviX.

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 promoting favorable public policies, fostering participation through research, thought leadership and product promotion.  More information about SGMA membership, SGMA public policy platform, and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.SGMA.com


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