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SGMA Members Stressed Importance of Physical Activity Bills to Congress

Date: 3/5/12

17 Celebrity Athletes Supported Focus on Physical Activity For All Americans
Konami & Dance Dance Revolution Organized PE Demonstration ‘On The Hill’

SILVER SPRING, MD – March 7, 2012 – After hearing a ‘rah-rah/go get em’ speech this morning from golfing great Gary Player, more than 125 leaders in the sports and fitness industry descended upon Capitol Hill to talk with Congress today about the issue of physical fitness.  The event was SGMA’s 13th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day.  The purpose of this day of advocacy was to ask the U.S. Congress for support of two pieces of legislation that will help “Get America Moving to Improve Health.”  In all, there were more than 130 Congressional meetings ‘on the Hill’ today – 90 of which had the U.S. Senator or U.S. Congressman in the meeting.

National Health Through Fitness Day is SGMA’s signature event that promotes policies that will increase participation in sports and fitness activities to improve healthy and active lifestyles.

The focal points of this 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.  With access to PEP grants, school districts are able to cultivate future generations of active Americans through innovative physical education programs.

(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 PHIT legislation, if passed, would make physical health a cultural value by providing financial incentives that encourage greater participation in sports and fitness activities.

“The budget-cutting environment on Capitol Hill remains a significant hurdle, but I feel that the industry delivered a 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 PEP and PHIT bills can serve as catalysts of change in this country.”

“The sporting goods industry needs to support events like this which encourage physical activity and that’s why SGMA is taking the lead on the issue,” said SGMA Chairman Larry Franklin (President; Franklin Sports). 

“I shared the news with members of Congress that the PEP grants are working at the local level around the country,” said Steve McCracken (Senior Executive Vice President; Callaway Golf).  “We need fitness facilities at every school in this country for the students, teachers and their local community.”

“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.  “Having a P.E. class in school gave me the confidence to become a great student.  Today’s students deserve the chances that I had as a child growing up in Georgia.  As a nation, we can’t afford to not pass this legislation.”

“P.E. and math were my favorite classes in school,” said Women’s Sports Foundation/WNBA star Tamika Catchings.  “Being physically fit will make an impact in the lives of all Americans.  We need to get daily P.E. back in our schools.”

“More people are dying because of obesity than all the wars of the world combined,” said golfing legend Gary Player.  “Sport and exercise can change the world.   Sadly, more people spend more money on their cars than their bodies.”

“I am particularly interested in the obesity and its effect on young people,” said former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith.  “If we can break that chain, then we can make some progress on this health issue.  Promoting fitness will do just that.”

“I think PE in schools is very important for our children, especially for impoverished children who don’t have access to local recreational sports programs,” said NFL wide receiver Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers).

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 Konami and Dance Dance Revolution were working with children from Washington, D.C. Public Schools on the simulated PE class.  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 Clara Baum (Senior Director Strategic Marketing & Partnerships; Konami). 

“It helped 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 helped 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.  The celebrity delegation included 1982 Heisman Trophy winner/former U.S. Olympian Herschel Walker; Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player; former Wimbledon & U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers); former Major League Baseball pitcher Tommy John;  ex-NHL star/current ice hockey commentator Jeremy Roenick; boxer Cara Castronuova; former U.S. Open/British Open golf champion Johnny Miller; Women’s Sports Foundation Board Member/WNBA star Tamika Catchings; WNBA star Lindsey Harding; current NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith (Baltimore Ravens); Women’s Sports Foundation Board Member/Team USA softball star Monica Abbott; U.S. Olympic middle distance runner Jenny Simpson; LPGA superstar Stacy Lewis; former NFL players Ken Harvey, John Booty, and Aaron Beasley, among others.

For the PEP Bill, this consortium asked Congress to continue funding the program in FY 2013.  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; $79 million in FY 2011; and $79 million in FY 2012.  To date, nearly $800 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 6th, SGMA hosted the National Health Through Fitness Day Awards 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 Washington Redskins All-Pro linebacker Ken Harvey and former NFL defensive back/9-year NFL player John Booty were presented with SGMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award “in recognition of their lifelong commitment to promoting physical education and active lifestyles in America.”  Harvey and Booty have participated in this lobby day every year since 2007 and have served as coaches in the last three Congressional (flag) Football Games.  SGMA also recognized two Members of Congress with its Congressional Health & Fitness Award for their “promotion of healthy and active lifestyles in America.”  Those two legislators were Representative Kevin Brady (TX) and Representative Mike McIntyre (NC). 

To keep up-to-date on what was taking place today with SGMA and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day, many people across the country were following the events ‘on the Hill’ on Twitter @TheSGMA.  Twitter participants used the hash tag #nhtf12 for anything NHTF Day related.  You are also encouraged and invited to be a 'fan' of National Health Through Fitness Day on our Facebook page to let your friends know that you support a physically active lifestyle.
There were more than 40 companies and organizations which sponsored the 13th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day.  This year’s Special Event Sponsors were Active Network, United States Tennis Association, Konami, and SGMA’s Legal Task Force.  The Transportation Sponsor was BSN Sports/US Games.  Supporting sponsors included Accusplit, AHIP, Callaway, Easton, Everlast Climbing, The First Tee, Flaghouse, Franklin Sports, Gatorade, General Mills, Get Golf Ready in Five Days, Good Sports, Gopher Sport, Head Penn, HOPSports, Mizuno, NSGA, New Balance, Nike, ‘nplay, PE4life, Play Core, Polar, Precor, Prince, Rawlings Sporting Goods, Reebok, Rollerblade, Spark, Speed Stacks, Sportime, Suunto, Tennis Industry Association, Titleist, Under Armour, and Wilson Sporting Goods.

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