Thinking Through the Biggest Ideas

The future of sports, and its impact on society, will be shaped by an array of factors, both within and beyond the control of stakeholders. Advances in technology will continue to create paradigm shifts in the provision and value of experiences. Leadership also matters – the ability to mobilize around new models and policies that may serve the common good.

The mission of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program is to convene leaders, facilitate dialogue, and inspire solutions that serve the public interest. In that spirit, we are pleased to introduce “Future of Sports,” a new conversation series that creates a venue to think through some of the biggest ideas on the horizon, all potential game-changers.

Hosted at the Aspen Institute’s new headquarters in Washington D.C., each of the four events in 2018 will focus on a key question that, in the analysis of the Sports & Society Program, is worthy of deep exploration. Thought leaders from diverse perspectives sport chiefs, athletes, academics, policymakers, business innovators, educators, journalists and others will be invited to share their perspective through moderated dialogue.

Companion reports authored by the Sports & Society Program help size up the implications of embracing the idea, policy or model at the center of discussion. We hope each report and conversation advances knowledge, and stimulates new thinking, on ways to address major challenges at the intersection of sport and society.

Each conversation will be live-streamed and archived. The events are open to the public and are free, with lunch served, though space is limited. Questions, and requests for media credentials, can be emailed to, editorial director for the Sports & Society Program.

The Sports & Society Program thanks Marilyn and Michael Glosserman for their generous support of the Future of Sports series.


Future of Sports Activism: Reimagining its Bottom Line

Dec. 10, 2018
10 am-Noon ET (Lunch to follow)

The Aspen Institute
2300 N St., Washington DC

The year 2018 has been a fascinating one, marked by athletes, brands and leagues taking different positions on whether and how to address political issues. Some tried to stay on the sidelines. Others, including the largest company in sports, Nike, dove in – and saw boosts in sales, social media likes, and stock price after releasing its Colin Kaepernick ad. So, when does it make business sense to take activist positions? And when does it not? What’s clear is how these questions get answered by leading athletes and organizations will shape the future of sport-based activism. Speakers at this discussion will be announced in the near future.



Future of Sports Betting: Reimagining its Public Value

Sept. 14, 2018
11:45 am-2:30 pm ET

The Aspen Institute
2300 N St., Washington DC

The Supreme Court has opened the door for states to offer legalized sports betting, and a couple dozen states plan to do so. Can this activity be used to serve the public interest – and not just the casinos and another industry actors? Speakers included Major League Baseball Senior Vice President Morgan Sword, Sports & Fitness Industry Association CEO Tom Cove, Sportradar US Deputy President Dr. Laila Mintas, gaming and sports law attorney Daniel Wallach, and Ohio state senator Bill Coley.

READ ORIGINAL ASPEN CONTENT: Sports Betting in the Public Interest


Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay

May 1, 2018
11:45 am-2:30 pm ET

The Aspen Institute
2300 N St., Washington DC

Our second event focused on college athletics and explores the implications if NCAA athletes were allowed to be paid off their names, images and likenesses. Speakers included former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson III, Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, former Wisconsin basketball star and current NBA player Nigel Hayes, and Atlantic-10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade. The event built off previous Sports & Society Program conversations with NCAA leaders.

READ ORIGINAL ASPEN CONTENT: The History Behind the Debate Over Paying NCAA Athletes


Future of Football: Reimagining the Game’s Pipeline

Jan. 25, 2018
Noon-2:30 pm ET

The Aspen Institute
2300 N St., Washington DC

Our inaugural event focused on the nation’s most-watched sport, in advance of the Super Bowl. What if flag football, not tackle, becomes the standard way of playing the game until high school? Speakers included concussion expert Dr. Robert Cantu, former NFL players Chris Borland and Domonique Foxworth, and USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck. The event built on the Sports & Society program’s thought leadership work on youth football through its Project Play initiative, which aims to build healthy children and communities through sports. Read our white paper on the topic.