WASHINGTON (AP) – A group that studies sports in society urged the Obama administration Wednesday to step up the federal government’s role in athletics and culture, possibly with a Cabinet-level post.

Sport in Society, based at Northeastern University in Boston, said the enhanced government role could serve several important goals, such as encouraging more youth participation, promoting healthier lifestyles, and increasing access to sports and cultural activities.

“Far more must be done to ensure accessibility to sport and culture for marginalized populations, particularly women and people with disabilities,” the group said in its proposal.

Sport in Society says the government could create a “secretary of sport and culture,” establish a special adviser, such as a “sport and culture czar,” or increase funding for existing programs. According to the group, most countries already have a minister or secretary of sport.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the proposal is likely to be a tough sell in the midst of a recession. But the group hopes that President Barack Obama’s interest in sports will help its cause.

Obama loves to play pickup basketball, has lobbied on behalf of Chicago’s effort to land the 2016 Summer Olympics and the U.S. to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, and pushed for a playoff system for college football.

His bowling game could use some improvement.

Sport in Society said the federal government’s role in sports is currently “limited and fragmented,” including occasional congressional interest, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and the State Department’s SportsUnited program.

The group was officially making the proposal at its annual Human Rights Leadership Forum on Wednesday, which honors the work of student leaders in Sport in Society outreach programs. The students were signing a letter that was being sent to Obama on the proposal.


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