By Ken Reed
The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are designed to be a celebration of the game of football in general and the NFL in particular. Things aren’t going so well for Roger Goodell and the boys in that regard this year.
First, there was the news that Junior Seau’s family is suing the NFL, claiming wrongful death. The suit is based on acts or omissions that concealed the risk of repeated hits to the head during Seau’s 20 seasons in the league, according to representatives of Seau’s family.
Then President Obama weighed in on the risks of playing football when he said that if he had a son he would have to “think long and hard” about letting him play football. Obama, a big Chicago Bears fan, added: “I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try and reduce some of the violence.”
(Note to the President: In terms of brain trauma, there’s not much that can be done, other than going to flag football. Helmets are designed to prevent skull fractures, not concussions.)
The Harbaugh brothers, Jim, head coach of the San Francisco 49’ers, and John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, responded to Obama’s comments with statements that displayed a lack of understanding regarding the seriousness of brain trauma.
“Well, I have a 4-month old, almost 5-month old son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little bit less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets old,” said Jim Harbaugh.
“I don’t agree with that (Obama’s comments),” said John Harbaugh. “I like Jim’s comments … I think it’s (football) a huge part of our educational system in our country and it’s going to be around a long time.”
Ravens safety Bernard Pollard sees a bleaker future for football.
“Thirty years from now, I don’t think it (the NFL) will be in business,” said Pollard this week in New Orleans, site of the Super Bowl. “The only thing I’m waiting for … and Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it (stinks).”
Some wives and girlfriends of current NFL players are also starting to let their feelings known about the risks of football.
Kristin Cavallari, the fiancée of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, said Monday that she’ll try to talk their five-month old son, Camden, out of playing football when he gets older.
“I will try to steer Cam in a different direction, maybe a sport that isn’t so aggressive,” said Cavallari.
Things will continue to get more uncomfortable for NFL owners and executives (and football power brokers at all levels, for that matter) in the coming months and years. The NFL is facing massive legal action brought by former players who believe the NFL failed to properly inform them of the risks associated with head trauma, or in some cases, failed to properly care for them after they received brain injuries.
Moreover, it’s just a matter of time before the NCAA and individual schools begin to get slapped with concussion-related lawsuits. High school football, especially, is in jeopardy as insurers will undoubtedly raise premium costs in the coming years for school districts sponsoring football. That could quickly spell the end of football in our high schools.
Not much of a celebration, is it?
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.