By Ken Reed
Perhaps you noticed the NFL’s “Forever Football” spots during the Super Bowl. They were short, mushy, feel-good odes to the game. They implied that the American culture would collapse without the great game of football.
In reality, they are part of a carefully crafted public relations campaign designed to provide a buffer against the onslaught of lawsuits and negative publicity that’s increasingly coming the NFL’s way due to a growing mound of research that connects repetitive blows to the head with short and long-term brain damage.
The NFL is also concerned about research showing the number of children playing football has been dropping in recent years.
According to Tom Cove, president of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the number of kids ages 6-to-12 years-old participating in football on a regular basis has been dropping around 5% annually for the past three to four years. That doesn’t bode well for the future of football as fears about brain trauma will likely speed up that decline in participation, shrinking the talent pool for college and pro football.
Another issue for the NFL, is the boatload of lawsuits filed by former NFL players claiming the league fraudulently concealed the risk of brain trauma caused by playing pro football.
To counter the negatives tied to the broad issue of brain trauma in football, the NFL’s “Forever Football” campaign has been created as a celebration of football, according to NFL sources.
The NFL is doing what it can in the face of a tough reality: the brain can’t be protected in a violent game like football, unless the game is changed so much that it becomes unrecognizable.
As the New York Giants’ Justin Tuck recently said, “The NFL is going to do what it can to make the game safe — but it’s never going to be a ‘safe’ game.”
That’s the problem, especially now that we have the new brain research.
It’s one thing when we understand the game isn’t safe for knees. It’s a completely different thing when we realize the game isn’t safe for the human brain either.
— 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.