A reader writes:
The recent posts a la "The Death Knell For Football" are really starting to get on my nerves. The point at which you started comparing football to Big Tobacco (which I think is an enormous stretch) finally pushed me to respond.
The risks of potential injury (and even injuries that could persist for years after a player had stopped playing the game) have been highly publicized for years. Even absent the concussion issue, players enter into the league knowing that is a brutal, dangerous, highly risky activity. Further, football players are individuals that have self selected for a dangerous profession — and have been offered significant monetary compensation to do so. How exactly are players victims? How are they any different from any other employee that has opted to work in a dangerous profession? It's not like they were rounded up and forced to play football.
If your point is that the NFL knew about the longterm dangers of concussions, but did nothing to protect their players, I would argue that the league has for years maintained positions in favor of safety that players themselves have pushed back against.
For years, the league and its teams have made efforts to suggest the equipment and pads that players wear during games and practices, but players have pushed back because as an example, they prefer the helmet brand/style they wore in college or they don't want to wear pads because they inhibit their movement/quickness. Even now, as the league moves to make the wearing of mouthpieces (something that is know to mitigate the risk and/or limit the severity of concussions), many players have stated that they are against this as it inhibits their ability to communicate on the field of play. How is the safety of the players solely the league's responsibility?
I guess though my biggest gripe with this series of posts is that it singles out American professional football, despite the fact that the rates of concussions in many other professional sports (e.g. hockey, soccer, rugby, lacrosse) are not that dissimilar from football. Seriously, Google "rates of concussions in sports", and you'll find numerous peer reviewed research on concussion rates in every major sport. Why then is professional football such an evil entity, making money "off their bludgeoned human cattle", while other professional leagues get a free pass?
Our discussion of NFL violence actually did spawn a long thread on pro hockey and its unique "enforcer" problem – here, here, here, here and here. Read the whole "Big Football" thread here, here, here, here, here and here.