Tag Archives: National Football League

Of Black Lungs and Concussions: How Can An Ethical Person Be A Football Fan?

So now you know. And,,,?

So now you know. And…?

The worst thing about pro football is not its wife-beating, gun-toting, child-beating players, or that the league happily has been willing to ignore these little flaws while promoting such flawed men as heroes to America’s young. Nor is the worst thing about pro football the fact that one of its teams has a politically incorrect nickname. No, the worst thing about pro football is that it makes billions from inducing young men to cripple their cognition long before nature would even consider doing it to them, and corrupts its huge national audience by inducing it to not only cheer this process, but pay for it.

Sally Jenkins, in a frank, stark column for the Washington Post, compared the NFL to the coal industry of yore, when minors were dying of black lung and terrible working conditions, and the government had to step in:

Since the NFL insists on behaving like the coal industry circa 1969, the only solution to its problems is for Congress to step in and regulate the business of these 32 billionaire plunderers. This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs brain bank announced that 76 out of 79 deceased NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. The price for owning a team just went up. Jerry Jones, Bob Kraft, Dan Snyder, Steve Bisciotti and all the rest, if you want to enrich yourselves at the expense of the ravaged health of others, be prepared to pay for it. Your future is endless litigation and government interference.

The CTE thunderbolt follows closely on the league’s callous handling of domestic violence cases. A new raft of medical investigations and lawsuits say that CTE caused some of these devastating domestic explosions, such as Jovan Belcher’s 2013 murder-suicide. CTE leads to aggression, paranoia, impaired judgment and depression….Here’s the deal: Concussions are the black lung of the NFL. And the league knows it.

Sure it does, but my problem is, so do its fans. The nation needed coal, still needs it in fact, so regulating that industry was reasonable, imperative, and practical. The country doesn’t need to have a deadly sport to watch every Sunday (Thursday, Monday…). Once it could claim that it was innocent, that helmeted players were protected, and that the tragically crippled were aberrations. Not any more. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote of the Week : NPR Sports Commentator Frank Deford On Football, Values and Brains

football-brain-injury-symptoms

“A new study shows that almost one-third of NFL players will suffer long-term cognitive problems. Granted, that’s professionals, but obviously younger brains are at jeopardy on all gridirons. What mother or father can any longer willfully allow a son to play such a game with such odds? Verdict: Football is dangerous to your brain.”

NPR Sports commentator Frank Deford, in his weekly commentary, this time focusing on the deteriorating reputation and public image of pro football, and how football fans, so far at least, don’t seem to care.

It’s dangerous to your brain in more ways than one.

The NFL Vikings, for example, having decided first that sitting out one game with pay was sufficient to punishment for their star running back who beat his four-year-old son black and blue, then reinstating him for the next game, apparently on the theory that it had thrown a bone to critics, then pulled him off the roster again following new reports of an old story, involving Adrian Peterson allegedly beating another toddler son. (Peterson spreads his seed far and wide and with great generosity and abandon, having an estimated seven or more children with an equal number of unmarried women. The NFL and NFL fans have never shown any disapproval of this irresponsibility conduct, of course.) Now, we have no evidence in this latest allegation beyond text messages in which Peterson admits giving the boy a “woopin,” which is presumably the same as a “whuppin.” Peterson’s lawyer says nothing happened, and indeed, no complaint was made and no charges were filed. So what does the Vikings’ move mean? Is the NFL team concluding from this ambiguous incident that what Patterson did to his other child (that is, one of his many other children) was worse than the horrific photos already showed they were? How much worse could his conduct be? Is it sending the message that all corporate punishment is wrong? Who the hell is the NFL, which allows its players to maim each other, to tell me that I’m a child abuser if I spank my son? Or are the Vikings simply proving, as the league itself did it when banned Ray Rice only after a video showed him doing what it had to know he had done when it suspended him earlier for only two games, that it has no clue what’s right and what’s wrong, what is acceptable violence and what is unacceptable, what the public will ignore and what is so bad that it shouldn’t matter whether the public will ignore it or not?

Football is as dangerous to your values as it is to your brain. Continue reading

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We Are All Dan Snyder Now

Washington-Redskins

…and isn’t that a revolting development?

Few things infuriate me more than when unethical conduct by an individual or organization force me to side with the supporters of a position or a cause that I oppose myself. Last year, to cite the most egregious example, I found myself in the same camp with the National Rifle Association, Ted Nugent and worse when anti-gun zealots, uncritically backed by the news media, used dishonest, misleading, irrational and emotional appeals to try to pass more stringent gun ownership regulations on the wave of national horror over the Sandy Hook shooting. Indeed, the more fake statistics and shameless slippery slope arguments (“If we can save the life of only one child…”) that were aimed at guns and  law-abiding gun owners, the more I saw the wisdom of Second Amendment absolutism.

Thanks to the exorbitant and irresponsible rhetoric by the likes of Diane Feinstein, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, Piers Morgan, Jim Carrey and others—Don’t tell ME what I “need” to protect my family and home; there’s a possible serial killer on the loose in my Alexandria, Virginia neighborhood at this very moment who has been randomly knocking on doors and shooting people—I no longer trust the government to make rational decisions that affect my options as a potential gun owner. Good work, guys. Before you started using kids as props, lying about the number of shootings, and sounding for all the world like a nation trying to make sure only the government could own legal weapons, I was a supporter of more stringent firearms regulations. You lost me. I am officially convinced that we may need  guns to protect ourselves against power-abusing people like you.

Now members of  Congress are trying to strong-arm Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder into changing the name of his football team, using the power of the government to pressure him, through the National Football League, into bending to their will on a matter that is absolutely none of their business. Great. Now I have to stand shoulder to shoulder with Snyder, whom we in the Washington area know as a spoiled rich kid, a bully, an egomaniac and a meddling fool who has progressively reduced the region’s beloved football team to tragic joke.

And you should stand with him too, if you think our Bill of Rights is worth preserving. Continue reading

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Super Bowl Deception

"Well, I may not remember any of it, but the Commissioner says I'll life a long life..."

“Well, I may not remember any of it, but the Commissioner says I’ll live a long life…”

Today millions of Americans will gather around televisions, partying and cheering the spectacle of young men maiming and killing themselves for our entertainment pleasure during America’s most popular sporting event, the Super Bowl. An unknown but significant number of those athletes, we now know, are likely to be unable to recognize family members by the time they are 45, and several may take their own lives in despair.  Nonetheless, the official position of the National Football league is that all is well, and Commissioner Roger Goodell was touring the Sunday morning news shows to put out the propaganda claim that  pro football is good for everyone, even the players who accumulate concussions like the rest of us collect aggravation.

Presumably to appeal to the large proportion of the Super Bowl audience who know little about the sport, as well as the gullible fans who do, Goodell told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace (who, if he had the knowledge, wit and integrity,  should have stopped him and protested) in response to Wallace’s question about the NFL’s ongoing concussion scandal, that NFL players live longer and are on the whole healthier throughout their lives than the general population.

This is deception, and intentionally misleading.

Goodell is taking advantage of the fact that all the measures of the mortality of pro football players are flawed, which is why last year the NFL Players Union commissioned Harvard to do a 100 million dollar study of the health of ex-players and how to improve it.  The union claims that the average age of death of an ex-NFL player is 57 years, which would directly contradict Goodell’s claim.  This figure is supported by a 2011 study by the University of North Carolina, as well as insurance company actuarial statistics.

The figure, however, seems statistically unlikely.  Measuring the life expectancy of any group of adult men, even those engaged in risky behavior, will yield an average life expectancy that is better than the general population. Why? Because men in the general population die as infants, children, young adults, and before they would be old enough to play football. Thus the NFL and defenders of the brutal game continue to promote the 2012 study that found that NFL players outlive the general population. If accurate—and the players find the study difficult to believe, as do I—it can be argued that this study is also flawed. It compares apples—strong, affluent, college educated upper-middle class men—to oranges–everyone else, including the poor, unemployed, uneducated and poorly nourished. Attempting to get around this problem, one blogger compared the deaths of NFL players to other celebrities whose death notices were prominently published. His conclusion: there was no denying the fact that pro football players appeared to die sooner that non-football players from the same general class, but there was no justification to believethe mid-fifties mortality figure.

So do we know how much playing pro football lowers life expectancy, or even if it does? No….and neither does Roger Goodell. The studies are in conflict. However, we do know that a disproportionate number of the players who may live well into their golden years will do so unable to think clearly, remember their children’s names, or care for themselves, because they accepted big paychecks to allow their brains to be permanently bruised and catastrophically damaged. I don’t call that living or being healthy, and Goodell shouldn’t pretend that it is, or cite as fact what is a disputed contention at best.

Playing pro football isn’t good for you, and if the studies ultimately prove that ex-NFL players are really likely continue breathing as long as the rest of us despite their brain injuries, that just helps us understand why they have been killing themselves.

_________________________

Sources: CP24, Boston.com, Lotsa ‘Splaining, USA Today, Forbes

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The T-Rex Escapes: Lessons Of The Washington Redskins’ Nepotism

I can’t exactly say, like Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malacolm in “Jurassic Park,” that I hate being right all the time…in part because I’m not. It sure is frustrating, however, to see an ethics crisis looming, write about it once, then twice, and still see so many people surprised when it arrives like an angry T-Rex. Thus today, I began the morning by pounding my head against the wall to read in the Washington Post sports section a column by Jason Reid with the headline, “Mike Shanahan, by hiring his son Kyle, has created an untenable situation.” Wait, what year is this? Shanahan, the coach of the Washington Redskins, that team with the name that we’re not supposed to say, hired his son Kyle as the team’s offensive coordinator many moons ago, in 2010. It was a terrible idea at the time, an example of classic nepotism that created an immediate risk of exactly what is occurring now, and perhaps the certainty of it, if the situation endured long enough.

Last season, when the Redskins swept to the NFC East Championship behind thrilling rookie QB Robert Griffin III, the ethics-challenged sports fandom here (Washington, D.C., remember) cited the success as proof that nepotism is an ethics boogie man, nothing more. This was pure consequentialism. As I concluded my post on the topic last January,

“This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job. The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.”

In “Jurassic Park,” the same day that chaotician Malcolm warns that the dinosaur park is so complex that a fatal loss of control is inevitable, the systems break down and he gets nearly gets eaten. The same year I wrote those words, ten months later, it’s Mike Shanahan on the menu as Jason Reid wrote these: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces: NFL Football Fans

FOOTBALL FANSIn response to a question in a newly released CNN poll, a majority of football fans responded that the fact that the NFL intentionally withheld from its players evidence that repeated  concussions were inevitable despite the supposed protection provided by equipment, and that this would lead in many cases to devastating premature cognitive damage to players which would leave them disabled, depressed, violent, demented and/or suicidal until their early deaths didn’t trouble them at all, as long as they got their weekly Sunday football fix.

All right, that’s unfair. The results actually just showed that only 36% of respondents think that the NFL’s handling of the concussion issue has caused them to view the pro football league less favorably. No, on second thought, it’s not unfair at all.

I’m sure the NFL honchos who are determined to keep their billion dollar profit machine purring away, powered by the game’s consumption of the minds and bodies of young men lured by a short-term bonanza of fame and bucks, are whooping it up in their park Avenue suites. Yup, they did it! They have successfully converted much of America into crass, blood-thirsty sadists who are only different in degree from the Romans who cheered on Nero’s various bloodsports. Continue reading

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Preliminary Ethics Observations On The NFL Bullying Scandal

The bully and the bullied.

The bully and the bullied.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, the details are here. There is much that remains in question, but the basic outline of the incident is this:

  • The Miami Dolphins, like most professional football teams and also most college teams, have a tradition of “hazing” rookies, humiliating and harassing them in various way, “all in good fun, of course.”
  • The ironically named Richie Incognito, a starting guard for the Dolphins, was known as an especially relentless and enthusiastic hazer.
  • Last weak, the team’s second-year tackle Jonathan Martin walked out on the squad and checked into to a hospital, saying he could  he could no longer deal with the continued harassment from his teammates.
  • Incognito was shown to have referred to Martin using abusive language and racial epithets in voice messages.
  • Based on the evidence of the voice mails, the Dolphins suspended Incognito, who is being defended by his team mates. Sources are saying that his career with the Dolphins, and perhaps the NFL, may be over.
  • It is likely that the Dolphin coaches were aware of Martin’s hazing.

This is the perfect ethics problem to approach with what I regard as the most important clarifying question in beginning any ethical analysis:  What’s going on here? Continue reading

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