Football Analyst Resigns: A crisis of conscience

Other NFL fanboys and talking heads (e.g. Terry Bradshaw) have openly said they would never let their children play football, but Ed Cunningham is the first TV commentator to walk away from his job as purveyor and salesman of a death sport.

ESPN Football Analyst Walks Away, Disturbed by Brain Trauma on Field

LONG BEACH, Calif. — If Ed Cunningham had not already seen enough, he would be back in a broadcast booth on Saturday afternoon, serving as the color analyst for another top college football game televised on ABC or ESPN. It is the work he has done each fall for nearly 20 years.

But Cunningham, 48, resigned from one of the top jobs in sports broadcasting because of his growing discomfort with the damage being inflicted on the players he was watching each week. The hits kept coming, right in front of him, until Cunningham said he could not, in good conscience, continue his supporting role in football’s multibillion-dollar apparatus.

“I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” he said. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”

Football has seen high-profile N.F.L. players retire early, even pre-emptively, out of concern about their long-term health, with particular worry for the brain. But Cunningham may be the first leading broadcaster to step away from football for a related reason — because it felt wrong to be such a close witness to the carnage, profiting from a sport that he knows is killing some of its participants.

“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham said.  “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

This is good to see, but we need to see more.

If other good news, enrollment in Pop Warner and high school football is down as much as 11% by some estimates.  Football teams are shutting down in various places (e.g. Maryland, California), something unheard of outside of economic hardships (e.g. rustbelt town closures, 2008’s meltdown).  This is a positive trend and I hope it continues.

Youth football participation declines as worries mount about concussions, CTE

The artificial turf outside Addison Trail High School was alive with action as a practice session of the Addison Cowboys youth football club got underway. […] The Cowboys are now down to four teams, a decline that mirrors the uneasy state of youth football in the Chicago area and beyond. One program, run by the Park District of Highland Park, shut down last month after only 11 kids signed up, down from a peak of more than 150.

Coaches and youth league officials say several factors are responsible for the drop-off. Sports such as fall baseball are attracting kids who once would have played football. A fickle economy is forcing dads who used to volunteer to focus on their jobs. And video games and smartphones are proving more of an attraction than helmets and tackling dummies.

But the big reason behind the slide, they say, is growing concern about head injuries. News stories about former NFL players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease better known as CTE, have parents rethinking their children’s participation.



    • jrkrideau says

      Or a real game like soccer?

      I have noticed that a number of schools in my province, particularly the smaller, more rural, high schools have been dropping Canadian football for a long time, probably because of the expense and the difficulty of finding enough gorilla-sized players.

      I shall be weeping like a crocodile as it disappears.

        • jrkrideau says

          Real game: Can be played almost anywhere (baring hurricanes, floods, or heavy snowfall), does not usually consider injuring/crippling opponents a primary goal, requires no equipment other than a ball and unlike US football does not have a one minute pause after each play.

          Think of it like street hockey but you don’t need to bring a stick.

          And, I don’t think playing organised soccer as a youngster leaves mobs of kids with wreaked knees as US/CDN football does.

          And to be pedantic, as an Irish–Canadian friend says it should be called “throwball” since the ball is seldom kicked. Nor do they touch the ball down when they get a “touchdown”.

          I might have even liked playing soccer.

          • EnlightenmentLiberal says

            Well, for serious competition, shin-protection is strongly suggested. But otherwise yea, beyond basics (goalposts, ball, field), no further equipment is needed.