The End of Football?

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Football is having a bad time of it this season. The prominent spat between the NFL and President Trump certainly hasn’t helped. But the sport has also been plagued by scandal, injuries, and the mounting evidence that playing the sport often leads to permanent brain damage.

Just in today’s Chicago Tribune, there were three section one stories about football teams in trouble. Two local high schools have canceled their entire seasons: Niles North for “possible hazing” and Whitney Young magnet school, whose players have been plagued by injuries and academic ineligibility. Meanwhile, at evangelical Wheaton College, 5 players who were suspended for sexual assault and battery of a fellow player now face criminal charges.

On the Tribune‘s op ed pages, the bad news in football continued. As evidence of the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) grows, youth participation in tackle football has plummeted. Even though the NFL has pledged funding for research in this area and schools are limiting the amount of contact during practices, the thrill of this quintessential American sport has been diminished by news of more victims, such as Aaron Hernandez, who recently committed suicide. (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 27, 2017)

The link between football and violence should be obvious just from watching the game. But the number of players linked to domestic abuse is troubling, as is the growing problem of hazing on football teams. Perhaps it is time to retire a game that increasingly seems to have risks that outweigh the benefits.

My son plays football and has done so since the age of 11. It worries me to think that his future might be compromised by the punishment he takes on the field each week. And it horrifies me to think he could be part of a culture of violence that disrespects a person’s basic human rights.

Are we seeing the beginning of the end of football? Maybe that would not be such a bad thing at all.

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