Changing someone’s mind is never easy.
Our brains are wired to tightly hold on to our beliefs, preferences, and opinions, even the stupid ones.
After all, 25 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth. Rapper B.O.B. believes the earth is flat. We call people like that a few sandwiches short of a picnic. But, try changing their minds. I mean, just try.
I used to believe that football was great (greater than baseball, even). I didn’t know that players were being permanently maimed and brain-damaged by the sport. I didn’t know that the National Football League (NFL) was complicit in this damage by covering up the dangers of their sport in an effort to pad their coffers and protect their billions at the expense of their players.
Now, I do.
Football is a violent and deadly game. The National Football League is a greedy, criminal, and negligent organization.
I have changed my mind about football. And, I haven’t watched a game since. I won’t be party to a game that sacrifices the health and welfare of their players in the name of sport.
I am, pretty much, a boycott of one.
I don’t pretend that I can change anyone’s mind about football, one of America’s most beloved pastimes. Super Bowl 50 – or Super Bowl L if the league used its traditional Roman numeral system – is Sunday and more than 100 million will watch it.
Here are 50 reasons why you shouldn’t. (Short on time? Read #1 and #20. If you haven’t been convinced by those … please read a few more. Feeling political? Don’t miss #43 and #44.) (Click the links for citations.)
- Let’s get the big one out of the way – CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the degenerative permanent brain damage that comes from repeated brain trauma, including the concussions and minor concussions that football players at all levels of the sport are subjected to. Symptoms include memory loss, dementia, aggression, depression, tremors, erratic behavior, and suicidal tendencies. While other athletes in contact sports have been diagnosed with CTE, it is most commonly found in football players.
- In any given season, 10 percent of all college players and 20 percent of all high school players sustain brain injuries. Brain injuries result in more deaths than any other injury in sports.
- Each year, doctors treat 389,000 musculoskeletal injuries in football players aged five to 14. Studies show an “epidemic of extensive neck and head injuries,” including concussions and football-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which can lead to, among other things, memory problems, concentration issues, speech impediments, and headaches.
- Research by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University on deceased NFL players released last September revealed that more than 95 percent of players studied – 87 out of 91 – tested positive for CTE.
- While the National Football League is the most profitable sports league in the world it donated a paltry $1 million to the researchers that carried out that cutting-edge CTE research.
- Mike Webster (1952-2002), Pittsburgh Steelers. The first NFL player to be diagnosed with CTE. To see how CTE destroyed his post-football life watch the heartbreaking Frontline piece League of Denial here.
- Dave Duerson (1960-2011), NFL Player. Suicide. CTE. Duerson shot himself in the chest to ensure that his brain could be examined by scientists.
- Junior Seau (1969-2012), NFL Player. Suicide. CTE.
- Andre Waters (1962-2006) NFL Player. Suicide. CTE. His autopsy showed that, while just 44, he had the brain of an 85-year-old.
- Adrian Robinson, Jr. (1989-2015) NFL Player. Suicide. CTE. That is not a typo. He was 25.
- Kenny Stabler (1945-2015) NFL Player. CTE. His brain’s CTE was “pretty classic,” Dr. Ann McKee, who conducted the exam, told The New York Times this week. “It may be surprising since he was a quarterback, but certainly the lesions were widespread, and they were quite severe, affecting many regions of the brain.”
- Last April, the NFL reached a $1 billion settlement with thousands of former players struggling with post-football neurological disorders and the families of those deceased players who were found to have CTE. Several players, however, are appealing the ruling arguing that it “compensates only a few neurological conditions, and not the depression and mood disorders [linked] to concussions and CTE.”
- Researchers have found that football players who had no “outward sign of head trauma” still showed “worrisome changes in brain structure and cognitive performance,” following a season of games. According to a Los Angeles Times report: “The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that a season-long succession of small hits — none hard enough to cause evident disorientation or draw medical attention — may prompt changes in the brain that cause problems with memory, mood or mental performance years down the road.”
- A 2009 NFL study found that former professional football players are 19 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or similar memory-related diseases compared to other American men.
- Studies have found that one in three retired NFL players will develop neurological problems and those problems will appear at “notably younger ages” than is normal.
- According to the National Trainers’ Association, while professional, college, and high school football organizations have established rules against head-first hits, “enforcement of these rules regrettably is uneven and infrequent.”
- Case Keenum, Rams quarterback, sustained a concussion following a sack during a game on November 22. He wobbled and could hardly stand. But, he stayed in the game. Watch it here and see for yourself. You can have all the rules in the world to protect players, but if you don’t enforce the rules, they’re worthless.
- “For years, the NFL knew its players were suffering head injuries that would bring serious long-term damage, yet it denied that, stonewalled the players seeking help and spent millions to muddy the truth.” Los Angeles Times
- The average professional football player lasts 3.5 years in the game. The majority of players last only a season or two and, because of their short tenure, are only eligible for very small pensions when they reach age 55. The NFL’s pension program is a pittance compared to that provided by Major League Baseball (MLB) And, it’s a long wait to age 55, because, according to Sports Illustrated, “By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.”
- They’ll get that pension, that is, if they actually make it to 55. While the life expectancy of the average American is nearly 79 years, the average NFL player’s life expectancy is the mid-50s, according to Harvard researchers. The average NFL player’s life is 20 years shorter than the rest of us. Quite honestly, you’re better off taking your chances with ebola in Liberia, famine in Senegal, or the civil war in Syria – based on average life expectancy, you’ll outlive a football player.
- And, how about those professional athletes and others who have publicly said that they believe the sport is so dangerous they would be concerned about letting their sons play today? Like, Brett Favre.
- Terry Bradshaw (Steelers quarterback, NFL Hall of Fame)
- Troy Aikman (Cowboys quarterback, NFL Hall of Fame)
- Mike Ditka (player, coach, NFL Hall of Fame)
- Harry Carson (NY Giants linebacker, NFL Hall of Fame): “Do you value your children? If you don’t value your child, then go ahead and let him play.”
- Tom Brady, Sr., father of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
- NBA superstar LeBron James
- Former linebacker Gary Plummer estimates that he sustained five Grade I concussions in every game he played. Every game. One thousand concussions over the course of his career.
- After sustaining a concussion in the NFC Championship game vs the 49ers in 1994, Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman couldn’t remember the game, couldn’t remember what team he played for, and thought he was still playing for his high school team.
- Since retiring in 2010, quarterback Brett Favre has been plagued by troubling memory lapses, including having no memory of his daughter playing in a soccer league one summer.
- Sean Morey, who played 10 seasons in the NFL, today struggles with the neurological effects of football-related concussions. “You cannot feel that kind of pain and have it not be related to brain damage,” he told National Public Radio in 2014. “The dysfunction, the pain, the misery, the confusion, the desperation, the depression. … There were instances in my life that would never have existed had I not damaged my brain. It is completely unraveling.”
- Dr. Bennett Omalu, the first to identify CTE in the brains of deceased football players, told People magazine last month that he would “bet my medical license” that O.J. Simpson has CTE. CTE symptoms can include mood swings, violent tendencies, domestic violence, criminality, and exaggerated emotional reactions to everyday stresses. “Given his profile,” Omalu said, “I think it’s not an irresponsible conclusion to suspect he has CTE.”
- Last year, 49er Chris Borland, one of the NFL’s most promising rookies, retired at age 24 because of the dangers of the game. “I mean, if it could potentially kill you – I know that’s a drastic way to put it, but it is a possibility – that really puts it in perspective to me,” Borland told ESPN. “I’ve had close friends who have said, ‘Well, why don’t you just play one more year, it’s a lot more money, you probably won’t get hurt.’ I just don’t want to get in a situation where I’m negotiating my health for money. Who knows how many hits is too many?”
- The concussion problem is increasing. The NFL announced last month that players sustained 271 concussions through this past season – an increase of nearly 32 percent over 2014. And, that’s just the concussions that the NFL identified.
- Permanent brain damage not convincing enough? Try some of these reasons: A 2013 lawsuit filed against the NFL by 1,300 former players alleges that the league illegally provided prescription painkillers to players as way to keep them playing and “intentionally, recklessly, and negligently created and maintained a culture of drug misuse, substituting players’ health for profit.” This negligence, the lawsuit alleges, resulted in players developing permanent nerve damage and other chronic illnesses and, in some cases, becoming addicted to pain medications.
- There are other football injuries that can – and do – significantly compromise a player’s quality of life. As the Boston Globe noted in a 2013 report on a landmark Harvard study of player injuries: “Countless former players struggle with searing and debilitating joint pain and rely heavily on anti-inflammatory medications and painkillers, say union officials. Many others grapple with heart disorders linked to extreme strength training common in the NFL.”
- Raiders Center Jim Otto, who played 14 seasons, endured 74 surgeries for football injuries throughout his body, including the amputation of one leg.
- That team from Washington with the vulgar, racist, insensitive, abhorrent name.
- In 2012, the New Orleans Saints were discovered to have paid bonuses or “bounties” to their players for injuring opponents. Some 22 to 27 players were part of pool that paid $1,500 if an opposing player was knocked out, or $1,000 if he had to be carted off the field.“Bountygate” led to one of the most severe penalties for team misconduct. But, the Saints were just doing what “everyone does.” New York Jet Trevor Pryce told The New York Times, “It’s pretty much standard operating procedure. … I know dudes who doubled their salary from it. Trust me, it happens in some form in any locker room. It’s like a democracy, the inmates governing themselves.”
- The NFL likes to spotlight its “generous” charitable activities. But, in many cases it’s the NFL, not the charity, that profits. The NFL promises that a “portion” of the proceeds of the pink merchandise sold through its Crucial Catch program goes to breast cancer research. That “portion” to charity is no more than 10 percent of the money raised from fans and some experts estimate that just three percent actually goes to cancer research .
- Speaking of charitable outreach, the NFL loves to tell the world how much they support the troops through their military appreciation days and other patriotic game-day activities. Come to find out, they only support the troops if the Defense Department pays them to do it. The government has paid 14 NFL teams more than $5 million over the past four years for these patriotic support-the-troops events.
- Because football is this,
… not this.
- Dear Republicans, You, of all people, should be disgusted by football. The NFL, a multi-billion-dollar organization, gets billions in government tax breaks and subsidies, government-funded, sweetheart stadium deals, and loads of other taxpayer-funded perks. Of the NFL’s 31 stadiums, 29 have received public funds for construction or renovation. “[B]eneath all of the glitz and glamour, these venues are nothing more than monuments to corporate welfare and taxpayer handouts,” David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said.
- Dear Democrats, You, of all people, should be disgusted with football. The NFL’s stranglehold over players and their union has resulted in a sport that makes huge profits for owners at the expense of players. The NFL is constantly in conflict with the players union over pay and players health. But, unlike other sports, including major league baseball, owners almost always beat the union. Football players work under a salary cap that favors owners and, unlike baseball, there are no guaranteed contracts for players.
- The NFL made $9 billion in revenue in 2013. While players have a salary cap that limits their compensation, owners don’t. They enjoy the bounty. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he hopes to increase revenue to $25 billion by 2027, which is great news. If you’re an owner.
- Or, Roger Goodell. He made $35 million in salary in 2013, more than twice Peyton Manning’s $15 million salary. More than any player’s salary.
- The violent nature of football appears to breed fan violence and misbehavior as well. Sure, there are plenty of ugly fans in many sports – especially when beer is involved – but, football is often singled out for bad behavior, during tailgates and at games. “When I came into the league in 2003, I was warned by veteran teammates to tell all of my family and friends to wear neutral colors to road games in order to deflect unnecessary attention that might cause them to be harassed,” former NFL defensive end Akbar Gbajabiamila wrote in 2012.
- Let’s cut to the chase. The Super Bowl is a waste of your night. On average, there will be just 11 minutes of actual football. Most of the night will be spent with commercials, watching players standing around, and the half time show. And, funny thing, that’s what most people want to watch anyway. A 2014 survey found that 78 percent of Americans look forward to the commercials more than the game and 12 percent say the most important part of the Super Bowl is the half-time show. Guess what? You can watch all that online on Monday.
- And, how about this? Donald Trump wants to make football great again by making it more violent and encouraging more head-on, brain-damaging tackles. As he said at a rally last month, “What I just said about a game — so I’m watching a game yesterday. What used to be considered a great tackle, a violent head-on [tackle], a violent … you used to see these tackles and it was incredible to watch, right?” The fractured syntax is Mr. Trump’s, not mine.
- This is Super Bowl 50 … or, in the roman-numeral tradition of the game … Super Bowl L. And, we all know L stands for Loser.
Maybe it will take more than this to convince you to turn off the game on Sunday. But, in the meantime, can I at least convince you that the earth is not flat? Here … watch this: