“Hating the Game”is the headline in the “NY Times Magazine” ethicist column this past weekend. There is a series of serious questions from a troubled fan:
“I’ve recently begun to question my support for the N.F.L. I suspect the recent discoveries about concussions and the prevalence of early-onset dementia…is is unethical to support a league…Don;t watch on television?…”
The ethicist essentially concludes that football risk is known by everybody and that voluntarily trading your future health for fame or a fat paycheck is just fine. Enjoy football and the footballers can make their own choices.
Pop Warner players making consent decisions? We wouldn’t approve kids that age taking drugs or getting pregnant or sky-diving would we?
And the ethicist totally ignores the pernicious influence of football and its macho culture. The NFL just this year has decided it will suspend players for domestic violence! And we needn’t even mention the whole “Redskins” debate to show how NFL is above and beyond normal commerce and ethics in America.
Here’s my letter to the NYT which I suspect will not be published:
Your ethicist answer to the questions from a football fan in the Sept. 7, 2014 issue was sadly lacking in depth.
1) You cannot pretend that all who are injured have volunteered. Do we really think a grade schooler encouraged to play Pop Warner, become a star in high school and then get a big university scholarship has volunteered to get brain damaged from the age of eight?
2) There are the involuntary victims of football. The wives, friends and casual acquaintances who are raped or beaten and then disbelieved or deemed unimportant because football is so central to our society’s view of itself. Can we really pretend that Penn State scandal would have continued for years if Sandusky had been an English prof or chemistry lab assistant? Steubenville, Ohio, has welcomed a convicted rapist back onto its football team. Gotta win.
3) Apart from those who come into direct contact with football or football-related violence, there is a huge cost to our society. Education is daily perverted for the religion of football. Many schools including huge publicly-funded universities pay football coaches more than any educator. They are the modern gladiators thrilling the crowds with their violence. Football twists the values of all the youngster who are players or those deemed inferior because they are not players. And the whole spectacle of cheerleaders I will leave to any intelligent female to assess.