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Stopping college football is a moral imperative

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | September 25, 2017

The University of California, Berkeley must stop systematically and irrevocably damaging the human brain. It is unethical. Cal should cease supporting American football.

Earlier this year we learned that 110 out of 111 former American football players had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Early last week we learned that young boys playing American football suffer measurable cognitive and behavioral deficits even before they enter their teen years.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/sports/football/tackle-football-brain-youth.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Later in the week we learnt that 27-year-old Aaron Hernandez (a star player with a $40 million contract with New England Patriots), who had committed suicide while serving a life sentence for murder, had “the most severe case [of CTE] ever see for someone of Aaron’s age.”

Aaron’s family has brought a lawsuit against the NFL for not recognizing the danger American football presents to the brains of players.

Enough is enough.

You can be in a wheelchair, blind or handicapped in a variety of ways, but to be part of a university you must have a  functioning brain.

It is not a matter of whether some alumni may stop donating. Moral decisions are not for sale. It is not a matter of whether football costs more than it brings into the university. It is not a question of whether many students, faculty and staff enjoy football. It is not a question that more and more past players are likely to sue the regents. There is unequivocal evidence that college football causes unacceptable levels of brain damage.

People enjoy Formula One racing, but no one would support removing the brakes from racing cars to make that spectator sport even more exciting. It would be unethical to make the sport so dangerous.

Over the past few years compelling scientific evidence has built up that college football is simply too dangerous to be allowed to continue. It is a question of ethics, pure and simple.

Comments to “Stopping college football is a moral imperative

  1. Agree with this comment //Another immorality is encouraged by having students and others become fans of the teams. The University is supposed to encourage “critical thinking”. There is no thinking that links the football team to the University. They are athletes recruited from all over, by hook or crook (cf, this week’s basketball revelations), to play where it may most advance their chances to advance to the pros. The fans scream and high-five for “their” team when “we” score. Sorry, sucker. It’s not YOUR team and YOU did not score. Think critically. To be a fan is just FANtasy. To encourage being an enthusiast for an entity with which, in honesty, you have no real interest or connection creates a situation of mind akin to the exuberance of a Nazi rally. It is the same unthinking, mindless, emotional mob state that is opposite of the goal of a University. Big-time sports should be dropped by every self-respecting university. If real students want to do sports and even compete with other schools, that’s fine. The current ethos of big-time college and pro sports is profoundly evil.//

  2. Thank you, Professor Potts, for expressing this in the terms that a great number of us have long thought about this issue. We do need to start having difficult conversations about football, recognizing that just because we’ve already sunk half a BILLION dollars on a stadium used for six home games a season, we shouldn’t continue turning our student athletes’ brains into swiss cheese.

  3. Another immorality is encouraged by having students and others become fans of the teams. The University is supposed to encourage “critical thinking”. There is no thinking that links the football team to the University. They are athletes recruited from all over, by hook or crook (cf, this week’s basketball revelations), to play where it may most advance their chances to advance to the pros. The fans scream and high-five for “their” team when “we” score. Sorry, sucker. It’s not YOUR team and YOU did not score. Think critically. To be a fan is just FANtasy. To encourage being an enthusiast for an entity with which, in honesty, you have no real interest or connection creates a situation of mind akin to the exuberance of a Nazi rally. It is the same unthinking, mindless, emotional mob state that is opposite of the goal of a University. Big-time sports should be dropped by every self-respecting university. If real students want to do sports and even compete with other schools, that’s fine. The current ethos of big-time college and pro sports is profoundly evil.

  4. “Earlier this year we learned that 110 out of 111 former American football players had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).” This misstatement reads like something you would hear out of the current White House. Citing a sample based on players who showed severe CTE systems as representative, undermines the credibility of those researching CTE. Moreover, almost the entire sample is of professional players. Even critics of American football with an actual scientific background readily admit most players don’t show these symptoms. Greater research is necessary at all levels of football to explain why some players suffer CTE and others do not. There is far greater research at the professional level due to funding from settlements, and other sources. The commentary regarding college evidence is utter fiction. To the contrary, more research on college players needs to be funded. Ask professionals who actually research the area.

  5. The stadium rebuild put UC in hock for almost a half billion with predictions about its financial future pessimistic.
    Meanwhile, coaches get paid handsomely with no academic return:
    The best-compensated public employees in California last year:
    UCLA football coach Jim Mora, who made $3.57 million
    UC Berkeley basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, who earned $2.93 million
    and football coach Sonny Dykes, $2.89 million.
    UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford, at $2.72 million

    All this to provide a field of astroturf for scrambling brains.

  6. “People enjoy Formula One racing, but no one would support removing the brakes from racing cars to make that spectator sport even more exciting.” Shouldn’t you be arguing for better safety protocols and equipment rather than flat out elimination?

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