Recently, I read a post by user shenwick entitled The Demise of the NFL. The author argues that the NFL is responsible for players’ injuries and also for making the league safer. He asserts that “it is morally appalling to let fans stand idly by and watch their favorite players destroy their bodies,” further asking “Is it right that retired players “can’t walk for any extended distance[s]” or “hurt like hell every morning when [they] wake up” for our entertainment? While I do think player safety is important and an admirable thing to strive for, I can’t help but disagree. So long as football continues to be football, injuries will happen, and there is only so much that the league can do. Fans are not going to give up on the sport just because it is violent, and I do not think that players should solely be treated as victims in this situation.
In his post, the author implies that he supports new rule changes that prevent defenseless receivers from receiving devastating hits and outlaw hitting quarterbacks above their heads, but goes on to say that he thinks the NFL still “needs to decide where they stand on this issue and take a hard stance, rather than tiptoeing in between.” At this point, I’m not what else he wants the NFL to do. It has (against the will of many fans and players) implemented rules to ensure safer hits are taking place, and enforces these rules with penalties and fines. What is the “hard stance” the author is talking about? The league has already done almost everything it can to reduce the risk of injuries, so is the author suggesting that it ban tackling? No matter what rules and restrictions are placed on it, tackling is inherently dangerous, and also a constitutive element of professional-level football. The bottom line is that the NFL has already taken its hard stance, and the harsh reality we face is that even with rules and reforms, football is and always will be an incredibly dangerous sport. So long as football continues to be football, injuries will happen and the league does not deserve to be held fully responsible.
Sometimes clean hits result in concussions, as seen here. What is the NFL to do, ban tackling?
When the author mentions “players [destroying] their bodies,” he fails to acknowledge that they are aware of what they are doing to themselves. Nobody is forcing a player like Wes Welker to step back onto the field, so why is he doing it? With all of the recent research being done on retired players with head injuries, I’m sure he knows what he is risking. He knows that football is dangerous. He is estimated to be worth $20 million, and recently signed a new contract worth $12 million, so he definitely doesn’t need the money. So where does that leave us? The only remaining answer is that he wants to. In light of his concussions and the potential problems they may cause him in the future, Wes Welker continues to play football and put himself at risk because it is what he loves to do.
In John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, he discusses the importance of individualism and individual rights, and argues that people should have the ability to do what they want, “so long as it as at their own risk and peril.” While what Welker is doing may not be the best idea, he clearly wants to do it, and is not hurting anyone else in the process. Why are people treating players like Welker as victims? He is the only one making the decision to step onto the field, and clearly wants to do so. The league has tried to help players like Welker, but at some point, people have to realize that football is dangerous and the individuals who play it are deliberately risking their health in order to do something they want to do.
Growing up, I always idolized professional skiier Shane McConkey. He was a pioneer in the world of extreme skiing, and was famous for BASE skiing- using a wingsuit and parachute to fly off of cliffs while skiing. Obviously, it’s not exactly a safe hobby, and he died in 2009 when he was unable to shake his skis and deploy his parachute in time to land. McConkey lived his life exactly they way he wanted to live it, and died doing what he loved. Like NFL players, he was aware of the extreme danger, but chose to follow his passions instead of choosing a safer lifestyle. Yes, everyone else can see how dangerous BASE skiing and football are, but should people like McConkey and Welker be stopped because they are putting themselves at risk? Should a BASE skiier’s support team or the NFL be blamed when a skiier dies or a player is injured doing something they volunteered to do?
Shane McConkey expressing his love for wingsuiting, on the same trip where he passed away:
In the end, people have to realize that football itself should not be vilified when players get hurt. After all, those players are adults, know the risks, and seem to like playing.