A Time Magazine senior writer who covers sports has written an op-ed in which he decries the idea of parents letting their children watch football, declaring current knowledge of the possibility of brain damage suffered by players should preclude kids from watching the sport.
Sean Gregory writes of the 1980s and early 1990s, when he was growing up, “ … those were more innocent days. Back then, football fans were unaware of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the neurodegenerative disease associated with football brain trauma.”
Gregory has other, more political reasons he cites to buttress the position that his teenage son should not watch the sport, arguing:
But should I be O.K. with his watching the game? Don’t his eyeballs help support an enterprise that we know can damage its participants? This is on top of the laundry list of other reasons to tune out, like the stain of disturbing NFL domestic-violence incidents. Or the apparent blacklisting of a player, Colin Kaepernick, for a peaceful act of protest. Or a sudden dearth of African-American head coaches: three now, as opposed to seven in 2018. Around 60% of the NFL’s players are black. There are no African-American majority owners.
Metaphorically striking his forehead while issuing a mea culpa, he continues, “On Super Bowl Sunday, in what may be America’s foremost annual display of mass hypocrisy, around 100 million people will tune in. As a sportswriter who’s relished the opportunity to park myself in multiple Super Bowl press boxes, I’m even more compromised. Not only have I introduced my son to a problematic game, writing about it is part of my job.”
Gregory quotes Jim Taylor, a Bay Area psychologist, theorizing that in watching football, “you’re gaining enjoyment from other people’s suffering. There’s no doubt about that.”
Gregory also quotes Michael Bennett McNulty, a professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, stating, “Without all the individuals supporting the sport, the harms wouldn’t happen. Saying one is complicit is right and justified.”
He quotes his fifth-grade son, who sounds like his father as he says of Colin Kaepernick, “Everyone is allowed to have political views. He might have different political views than the owners, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have a job. It would be different if he sucked. But he doesn’t suck. He carried a team to the Super Bowl.”
Gregory continues, “Though we could bond in other ways, Will’s deep love of football is now part of his personality. Abandoning the game would not just alter his fall Sunday routine but cause parental resentment my heart couldn’t bear. What I’ve realized, however, is that it’s also not O.K. to simply be spectators. As my son gets older, I have to be better about engaging him in age-appropriate conversations about the reality of the sport. Football may bring us joy, but it’s not unadulterated.”
Gregory contacted psychology professor Ira Hyman, a psychology professor who no longer watches the sport, and asked him if Gregory was a hypocrite. He writes that Hyman laughed, “I’m not going to call you a hypocrite,” prompting Gregory to conclude, “I suspect he’s just being nice.”