Tag Archives: ethics

The Limits of Fairness Ethics and Gender Equity in Football

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an insightful piece written by Richard Robeson and Nancy M. P. King, scholarsat the Wake Forest University Center for Bioethics, Health, and Society, for the May issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. To see the full story, please subscribe at https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

In the 2014 PBS Frontline documentary “League of Denial,” an anonymous “NFL doctor” is quoted by neuropathologist Bennet Omalu as saying, “If ten percent of mothers refused to let their sons play football, the NFL would cease to exist.”[1] Among the many possible interpretations of such an apparently simple, straightforward statement is an acknowledgement of the importance of women to the future of football. Professional football is extraordinarily lucrative, and the system from which it draws players depends in large part on attracting adherents at a young age.[2] The current level of women’s involvement in football extends well beyond that of a mother giving or denying consent for her son to participate. Not only are women involved in NFL ownership[3] and management; women are also sports journalists, sideline reporters, and analysts, and an NFL team, the Arizona Cardinals, made history in 2015 by naming Jennifer Welter to its coaching staff.[4] From the standpoint of recognizing talent as the principal criterion of career advancement, or of shattering yet another glass ceiling, such developments are clearly laudable. A related but potentially more problematic trend, however, is the increased participation of women and girls as players in the sport of tackle football – a development that raises the question whether fairness, justice, or something else altogether is at work.

To some, football is at a crisis point, and in some respects at odds with itself.  The sport’s popularity continues to grow. In 2016 the Super Bowl, the NFL’s championship game, was broadcast live in 170 countries, and “in almost 25 different languages, including French, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.”[5] Regular-season games are being played in England, Germany, Mexico and Japan, and future plans for extending the League’s global footprint include regular-season games in China.[6] According to some sources, it is inevitable that the League will eventually expand to have teams situated in foreign countries.[7] The NFL’s reported earnings for the 2015 season are expected to exceed  $13 billion[8] and this does not include individual team value or revenues.

Counterposed against this bright present and the promise of an even brighter future is increased concern about the long term health effects of playing football, as research[9] and advanced diagnostic techniques[10] connect recurrent mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) and even recurrent sub-concussive impacts to degenerative brain and neurological conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The narrative to which “League of Denial” owes its name and which is the centerpiece of the legal argument that resulted in a $ 1 billion class action settlement against the League — namely, that the NFL knew of the relationship between the sport and CTE but suppressed the evidence — is no longer tenable. Even though the settlement allows the NFL to disavow any wrongdoing ,,,

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Professor’s Post Looks at ‘the Ethics of Headers’

A blog post on the Santa Clara University Law Website, written by philosophy professor Jack Bowen, examined the “ethics of headers” on the soccer field.

Bowen’s post notes that “children depend on us for some paternalistic rationality” and looks at “whether youth soccer players should be allowed to head the ball.”

The author points to the fact that “two heavy hitters have taken on this project.  First, providing the science behind the issue, the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI)—this is the group that has brought the dangers of football concussions to the forefront of sporting consciousness.  And the second, the Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE), led by board member Brandi Chastain, who may be most responsible for popularizing women’s soccer in the United States.”

Bowen notes that “30 percent of concussions in soccer result from players attempting to head the ball, either by contact with the ball or in collisions with the heads of other players also attempting to head the ball.”

He goes on to dismiss the notion that a “padded helmet or headband” would help.  “(T)he headband is more like placing padding on the outside of a box containing delicate wine glasses and then tossing the box against the wall: the box may remain unscathed but the glassware—what we really care about—ends up destroyed.  When a skull collides with another object, be it a soccer ball punted from the goalie or another skull, much of the trauma results from the brain’s momentum sending it crashing into the interior of the skull.”

Bowen concludes that adults “have a moral duty to prevent harm to children when easily feasible. … (T)he initiative proposed by SLI and ISLE is not just in the best interests of children, but one of moral necessity.  To fail to do this would be to act immorally.”

To see the fully post, visit: http://law.scu.edu/sports-law/the-ethics-of-headers-in-youth-soccer-using-our-heads-correctly/

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