The Assumption of Risk and Pro Football


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A few responses to the Atlantic's timeline on brain injury and the NFL's response:

This is true, but at the same time the athletes are individuals with significant autonomy, and I think they're more cognizant of the risks than most people seem to think they are. Unless a person is totally out of touch with reality, they ultimately bear responsibility for their actions, and I don't think we should minimize them, or claim that they're being thrown to the wind by duplicitous team doctors because we disagree with, when there are numerous instances of the players lying to the coaches to get back into the game. I'm sure some of this is because of how they've been taught, and pressure from their teammates, but I think a large part of it is also that this is the type of personality it takes to succeed in a competitive environment.

Another:

Uhhh...yes it's tackle football, and yes it's still dangerous. Every player who steps onto the field knows that and accepts the risk. Don't like it? Get out.

Another:

On 9/11 343 firefighters died in the twin towers, all males, giving their lives to save others. Males have always been risk takers with a view to providing, protecting and entertaining others. Yes, let's work to make it safer for these amazing men to do what they do--but desist with the attempts to create some sort of utopian fairyland where we live on pixie dust and old Happy Days reruns.

Another:

Take a look at this recent article from Esquire about NFL injuries from the players' perspective. It seems to me that these players are making the same Achillian bargain that young men have been making for eons. They're fully aware of the damage the sport does to their bodies...and they wouldn't have it any other way.

I got the idea to research a timeline on the NFL's response to brain injury after a few encounters on Twitter wherein people insisted that pro athletes were well aware of the risks they'd taken throughout their careers. This is a factual claim based on information that is knowable. But one should never overestimate the power of knowable information.

This Saturday I had the privilege of being on television with Ray Easterling's widow, Mary Ann Easterling. It's worth listening to some of her thoughts on her husband's last days.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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