The Death of Football and California’s Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy
Last week, the NFL settled a lawsuit with more than 4,500 former players over allegedly hiding information that football increases the risk of concussion. The suit included the family of NFL linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year after displaying symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of brain damage associated with concussions.
The death of Seau and the long-term injuries of other players have spawned studies on the dangers of football not just for professional athletes but for children as well. Researchers have looked at CTE risk and mild cognitive impairment, a kind of dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease, as well as problems associated with autoimmune response, problems that arise not from serious blows to the head, but from even lesser ones:
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic have found that blows to the head that don't cause concussions may cause a break in the protective blood-brain barrier, allowing substances to leak from the brain into the body. Since those substances—in this case a protein associated with traumatic brain injury—aren’t normally found in the body, the immune system sees them as foreign and attacks them, the researchers explained.
In light of these studies, questions have inevitably been raised about whether children should play football, even with greater protective measures involving better equipment and stricter tackle rules. Some say parents should simply put off having their children play contact sports until they’re older. Others, such as the president of Pop Warner, have suggested that rules need to change so the amount of contact in practices is limited.
Mark Hyman, who wrote Concussions and Our Kids, said parents shouldn’t let their children play tackle football until age 14: “The better game for children is flag football.” The bodies of children are underdeveloped and their necks aren’t strong, he said, so they’re not as protected from blows as they are when they’re older.
A new study gives support to many of these concerns. Researchers found that 1.35 million children and teens were taken to emergency rooms for sports-related injuries last year. While there were many sports that resulted in injury, football was the worst offender with “both the highest number of all pediatric injuries (394,350) and the highest concussion rate (40 per 10,000 athletes).”
So, what does all this have to do with the ban on gay conversion therapy in California that was recently upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals?
Some people in the media have been warning that concerns about the health risks of football will be exploited by the left, which will ultimately result in the death of football. This will happen, they say, either through lawyers, by making the game so “safe” that it is no longer football, or by banning it completely.
Why would the left do this? First, statists long for utopia where there is no pain and suffering. If something is deemed by them to be harmful, it must be eradicated. Second, the statist hates any enterprise that elevates competition, the individual, and the free market. Dependency on the state is paramount. Competition, sports—especially one involving big business—threatens that goal. The only legitimacy of sports in a statist society is when it serves the purposes of the state.
Football, in my opinion, is also hated by radical leftists because it is masculine. To be a man is to be independent, to stand on your own two feet, to compete and to overcome. The left wants everyone to be dependent on the state, so such strong displays of the masculine American competitive spirit must be crushed.
And how will it be crushed? From the bottom up.
Some believe football will never die because the NFL is too big to be taken down. It has too much money, too much power. I agree. If attacks on football are leveled only at the NFL through lawsuits or even PSA campaigns about the dangers of the game, it will not be dismantled.
However, the NFL cannot exist if it doesn’t have players. And players come from colleges. And where do colleges get their players? From children who play the game—that means little league up through high school. If the game is banned for children, there will be no one to play the game in college, and that means no NFL.
But that will never happen, you might be saying. You could be right. My point, however, is that this trajectory is not beyond the realm of possibility—especially when we have court rulings like the one in California.
In that case, the judges wrote that parents have constitutionally protected rights to make decisions for their children, but that these rights are “not without limitations.” And what is one of those limitations? According to the ruling, “[A] state is not without constitutional control over parental discretion in dealing with children when their physical or mental health is jeopardized.” [Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 603 (1979).]
The fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific type of provider for a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful.
When it came to gay conversion therapy, the state decided it was harmful based on the “prevailing opinion of the medical and psychological community.” It wasn’t based on undeniable scientific fact, but on the opinion that this therapy has been shown to be ineffective and “that it creates a potential risk of serious harm to those who experience it.”
The legislature relied particularly on a report created by the American Psychological Association, a report that the court recognized as having “methodological problems” that “limited the conclusions that the Task Force could draw.” But that didn’t matter to the court. It used the report anyway.
Nevertheless, the report concluded that SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] practitioners have not demonstrated the efficacy of SOCE and that anecdotal reports of harm raise serious concerns about the safety of SOCE.
So, we are now relying on “anecdotal reports” to take away the constitutional rights of parents?
If this is the standard, then football is already doomed because studies showing the dangers of football are even more solid than those showing the harm of SOCE. And parents are already primed to keep their kids out of the game as is demonstrated by Ashley Fox of ESPN, who wrote, “There is no way I'm letting my beloved boy play the game at any level. Football is not an option for him. It is too violent, and the ramifications of head injuries suffered while playing at all levels are too great.”
The question, of course, is will the state actually one day ban football because it harms children? Will parental rights to let children play any sport they wish be trumped by dangers posed by the game?
We, of course, don’t know the answers to these questions. We can guess, we can prognosticate, but we can’t know for sure. But one thing we do know is that if the game of football is banned for children—and this is a very real possibility—there will be no NFL, not as we know it today.