Punt the Pigskin: Why We Should Stop Watching Football

July 17, 2018

National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell delivers remarks during an event at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., launching an initiative between the Army and the NFL to work to raise awareness about traumatic brain injury Aug. 30, 2012. Goodell and U.S. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the chief of staff of the Army, jointly signed a letter formalizing the initiative during the event. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Released)

Football season is coming. And with that, I am here to bring you the most important analysis you need before the NFL season even begins: you should stop watching football.

Furthermore, the NFL and the sport of tackle football should be abolished in America.

This take has been a long time coming for me. For years, I used to argue with my mom about all the ways that football was good. Every Sunday I would come home from church to gleefully plop myself down on the couch, and watch my beloved Patriots squash whatever poor team they happened to be playing that week.

I was Sheryl Yoast – Hayden Panettiere’s character from Remember the Titans – the little girl screaming out all the plays, loving every second of the game, that was me. But as much as I love sports – as much as I loved football – I can no longer love a game that is destroying the bodies and minds of its players, while a bunch of rich, white men profit.

In ancient Rome, gladiators killed each other in front of thousands of people for sport. Pretty barbaric. Probably violates UN Human Rights doctrine. But today, we watch football players kill each other slowly, over years and seasons instead.

Tackle football, at its core, involves hits and collisions. That means heads hitting helmets, pads, bodies, the ground. These repeated hits lead to concussions — these repeated concussions lead to CTE — to degenerative brains. CTE can cause violence, depressions, paranoia. Football players are shown to be more vulnerable to emotional and cognitive problems, even after just one hit. And CTE kills: just look at Aaron Hernandez, whose autopsy showed the worst case of CTE researchers had seen in a 27-year-old. Or take Tyler Hilinski, the 21-year-old Washington State quarterback who committed suicide, as well. His autopsy showed CTE so severe he had the brain of a 65-year-old.

The NFL is attempting to do something about concussions, kind of. They’re reporting more concussions and have concussion protocol now. But that doesn’t stop concussed players from returning to play the next week. It doesn’t stop the pressure for players to play through hits, especially since players don’t get paid as much if they get hurt or can’t play because they’re concussed.

The way we celebrate the deterioration of minds is sickening. Hard hits are cheered on. But Brandin Cooks taking a helmet to the head in the Super Bowl at full speed shouldn’t make you cheer, and it shouldn’t be shown from seven different angles in slow motion to the delight of fans. It should make us nauseous. It makes me nauseous.

And while football ruins the minds of those playing it, NFL owners and NCAA officials continue to get richer. And their old boys’ club comes at the cost of players’ civil liberties. To keep the President and other white supremacists happy, the NFL has now instituted penalties for protesting police brutality, despite being weak on things like, I don’t know, domestic abuse.

The NFL doesn’t want players to have autonomy, and they especially don’t want the black and brown men playing the game to have autonomy. It’s why Texans Owner Bob McNair referred to players as inmates – a comment he later apologized for, then walked back the apology for.

And while these men get wealthier, the minds of players deteriorate more and more. And we, as a sports culture, feed into it! We support the NFL by watching, buying tickets, and sporting gear. We reinforce a sport and an organization that profit off of the slow killing of black and brown men. We should stop watching immediately.

This argument can lead to some NFL fans getting defensive:

“But they choose to play and get paid millions of dollars!”

Yes, they do choose to play, but only because we live in a society that idolizes football. Only because football is the most watched sport in America. Only because football players are stars, Gods even.

And yes, some football players make millions of dollars. But a lot don’t. Most college players won’t make the NFL, and most high school players won’t play in college. But the risks don’t go away for younger, immature players. Hits still happen. Concussions still develop. Tyler Hilinski never got paid to play football, but he paid the ultimate price.

‘“But football is a way out for many kids!”

Football does provide ways for children born in low-income families, often black and brown children, to ascend social class, get a chance at a college education, and provide for their families. And those things are good.

But if we rely on a sport that leads to brain deterioration to be the savior for children born to low-income parents, then our society is broken.

If football gives a kid a better chance to go to college than their local public school does, our educational system is broken. If football is the only high-income job prospect a young boy can imagine for himself, our society is broken. If football is the only way out of a life of poverty for children in America, then our economic system is broken.

Let’s build a society where football doesn’t have to be a way out – where all kids have access to quality public education, where black and brown kids are not more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than their white counterparts, where our children do not worry about where their next meal will come from, and where we do not only value black and brown people if they are helping our team win.

If we create an equitable society, no one will need football — or any sport for that matter — to get out.


There’ll be a time in American society when we look back and wonder why we ever let our children play football, why we sat and watched it for hours when we knew the brain damage it was causing. We’ll look back and think it was barbaric.

Let’s get to that place quickly, okay?

Beth Cunniff
Beth graduated from the College in 2019. She was Voice's alumni outreach manager, and the former sports editor. She accepts her role as a privileged Boston sports fan, but there’s really nothing she can do about it.


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“while a bunch of rich, white men profit”- do some research, they’re are also both black and Arabic owners in the nfl as well. good job lashing out at the white man though, always worth a few clicks.

James's MOM

shut the fuck up it was a great argument and for your information there only 2-3 black and Arabic investors “DO YOUR RESEARCH”

James's MOM

shut the fuck up it was a great argument and for your information there only 2-3 black and Arabic investors “DO YOUR RESEARCH”


You have researched and written very comfortably. I agree with you, but the problem is it’s an addiction to be connected with watching football and even playing.