The morality of watching (American) football

The question in this week’s New York Times Ethicist column is whether it is wrong to watch football because of the inherent dangers to the players. The ethicist, Chuck Klosterman, says that it is ethical to watch football because the players made the decision to play freely with full knowledge of the risks. Although I think Klosterman has a valid point and I do not judge anyone who enjoys football, I have personally decided to forgo watching it. I simply could no longer stomach watching player after player going down with serious injuries each week. In Klosterman’s article, he goes on to say that even if football were the only livelihood the players had, we should still watch football so that they could have a livelihood. This is where I disagree. Aside from the fact that we shouldn’t have a society where the only chance to have a decent livelihood is through sports, football need not be that sport. If football did not exist, some other sport, including a modified safer football, would take its place. Soccer is the most popular sport in the rest of the world. Football exists in its current form because the fans support it. If that support moved to another sport, the players would move too.

3 thoughts on “The morality of watching (American) football

  1. Then there’s the NFL’s poor decision on Ray Rice, and then the backtracking only when the hard video evidence became public. Only then would the NFL, Ravens, and others acknowledge the severity of the issue and do the right thing. Very sad. $$ trumps all in this league. But they’re not the only ones these days …


  2. @JTK What really bothers me is that no action took place until after the video was made public. Does this mean that domestic violence is not an issue unless there is a video?


  3. The NFL is protecting their own because they know Rice is a cash cow to the league. If they were truly serious about finding out what happened, they could have gotten the video. They chose to turn a blind eye and be passive about it — knowing full well that they might not like what they see, and would be forced to do what they ended up doing anyways.

    My bet is that Goodell and company thought they could spin it away and that the video would never see the light of day, or that it wouldn’t be that bad. They were wrong.

    There are people that say Rice will be back after 1 year. People have short memories (i.e. see Newtown). How sad.

    The real elephant in the room with the domestic violence issue is that overly aggressive behaviour — whether it be in sports, the workplace, the military, Wall St, or behind closed doors — seems to be rewarded in this capitalistic society. There’s only upside — no apparent downside. This is the real issue that needs to be addressed — where is the downside and punishment for intolerable actions? Is the acquisition of almighty $$ the standard for behaviour now?

    I’m afraid the answer to that question right now is pretty clear.


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