Over the past couple of years, we have heard increasing rhetoric that we need to limit athletes’ abilities to participate in heavy contact sports because it is unethical. We have even heard some noise with regards to banning these sports – football and rugby – outright because it is barbaric to see men (and women) smashing their bodies against one another and damaging their brains. However, is it really our role to tell humans what to do if they are not being coerced to and are not harming another purposefully? Moreover, it is not like the players do not want to be hit – they have signed up for the sport and are making a living doing it. If one did not want to get hit, he would simply quit or retire. Furthermore, the argument that this is somehow a barbaric sport is extremely misleading. The colosseum fights that many of the contact sports haters today allude to have a huge difference that is glossed over from the sports we view today. Most of the “players” back then were prisoners or people who were forced to fight. The players today are not forced to fight and they are paid millions of dollars to play the game of football or rugby. Moreover, they love playing these sports; the players grew up idolizing stars of past generations and it was their dream of playing on a professional sports team. Therefore, why would it be ethical to breakup their dream and the future dreams of millions of children across the country? In my opinion, the last thing we should do is take away a sport as popular as football; this is because it serves as a unifying force for the country. How would it be ethical to deprive millions of people from coming together and enjoying a sport that generates joy and jubilance?
Many point to the idea that we are allowing these players to kill each other; this is an extremely hyperbolic statement that holds no fact. The fact of the matter is that these players are protected by high-tech padding and equipment that was not available to the players of old. Moreover, the Leagues have put in place more rules designed at protecting the most vulnerable positions. This is because they are concerned with the players’ safety and have made it a top priority. Moreover, I am not denying that there are long-term health effects that are negative for players, but it is not our place for telling these players to regulate their health. If we started to make obese people run on treadmills to thin out, would this be ethical? If we shoved one stick of butter down an anorexic person’s gut per day, would this be ethical? Any sane person would say that both of these suggestions would be wholly unethical because it would be depriving these people of choices on how to live their life. Telling an athlete who plays a dangerous sport not to play anymore would be a huge deprivation of their individual rights and their ability to make a choice on how to live their life. To an athlete, playing may be more important than the later years in their life, and they may be willing to take that risk because being out on the field is extremely important to them. We need to be more sympathetic to the possibility that one may value something entirely different than another. If we usher in this level of understanding, we will ultimately come to the conclusion that it is ethical to be promoting contact sports because they are bringers of joy and energy and work to unite people of all different viewpoints.
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