Pink ribbons and T-shirts nearly outnumbered Texans jerseys at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.
It was Pink Ribbon Day – part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – and the National Football League is spending most of October decked out in pink for the occasion.
It’s a noble initiative, and supports an important cause. The pink ribbons even add a nice bit of flair to some players’ uniforms. It’s a great way to raise awareness about key efforts to fight breast cancer – the NFL has never struggled with publicity.
But if the league is going to commit itself to public health initiatives like National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it can’t afford to ignore the most pressing long-term health issue facing NFL players.
Last Tuesday, PBS aired the Frontline documentary “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”
The documentary examines and condemns NFL officials’ response – or lack thereof – to growing evidence that concussions sustained while playing football can cause long-lasting brain damage.
The “concussion crisis,” as it has been called, is swiftly become a public relations nightmare for the league.
If the NFL truly wants to shake its reputation as a “league of denial” and support a public health initiative that will help improve players’ safety, it should directly and openly address the problem of concussions.
It should raise public knowledge about the problem in the same way it has so admirably taken on the issue of breast cancer.
It should fund additional research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy, one of the most dangerous conditions caused by football-related concussions, and help out retired players suffering from brain damage caused during their football careers.
It should change and create rules and regulations to improve player safety on the field.
It may require significant changes to the way the game is played. But at a time when many parents are keeping their children away from football because of concerns over concussions, the game may need to change to survive.