Bioethics Blogs

Why don’t we just replace professional sports with paté baking already?

As the new season started, there was in the United States debates around the health of participants, responsibilities in and the ethics of American football. In September this year, a 16-year-old player died after a collision with another player. Earlier in the same month, it was reported that brain trauma affects one in three retired players of the National Football League. In a column in the New York Times Magazine, Chuck Klosterman (the magazine’s “Ethicist”) poses the question: “Is It Wrong to Watch Football?” Is it? I think the very institution is the problem.


First of all, let me reframe the issue. Harms that arise as an effect of participating in sport is in no way confined to American football. Boxing has had its fair share of serious injuries. Ice hockey is a sport in which interpersonal violence is part of the game, and breaking the rules for the expressions this violence is “allowed” to take is part of the spectacle, especially in the National Hockey League (practices are somewhat different in other countries). Not surprisingly, it is a sport in which participators recurrently get harmed. Numerous soccer players have died in relation to practicing their sport in recent years. Professional participants of other sports get harmed in less direct ways. In some cases, where professional cycling seems to be the prime example, there is a culture in which participants need to use harmful illegal substances in order to be competitive. The ethically relevant question is not confined to American football.


Before I continue, it should be pointed out that it is obvious that not all harms that happen in relation to sports can be blamed on the sport.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.