Bioethics Blogs

Can Bioethicists (in Good Conscience) Watch the NFL?

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

Every year the National Football League (NFL) makes between an estimated $7 billion- $9 billion making it the most profitable American professional sports league. The players are arguably what attracts most people to the game and how the league makes its money, whether that be through game attendance or the sale of player related merchandise. The mental health of current players and especially retired players has come under a magnifying glass within the past decade. Past players and the families of past (and deceased) players have accused the NFL of mishandling players with concussions. Four thousand-five hundred players filed a lawsuit against the NFL accusing the organization of ignoring or not properly treating players who have received concussions while playing football and that this negligence led to their diagnoses of Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, heightened and uncontrollable aggression, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders and cognitive impairments.

The NFL’s alleged negligence has also been said to be the cause of ex-players’ deaths with one of the most notable claims coming from the family of Junior Seau, a popular former NFL player who committed suicide in 2012, who was later found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (Although Junior Seau’s family is not a part of this particular lawsuit they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL) . It’s important to note that many ex-players could have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but because it is only diagnosable after death and many players won’t display any adverse symptoms, many players won’t know they have it, but their families will know after an autopsy at their death.

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.