Editor’s note: On Monday (04/01), the Guardian newspaper ran an article regarding American football, calling it dangerous and to be banned at all levels, world-wide. As you could expect from an article with such strong views, it created a great deal of debate in circles even more far reaching than just us football fans. However, with all the reaction we have had directed our way, we have decided to issue a response to the inflammatory piece. Please note: we are not trying to clamp down on free speech. RealSport believes everyone is entitled to an opinion, running many articles that encourage that very sense of debate. We have included the link here to the Guardian piece, so please, read that article first and then read our response. Then make up your own mind. Yesterday, I was bombarded by links to a certain article on a web portal for a national newspaper. The headline for it was typical clickbait sensationalism, and the reactions from the people linking it were exactly what was being targeted, “I am angry at this article, so I will provide more social penetration by sharing it.” After about 15 links, I decided to take the plunge, and give it a read. Full disclosure – In case you didn’t already know – I like American football, I watch it, play it, and promote it. I am not disillusioned about the dangers, I have even written an article about precisely this issue. I read the article in question, and I went through a multitude of different reactions between then and now. Anger – I was absolutely furious upon initially reading this. Here I was, presented with someone directly attacking a sport that I am passionate about, using inflammatory language – Immoral, Banned, Gladiatorial – and it’s not even framed accurately. I couldn’t believe that the future of the sport was being divided down to a binary choice by anyone else. Disappointed – This is a newspaper. Yes it’s the online version, but still, there should be certain standards of journalism applied. The information presented in this piece is essentially a pub argument between two mates. One of whom just wants to upset the other. Football should be banned because…. Reasons. At several points, he argues his friends counterpoints, but then immediately refutes them with very little in the realm of sound reasoning. The counterpoint to a point made about people in dangerous occupations being paid danger money for the element of risk is argued with “but those jobs have to happen. Football is for our entertainment.” Those jobs aren’t vital roles. They are for our convenience. It is inconvenient for us to shut down large sections of the National Grid when we need to upgrade it, so we employ people to work on live sections. For this they get paid danger money. So do Railway workers, because the trains need to run, and trawlermen, because people like fish to be cheap. Confused – This article addresses the individuals concerns with American football, but does so without discussing any of the risks in relation to other sports. Rugby gets the lightest of mentions, and all forms of martial combat sports are completely ignored. Is this because discussing Dementia Pugilistica – another form of brain damage, incredibly similar to that suffered by some football players – would undermine the argument that the NFL should be banned? If this were part of the dialogue, surely we should be calling for UFC, Boxing, Karate, and Tae-Kwondo to be banned? We pay to watch people get hit in the head, repeatedly, and they get paid a lot of money for it. Concerned – The argument takes a strong swerve towards the need for removal of helmets to reduce head to head contact, using an out of context quote to back this up. Removing helmets does not solve any problems. Not that long ago, I watched a Scotland vs England match, in which a Scottish player was knocked unconscious in the middle of the field, and he was back on in the same game. He wasn’t wearing a helmet, and that was a head on head impact. Removing helmets does not solve the problem, and inflammatory articles designed to incite arguments in the comments section add nothing to the conversation. All this does is re-ignite the old Rugby vs American Football argument, completely forgetting the shared heritage, and cultures that they have. I want the game to be safer, and I want players to be able to retire without any impairment, but to be able to get there, we need to have logical and objective discourse on the matter. There is no singular solution to this issue, and to present it as an all or nothing option shows a lack of understanding of the sport, and of the fans. All contact sports – all professional sports – have an element of risk associated with them, and the players are paid based on a combination of this risk, and their skills. To claim that players are compensated exclusively for the risk associated is ridiculous, and insulting to the skill levels that these professional sportsmen strive towards. I don’t write articles about the Israel – Palestine situation. Not because I don’t have an opinion on the matter (anyone who knows me will tell you that there’s nothing I have no opinion on), but because I simply don’t have enough information to be able to form a valid, and informed viewpoint on it. There needs to be a clear division between how people feel about a subject, and article writing for informative purposes. The Internet is full of clickbait trolling pieces that are designed to upset and degrade people into providing further social penetration for a website. As journalists we should be striving to produce informative and insightful work that leaves the reader more knowledgeable on the given subject.
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