A. J. Tarpley, a 23-year-old National Football League player with the Buffalo Bills decided to stop playing football on Wednesday. His reason? “After months of introspection, I am retiring from football. I suffered the 3rd and 4th concussions of my career this past season and I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health,” he wrote on that on his Instragram account and that was it. A year after another 23-year-old linebacker Chris Borland who played with San Francisco, Tarpley may have started yet another discussion about a link between playing football and brain damage, a link that some players believe exists along with physicians yet NFL owners aren’t quite ready to believe it.
NFL owners have put up united front in denying and saying they want more evidence that football causes brain damage. Dallas’s Jerry Jones first put forth his disbelief followed by Houston’s Robert McNair, the New York Jets Woody Johnson and Indianapolis’s Jim Irsay came afterwards. All have good reason to be skeptical. NFL franchises are worth more than a billion dollars and in Jones’s case probably more than $2 billion. Tarpley will be replaced by someone younger who is just as eager to make an NFL roster. The NFL’s Vice President of Health and Safety Jeff Miller said he thought there was a link between playing football and brain damage but the NFL did quick damage control and said Miller was reacting to a question during a Congressional committee’s hearing about one particular study. The NFL needs to convince parents that football is safe and have touted that a number of measures have been taken to minimize head injuries but football is a collision game and the head takes a beating in football collisions. A. J. Tarpley will be forgotten, he wasn’t a star but he is leaving because he has decided football is not as safe as the NFL wants people to believe.
Republished with permission Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.