Much has been made about the protests during the national anthem that have apparently hurt the NFL’s ratings. But NBC Sportscaster Bob Costas said Tuesday that the sport of football is poised for a decline for a different reason.
Speaking at the Shirley Povich Symposium in College Park, Md., Costas said that football’s future is not bright because of the long-term toll on the players.
“The nature of football is this: unless and until there is some technology which we cannot even imagine, let alone has been developed, that would make this inherently dangerous game not marginally safer, but acceptably safe, the cracks in the foundation are there,” Costas said.
Costas was joined at the symposium by ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon, and USA Today Sports columnist Christine Brennan.
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The talk at the start of the symposium was about football and the long-term brain damage to people who play the game. Costas said what is known about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is the biggest story in American sports.
“Some of the best people I’ve met in sports have been football people. But the reality is that this game destroys people’s brains,” Costas said. “Not everyone, but a substantial number, it’s not a small number. It destroys their brains.”
Kornheiser agreed with Costas and said football would go the way of boxing, which is still around, but it’s popularity has plummeted.
“It’s not going to happen this year, and it’s not going to happen in five years or 10 years,” Kornheiser said. “But Bob is right: At some point, the cultural wheel turns just a little bit, almost imperceptibly, and parents say, ‘I don’t want my kids to play.’
“And then it becomes only the province of the poor, who want it for economic reasons to get up and out. And if they don’t find a way to make it safe, and we don’t see how they will as great as it is and as much fun as it is ... the game’s not going to be around.”
Costas said he wouldn’t allow a child to play football.
“I certainly would not let, if I had an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old son, I would not let him play football,” Costas said.