For a brief second, football was unmatched. Weekend activities came to a halt as thousands poured into massive stadiums to marvel at the athletes who dedicated their lives to football.
But with the passing of time and advancement of technology came a more cautious approach to football from mothers. More specifically, those with higher levels of education. Mothers are no longer racing to little-league sign-up offices with the hopes of their children becoming the next star.
Instead, parents wait cautiously as the NFL maneuvers its way around numerous lawsuits involving brain damage sustained during competition and its failure to address it.
The amount of children in youth football leagues has decreased over the past eight years. A study by USA Football and the National Federation of State High School Associations found youth football has seen a 14 percent decrease in numbers since 2009.
Educated parents are exercising more caution before exposing their children to the barbarity that football has to offer. As MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred explained, “the biggest indicator of fandom is whether someone played the sport as a child.”
If that statement is true, then nothing explains the recent decline in NFL rating more than youth football participation. A lack in participation as a child means a lack of interest as an adult.
Mothers are now placing their children in safer sports such as soccer and lacrosse. Lacrosse in particular because it is often viewed as the sport for aspiring ivy-leaguers. A sport like lacrosse offers the illusion of prestige.
In order to fix the problem, the issue of concussions must be addressed at the highest level. In the past, NFL officials disregarded any notion that brain damage found in former players had any correlation with their time in the NFL.
As expected, the NFL’s denial solidified its place as the antagonist in the public’s search for answers regarding safer football. But the NFL is a business. It has shown in the past that it will do almost anything to make money, even implementing rules that effectively render defenses useless, such as the illegal contact rule if a receiver is more than five yards from the line of scrimmage.
The blind eye the NFL turned to the issue of concussions will quickly open as ratings decline. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already approved commercial reductions during games in an attempt to improve ratings. Domestic violence punishments became more drastic to ease the tension between women and the NFL, so it is only logical to expect a desperate move by the NFL to win back educated mothers.
As a former player myself, I recognize the benefits of football. It teaches valuable lessons that would be difficult to learn otherwise. For those such as myself that are lucky enough to play at the college level, it provides an opportunity for a free education.
However, parents are overlooking the short-term payoff in favor of the long-term health risks their children may receive. Youth leagues suffer. Colleges such as Northwest may miss out on players due the decrease in youth leagues and as the NFL experiences a decline in ratings.
Football may be in a comfortable place, but if it does not become proactive in preventing concussions, then educated mothers will be the least of its concerns.