The spotlight has once again been cast on the potential long-term health effects of repeated head trauma for football players. Former Super Bowl MVP and current NFL analyst Kurt Warner recently commented that he would have grave reservations about his sons continuing in his footsteps and playing the game.
His comments come on the heels of the player bounty scandal that has rocked the New Orleans Saints and the tragic suicide of former NFL linebacker Junior Seau.
Warner's comments drew attacks from at least two former players, and those attacks against one of the more upstanding professional athletes we've seen in the past decade are as unfounded as they are asinine.
In a recent interview with The Dan Patrick Show, Warner was asked how he felt about the prospects of his kids one day putting on football pads and lacing them up. The future Hall of Famer gave a very candid answer, as relayed by Yahoo! Sports:
They both have the dream, like dad, to play in the NFL. That's their goal. And when you hear things like the bounties, when you know certain things having played the game, and then obviously when you understand the size, the speed, the violence of the game, and then you couple that with situations like Junior Seau—was that a ramification of all the years playing? And things that go with that. It scares me as a dad.
I just wonder—I wonder what the league's going to be like. I love that the commissioner is doing a lot of things to try to clean up the game from that standpoint and improve player safety, which helps, in my mind, a lot. But it's a scary thing for me.
Given that Warner suffered multiple concussions himself over the course of his 12-year career, and that he was reportedly one of the players targeted by the Saints during the 2009 playoffs, these would seem to be very valid and reasonable concerns.
However, that didn't stop at least two former players from attacking Warner publicly, beginning with former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, who had this to say in an interview with NBC SportsTalk:
I’d definitely have my son to play football. That’s what the Toomer family does. We all play football. But what this reminds me of is the guy at the basketball court, who once he gets done playing takes the ball and ruins the game for everybody else.
I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he’s gotten in his life has come from playing football. He works at the NFL Network right now. For him to try and trash the game, it seems to me that it’s just a little disingenuous to me.
Why Toomer felt the need to take Warner's concern for his children's safety and somehow twist it into Warner "trashing" the game of football is completely baffling, especially since nowhere in Warner's comments does he actually say anything bad about either the NFL or the game of football itself.
He simply expressed concern over the safety of a game in which evidence is mounting of severe and debilitating long-term health effects, especially if players are being implicitly told by their coaches to injure their opponents and "kill the head".
However, Toomer wasn't the only former player who decided to take a shot at Warner for the horrific crime of being a concerned and honest parent. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge made sure to fire a volley of his own on NFL Live:
I think it's irresponsible and unacceptable. He has thrown the game that has been so good to him under the bus. He sounds extremely uneducated. ...Head trauma is not the issue here—it's how head trauma is treated. The game is safer than it has ever been because we're being proactive with head trauma. That is the biggest issue.
Warner didn't back down from these attacks. He qualified his concerns about his sons playing the game, stating that "Yeah, I want my kids to play and I want them to be healthy and I'd love them to have a great long career whether that's collegiate, whether that's professional."
He also reiterated that the NFL faces some very real issues, and he believes those issues need to be discussed openly and publicly, although he was disappointed that doing so apparently planted a bull's-eye on his back. On Monday, he told the NFL Network:
You always get disappointed when it becomes personal because we all have opinions and differing opinions. I deal with a son who is 22-years-old that deals with a traumatic brain injury, so my situation from that standpoint is even different from others. It's disappointing that you can't have an opinion, and it can't start dialogue.
It's OK to differ, it's OK to disagree with my opinion, but I always hope that it can start dialogue. Everybody can share their points of view and we can combine all of that to make a better world or a better game for those that are growing up and that are going to play.
I love this game, and I love what it did for me and my family. I love so many aspects about it that can teach kids and taught me and created who I am today through what I learned in this game. But at the same time, I have concerns. ...I want to prolong this game, I want to preserve it for generations to come, but we have to continue to be honest and we have to continue to dialogue about those concerns, those risks and continue to work together as a group.
Those that are critics of me, those that don't agree with what I say—we have to work together as a group along with the commissioner, the NFL, leagues all the way down to those like Pop Warner and say how can we make this game safe. How can we continue to try to eliminate those concerns, or at least minimize those for parents?
Now tell me, please, what about any of what Warner said isn't 100 percent spot-on?
The fact that football is a dangerous game is nothing new, but we're only now beginning to realize just how dangerous it may be. The National Football League may well be facing a very troubling balancing act of trying to make the game as safe as possible for players without watering it down so much that its appeal with the public suffers.
However, regardless of what level of risk an individual believes is acceptable for himself or his children, the simple fact remains that Kurt Warner is entitled to an opinion that he earned playing professional football for well over a decade. And he's certainly entitled to raise his kids any way he sees fit, especially given that by all indications the man is half a step this side of Ward Cleaver.
Seriously, check out that link. If that's not a good father, what is?
If you disagree with Warner's comments and concerns, great. This is America, and that's how the dialogue that Warner spoke of gets started.
However, if you can't do so without resorting to personal attacks and name calling, do all of us a favor and just shut up.