On Monday night, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was sent to the hospital following a hit that stopped his breathing, put his teammates in tears, and stopped the game entirely. This is far from the first time the public has grappled with the safety concerns associated with the sport.
Football isn’t just a sport or a hobby. It’s an integral and complicated part of American culture — something that brings joy and excitement to so many, but something that also carries profound health and safety risks for those who play.
Is it possible to reconcile our concerns with player safety with the communal aspects of the sport millions of people love?
“I think the damage is actually part of the essence of football.” — Patrick Hruby, sports journalist
Listen: How Americans are grappling with player safety versus their love of football
Patrick Hruby is deputy editor at Washingtonian magazine, a communications consultant, and author of the Hreal Sports newsletter. He says football is a sport where people want enough violence to get excited and thrilled, while noting that if the damage goes too far, people will not watch.
“I think the damage is actually part of the essence of football because otherwise, we would just play flag football, we’d get rid of all this tackling and get rid all these pads and helmets,” Hruby told Detroit Today. “But the truth is, nobody would watch that, or very few people would watch that.”