The cardiac surgeon and television host Dr. Mehmet Oz doesn’t see a contradiction between his stated mission to promote healthy lifestyles and a recent commercial he shot for the National Football League, despite evidence that
playing football can cause participants long-term brain damage.
In an interview with Ad Age, Dr. Oz said that he did not receive money for the commercial he made for the NFL’s “Together We Make Football” campaign and expressed his feeling that working to promote safer playing conditions was a more realistic goal than trying to get people to stop playing America’s most popular sport entirely.
“The real decision is: Do you want to replace football with antiquing?” Oz told Ad Age. “It may not be the solution that a lot of Americans want to go with. I think there’s a middle ground.”
The ad drew harsh criticism from Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, who targeted Oz for neglecting to highlight the health risks of football during his on-camera story about how proud he was to see his son record his first tackle in a youth football game.
In his interview with Ad Age, Oz said he volunteered to make the ad because he loves the game of football and the valuable lessons it teaches people who play it, adding that he did not know the NFL would give him two Super Bowl tickets and a $US20,000 donation to his health and fitness charity until after he agreed to film the spot. Oz also is working with the NFL to make football safer for players by speaking at clinics for mothers of youth players about diagnosing concussions, proper tackling techniques, and how to ensure that coaches appropriately manage injuries.
As detailed by the recent PBS documentary “League of Denial,” the NFL has been accused of failing to inform its players of mounting evidence that playing football can expose players to risks of long-term brain damage. In August, the NFL reached a $US765 million settlement with more than 4,000 current and former players who sued the league for covering up the danger of a sport that left many of them depressed, suicidal, and lacking memory.
Here’s the ad Hiltzik called a new low for how far Oz would stoop to promote a product:
The “Together We Make Football” campaign is an attempt to help repair the NFL’s image this season by asking celebrity spokespeople to tell their stories of how the game has influenced their lives in a positive way. By doing so, the league seems to be trying to convey that the social benefits provided by football — like the increased sense of community shared by a city with a winning team or the teamwork lessons young people absorb from playing — outweigh whatever health risks the game might present.
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