‘I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain’ — ESPN college football analyst quits over concern for players’ safety

College Football injury
Darryl Williams of the Mississippi State Bulldogs is wheeled off of the field after sustaining an injury against the Kentucky Wildcats Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The dangers of football are becoming more and more of a focal point of conversations around the future of the sport. In the NFL we’ve seen multiple players retire early out of concerns for their health, and as the effects of CTE become better understood, chances are those numbers will increase.

Ed Cunningham is a former NFL player and knows the risks involved in the sport first hand, and recently stepped down from his job as an ESPN college football colour analyst out of concerns for player safety. Cunningham told the New York Times that, “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”

Cunningham went on to specifically cite CTE as his main point of conflict with continuing at his position, having known several players that suffered in their years after their time in football and a few players that ended their own lives prematurely who were later found to have the disease.

“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear” Cunningham said. “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

“I know a lot of people who say: ‘I just can’t cheer for the big hits anymore. I used to go nuts, and now I’m like, I hope he gets up,'” Cunningham said. His eyes welled with tears. “It’s changing for all of us. I don’t currently think the game is safe for the brain. And, oh, by the way, I’ve had teammates who have killed themselves. Dave Duerson put a shotgun to his chest so we could study his brain.”

Ex-players have been more vocal of late regarding concerns over concussions, and Cunningham’s decision will likely not be the last of its nature; as more information comes to light about the relationship between football and the long-term effects of concussions, other people in positions associated with the sport might begin to step down for similar ethical reasons.

Cunningham told the Times that he was free from the symptoms of CTE, and hopes to spend more time with his young children. You can read the full story here.