Millions are looking forward to an exciting Super Bowl game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots on Sunday. But it’s not all good — there are huge safety concerns about the long-term effects of heads bashing at full speed.
A great article by Richard Hoffer in Sports Illustrated about the very first Super Bowl reminds us that football is a lot safer than it used to be. It was a game that “did not insult masculine sensibilities with much protective equipment.”
In 1905, 18 men died playing football and hundreds more were seriously injured, some of them paralyzed at the point of a flying wedge, a medieval formation that promised a certain kind of gladatorial excitement. There was a growing outcry, especially in the bigger cities and certain universities, and even calls for the sport’s abolition. President Theodore Roosevelt [...] threatened to bank the game by presidential order.
Today’s professional football may be very different but the injuries remain. They’re just of a different nature. Few deaths and paralysis but plenty of concussions and repeat concussions, and now there are hundreds of ex-players alleging that the NFL systematically hid the serious health consequences of this, including suppressing evidence that showed a linkage to dementia and brain disease. Several lawsuits have been filed in courtrooms all over the country and it will be interesting to see how the cases progress.
This is but one of two major controversies raging about the treatment of the people who provide us with the things that we have convinced ourselves to love. I’m sure you’ve seen the New York Times report on the treatment of workers at the Foxconn plants in China who are making products for Apple and other major U.S. tech companies. The endless hours, working on weekends, exposure to hazardous chemicals, underpayment, explosions and despair-induced suicides and mass suicide pacts are just gut-wrenching. I won’t say that they’re shocking, however, because any consumer buying Apple products or other products made in a developing country can’t really be deluding themselves as to the conditions in which these cheaper goods are made. Unfortunately the prospect that this might be changed any time soon is quite dim.
[U]ltimately, say former Apple executives, there are few real outside pressures for change. Apple is one of the most admired brands. In a national survey conducted by The New York Times in November, 56 percent of respondents said they couldn’t think of anything negative about Apple. Fourteen percent said the worst thing about the company was that its products were too expensive. Just 2 percent mentioned overseas labor practices.
This weekend many of us will watch the Super Bowl. We will also use our iPhones, iPads and MacBooks to update our status, like and tweet about the experience. But if we’re honest we’ll take our wings and chips with a huge helping of guilt.
Image credit: juggernautco on Flickr