Pro sports full of hypocrisy

Robert Burkett / Washburn Review

Sunday saw 200 mph laps as racers kicked off the 2011 NASCAR season in the Daytona 500. What most viewers are talking about after the race are the large number of wrecks that took place during the race.

While the ruling body of NASCAR regrets the accidents, one cannot ignore the marketing ploys that have been deployed to attract fans to the sport. Almost without fail, every commercial during the race featured wrecks or some sort of high -speed accident. On this, the tenth anniversary of the death of one of the sport’s biggest stars, Dale Earnhardt, one has to think that NASCAR’s hypocrisy is almost palpable.

During one of the more recent documentaries detailing that fateful day, Richard Childress, long time friend of Earnhardt, stated he and Earnhardt had spoken shortly before his death during the race in which he expressed concern that someone could eventually be killed in the high speed wrecks that can take place in NASCAR. The resulting bemoaning of his loss to such an accident smacks of an organization that is drowning in its own Catch-22. The sport markets itself as raw speed and violent collisions and then expresses its distaste at the very thing that brings casual fans to the screen.

Along with their motorsports brethren comes the king of Mount Hypocrisy, the National Football League. In a league that grossed $9 billion this past season, the league handed out less than 0.2 percent of that total in fines for illegal hits, including impacts to the helmet. This comes on the heels of a labor stoppage that includes among the issues at hand, both the present and future safety of players. With a sport that has had paralyzed players like Dennis Byrd, multiple quarterbacks like Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, both of whom spent time this past season dealing with the effects of concussions, the league has a responsibility to safeguard the health of the players that allow the sport to profit.

With retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, even becoming homeless due, in part, to their inability to function in society, the league has been unwilling and at times, unresponsive to the issue of these athletes that are used up and then casually thrown away.

At the end of this sad tale, one hopes that professional sports leagues will take a long hard look at the way they market their product and care for their employees.