The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers are Super Bowl heroes. Sports heroes, that is. But they are something less than moral heroes in my eyes. Not that the Steelers are moral paragons. Their reputation for roughness many see as dirty football with helmet-to-helmet tackling and other tactics bordering on assault. While football is inherently dangerous, there are rules of the game, just as there are rules of war that regulate real warriors.
The moral failure of the Packers is of a different sort. They play fair. It isn’t what they do on the field that is troubling, but what they haven’t done off it.
The Packers, and Rodgers in particular, are in possession of information that could potentially save countless head injuries not just to professional football players but to all players, from youth leagues onward.
After receiving two concussions earlier in the season, Rodgers switched to a helmet that he says has prevented concussions since. According to sportswriter Gregg Easterbrook, Rodgers and the Packers won’t tell what the new helmet is. The team’s public relations spokesperson said, “that’s still not information we’re comfortable sharing outside of our building.”
Is that because other players may start wearing the same type of helmet and not be side-lined or even permanently injured because they had the protection?
But I’m not thinking about the other pro-players. I am thinking about the more than 1 million middle school and high school kids who play football each year. Easterbrook writes, “the main reason large numbers of high school players wear obsolescent helmets is that below the level of the pros and big colleges, coaches, parents and athletic directors have no idea which helmets are best. They look to the top of the sport, the NFL, for guidance — and receive none.”
The Packers are treating information about the helmet as proprietary. I agree with Easterbrook: “safety information should never be proprietary. Any information that improves sports safety should be declared openly, to all.
This isn’t about having the advantage on the field. It is about the well-being of children. Who turns his back on helping children from having their brains scrambled when all that is needed is share some information?
To do so is what is expected of any decent person. Not to do so is a moral failure.