It's no secret that embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford loves sports, and especially football. From playing on a team coached by Gino Reda to coaching at the high school level to participating in council football games to wearing jerseys to attending CFL games, celebrating Grey Cups and lobbying for stadiums, Ford's been a notable presence throughout Canadian football, but he also has a strong love for the NFL, as shown through lobbying efforts with his brother, Bills in Toronto attendance and even his tie choice. That might explain why he went on Washington, D.C. sports radio show The Sports Junkies Thursday to mostly talk about the NFL and make picks in what may become a recurring appearance. While Ford had plenty of controversial things to say about the Redskins' name and other topics, though, it's his comments on concussions that really stand out, demonstrating the level of popular ignorance that still exists on that topic. Here's what he said, via Lindsay Appelbaum of the D.C. Sports Bog:
*On whether football is getting too soft in cracking down on head injuries: “It’s ridiculous. If you’re gonna play the sport, you gotta know that you might get banged up. When I coach my kids, I say, ‘Guys, you know, you either get hit or be hit. You gotta be the hunter or the huntee.’ And I’d rather be the hunter. Concussions are bad, but they’ve been around for years and years and years, so I think you just strap on the gear, do up your chinstrap and hit the guy as hard as you can.”
It's disappointing that a prominent public figure like Ford would make those kind of statements on an extremely serious issue that affects football as a whole. Concussion research is improving all the time and suggesting more and more long-term problems arise from head trauma in football. Concussions are one of the biggest issues in the CFL, and one particularly bad one this year may have ended the career of legendary quarterback Anthony Calvillo. They're also a huge deal south of the border, where the NFL earlier this year reached a $765 million settlement with former players suing over the damage concussions have done to them and over the way the league handled concussions over the years. Plenty of former players on both sides of the border have spoken out about the effects they still feel from concussions, and the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which may be linked to head trauma, has been found in brains of deceased former football players on both sides of the border and now appears possible to detect in living players as well.
Given all that, it's smart that league officials at all levels are taking concussions very seriously, and while there are still some issues with head shots and early returns to play in the CFL, the league seems headed in the right direction. Similarly, the NFL seems to be making positive progress on the concussion front as well, even jumping ahead of the CFL on some rules. For both leagues, though, and for every level of football, it's crucial to spread the message that targeting the head is problematic and that concussions aren't just another injury you can play through. Ford's comments fly in the face of concussion research and modern league policies, and while he's entitled to his views, he's promoting a dangerous way of thinking that can only lead to more problems for football.