Football, America's national pastime and most-lucrative professional sport, is "in conflict with God's law and character" because of the damage it inflicts on those who play the game, says theologian Dan Doriani who thinks the game should be retired.
Doriani, who is vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology and ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, wrote in a recent op-ed for The Gospel Coalition where he serves as a Council member, that despite being an avid sports enthusiast he believes the human toll is too great for the game to be something God would support.
"I believe the problem of brain damage places football, at the highest levels, in conflict with God's law and character. The Lord creates, protects, and sustains life, but football damages life. Jesus heals, but football wounds. The law says, 'You shall not kill' and for centuries the Church has taken that to forbid all kinds of harm, whether deliberate or careless," Doriani wrote. ... "Football is the most dangerous popular sport, and it is uniquely, irreformably dangerous, especially to the brain. Recent research on brain injuries leads me to say I would not let my son play football."
Doriani prayed for the game to "pass into twilight" like horse racing and boxing which he says were once America's leading spectator sports in the 1930s.
"If we help football dwindle, we may save a lot of headaches and heartaches in coming years. Beyond that, we follow our Lord, the giver of life, the healer. He became our brother, our keeper. Let's follow him by keeping our sons and grandsons from needless harm," he said.
Despite the concern over the toll of football on player, however, the NFL led the way as the most profitable professional sports league with more than $13 billion in revenue in 2016.
Bill Kynes, senior pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Annandale, Virginia, who is also a council member for The Gospel Coalition, disagrees with Doriani.
"The risks of playing football are often overstated. Yes, there are deaths in high school football every year. Each life lost is a terrible tragedy. But contrary to popular perception, football is not our deadliest sport. In one study covering a 30-year span, high-school football had a fatality rate of 0.83 per 100,000 participants — lower than the rates of boys' basketball (0.92), lacrosse (1.00), boys' gymnastics (1.00), and water polo (1.3). The attention given to football deaths is not indicative of its relative danger," he argued.
The pastor, who's a former football coach as well as a father of four boys, all of whom played high school football and two who played in college, argued that the benefits of football also outweighed the risks.
"Teenage boys tend to engage in risky behavior whether or not they play football. Hanging out with friends, who knows what will happen? I'd rather have my sons take risks in a controlled environment closely monitored by athletic trainers (who, in my experience as a coach, have absolute authority when it comes to player health)," Kynes argued.
"Is the risk of injury worth it? I think football offers a particularly valuable experience for teenage boys. (Waiting to play tackle football until the physical development of early adolescence can be wise.) It offers a unique experience of teamwork not replicated in many other sports, where success depends on the coordination of players with a widely disparate range of skills and roles," he added.