Football Is On Trial. It Was In 1905 And Maybe In 2019

Roosevelt did not make football safer.

Neither Andrew Luck nor Rob Gronkowski have declared “Football is on trial” as President Theodore Roosevelt did in 1905. But the two high profile retired stars have brought up an old football problem that has been around since the on-field death of a University of Georgia player Richard Von Gammon in 1897. The then President of Harvard University Charles W. Eliot changed football with a “habitual disregard of the safety of opponents” and should be abolished if that thinking continued. Eliot was also in a conflict with a Harvard alum, Theodore Roosevelt, who liked football. In 1901, Roosevelt became the President of the United States and football casualties were mounting. On October 9, 1905 with a death toll from the violence which was part of the game, Roosevelt had decided to take action and push college presidents into making the game safer. There were rule changes designed to make the game safer including having teams go 10 yards for a first down and allowing passing.

One hundred and 14 years later, football still has safety issues. There were concussions back in 1905 but no one thought about the lifelong impact of head and brain injuries then. There was no real professional football, no feeder system starting with youngsters playing youth football, or junior high, of high school football. Roosevelt and those involved in 1905 thought they made the game safer. They didn’t. It is another college football Saturday across America, a festive atmosphere at various stadiums and student-athletes are putting their bodies on the line for something. What is that something? The glory of the game? Or being a cog in a money-making venture for others while entertaining the crowd. Indianapolis Colts fans were upset when Luck called it a career because of pain. Players owe fans nothing but colleges owe players something such as lifelong health benefits

Andrew Luck

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