Turning Off the Friday Night Lights

Injustice anywhere, including on the fields of competition, cries out for response.

FORMER SAN FRANCISCO 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was presented Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award this spring—previous winners have included Nobel Prize winners such as Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai—for “his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination.” Kaepernick’s “take a knee” protests against police violence sparked a movement, across football and other sports, and they rest upon a rich tradition of athletes who have stood up for justice in the broader society.

Our cover feature this month looks at one of the pre-eminent justice issues for the players themselves, particularly in football: brain injuries. We talked with Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who discovered pervasive brain trauma in NFL players. Omalu, whose research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, was chronicled in the 2015 Will Smith movie Concussion, argues in his latest book, Brain Damage in Contact Sports, that no child under 18 should play football.

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