In a new documentary, acclaimed author Malcolm Gladwell says football will become “ghettoized” -- attracting only those “whom the risks are acceptable” because of the threat posed by head injuries.
Gladwell is interviewed in the new film “United States of Football” which documents the head trauma issue from youth football to the NFL. The film by Sean Pamphilon opens across the country in theaters on Friday.
Because of that threat of head injuries, “we will go to a middle position where we will disclose the risks and essentially dare people to play …,” says Gladwell, best-selling author of The Tipping Point and Outliers;. “That’s what the Army does. So we leave the Army for kids who have other options, for whom the risks are acceptable.
“That’s what football is going to become. It’s going to become the Army. That’s a very, very different situation. That’s a ghettoized sport, not a mainstream American sport.”
Gladwell did not respond to email requests for comment. Explaining the “ghettoized” remark, Pamphilon said, “I think his implication is pretty clear. Suburban white kids or their parents are going to opt out … More affluent people are going to decide they don’t want to put their kids in that position.
“His assertion is that it’s [football] going to stay relevant at least for the time being in lower income areas and then also football hot beds such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, certainly Texas, places were it transcends socio-economic conditions.”
Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH did not respond to a CBSSpots.com request for comment.
“His [Gladwell’s] assertion is … in places where football isn’t the only thing to do, those fans are going to opt out first,” Pamphilon told CBSSports.com. “Certain colleges are going to follow and there will be a steady decline in the participation of the game.
“It means the future of football is going to become very much in line with the military. We’re going to have to own the fact that we’re putting people in certain situations and it’s going to be less glorified, there’s less of that glamorous veneer.”
The NFL settled a lawsuit on Thursday with 4,500 former players who had sued the league over head trauma issues. The NCAA is in a similar position, named as a defendant in lawsuit filed by four former athletes.
Pamphilon is known as the person who released the audio of former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams telling his players to target the heads of opponents. That tape became a large part of the Bountygate scandal.
CBSSports.com was sent an advance screening of the film.