*Last week Kurt Warner, former professional football player, said on a national radio program that he wouldn’t want his children to play football. This was followed shortly by folks, some in the National Football League community, denouncing Warner as somehow betraying the sport.
To be clear: Warner is in a better position than most to make such a statement. Warner suffered multiple concussions during his career and could have been the poster boy for the immobile quarterback sitting back in the pocket as a target. In addition Warner has witnessed firsthand the increase in violent collisions, often resulting in long term damage, that threaten to undermine the success of the NFL.
So as a former football player Warner is in a great position to tell others “this game is dangerous and not for everyone.” As an offensive player, normally the players who get hit rather than hit others, Warner is in a great position to proclaim “getting hit with tremendous force by physically strong men should not be anyone’s idea of a good time.”
But these qualifications are secondary to his role as a father.
First we can all appreciate that parents know their children better than anyone else. Parents are in a position to know what their children will and will not excel at. So it makes perfect sense that Warner, wanting his children to be successful and knowing their skill sets, would have an opinion on whether they should pursue a career in professional football.
Warner goes further though. Warner expresses his distaste regarding his children playing football in general, not just trying to become pro athletes. And it is this distaste that people use to brand him a hypocrite. Still, this stance makes sense when you consider him in the role of parent.
When done by responsible adults, parenthood is an exercise in telling one’s children to go down path B with the full knowledge that they chose path A in a similar situation. How many times did I steal? How many times did I fight unnecessarily? How many times did I put forward a negative image of myself? How many times did I have to face my parents and say how sorry I was for doing something that was obviously wrong? How many times did you?
Children are extremely vulnerable and the world is dangerous and will show them no favor. So when parents engage in the kind of hypocrisy that Warner did, they do so generally because it is in the best interest of their children. There is nothing untoward about a father trying to keep his kids from sustaining multiple head injuries. The fact that Warner earned a good living by risking those head injuries is irrelevant.
In fact the fact that Warner made millions probably makes his desire for his kids to avoid football more understandable. Most professional football players are from modest economic backgrounds; it is why there are willing to risk bodily harm for the payoff of economic security. But Warner has already achieved that security. Most parents have the goal of having their children avoid the struggles they did; Warner is doing the same.
It makes sense to call Warner a hypocrite. But it does not make sense to attack him for being one. If we are honest with ourselves we all strive to become that kind of hypocrite.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.