LeBron James made headlines Friday* when he informed ESPN of his Decision not to let his sons play football because of “the health dangers”. Presumably, James is concerned about “the health dangers” posed by concussion and other violence-induced head injuries that have driven down participation in youth football programs by over 10% in over just a three-year span (2010-2012). Those are legit.
But don’t let James fool you into thinking he is taking some sort of principled stand against the dangers of participating in sport.
LeBron does not appear to have been similarly concerned for the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George, who just this past year “suffered a concussion in Game 2 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals after taking a knee to the head late in the fourth quarter” and continued to play through it. James said at the time, “I think every last player in the final four would have played through it. This is the conference finals, and obviously, a concussion is very serious [but] I think all of us would have played through it under the circumstances.”
Lest you suspect King James was simply coaxing a somewhat-disabled (King?) George onto the court so as to take advantage of his woozy decision-making and sloth-like reflexes, LeBron has actually betrayed similar disinterest in his own health and well-being. When asked a few years ago whether he himself has ever suffered a concussion, he responded, “No, I’m too tough for that.” This question, of course, after an incident in which James sustained a “vicious and violent” blow to the head that knocked him to the floor for two minutes and left him unable to get up under his own power.
James’ offspring, by contrast — presumably not too tough for that.
They are, however, too tough to worry about injury risk in sports that are not football. Explained James on Friday, “Only basketball, baseball and soccer are allowed in my house.” First of all, confirmation James has an enormous house. And second, it’s not like those sports happen to be the three next-riskiest sports after football… except, oh right, they are (click to embiggen):
Source: Buzas, Jacobson & Morawa, Concussions From 9 Youth Organized Sports, Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, April 2014 vol. 2 no. 4.
Meanwhile, the most recent post on James’ Facebook page at this exact moment:
Whitner, of course, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, on whose behalf he once — says the New York Times — “Hit, Hit, Hit”:
In the first quarter against New Orleans last weekend, Whitner dropped Pierre Thomas with such force that Thomas wobbled to the locker room and never returned. The hit, which was helmet-to-helmet but legal under N.F.L. rules because Thomas had caught the pass and turned upfield, prompted a debate on whether such tackles should be allowed… Even in this era of heightened concussion awareness, Whitner’s hit was celebrated as the play that changed that game.
So while LeBron’s decision to keep his kids out of harms way might well just be good parenting, if James is really and truly concerned about the health of his own children — and those of others — he ought to take a hard look at the truly arbitrary distinctions he seems to have no trouble drawing. (Much like fouls.)
*Credit to Ikey for drawing my attention to this article.