As we watched our football team complete an undefeated Ivy League season this fall, I could not help but wonder when Princeton University will phase out its football program. More and more data support the widespread problem of CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] in football players, and modified practices and tackling rules only further underscore the fact that we are harming these students with lifelong injuries.
Princeton University prides itself on intellectual pursuit in every aspect of life. We pride ourselves on the pursuit of knowledge and the fundamental belief in science and research. Based on the startling results from several high-profile studies, it is with certainty that we can say that a reasonable percentage of the football team has CTE. CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease for which there is no treatment. Supporting a sport that is now scientifically proven to damage the brains of its participants fundamentally conflicts with the core values of the University.
I know this will not be an easy process for the University. There is a long tradition of pride around the team, and the Annual Giving that it generates, directly and indirectly, will be hard to dismiss as inconsequential. But the University cannot sit on the sidelines, knowing the facts that have come to light in the past couple of years, and allow our students to willingly and knowingly be damaging their brains.
Princeton can and should be a leader in this regard. There will be strong opposition by alumni and students, but holding our ideals above all else is the right thing to do. Walking out on football might even be best undertaken on the high note of an undefeated season.