I Love the NFL but I Don’t Think Mill Would be a Big Fan
Mill’s Harm Principle states that power can only be exercised against a member of society is to prevent that member of society from harming another non-consenting person. Therefore, if I feel like going skateboarding, even though I will most likely injure myself since I am awful skateboarder, the government has no right to intervene or tell me I cant. However, branching off of Mill’s Republican Liberty, the freedom from government intervention is not the only freedom, rather freedom from “domination” by others is the essential freedom. This relates to Mill’s objection against voluntary slavery, where his argument is based on the fact that one- someone who would enter a voluntary slavery is being coerced by someone who does not have their best interest at heart and that two- this person is absolving their freedom and therefore contradicting the very purpose of freedom. Knowing these fundamental beliefs of Mill I begin to address Professional Sports in light of Mill and the Harm Principle.
Take for instance the National Football League. From a young age, aspiring stars are afforded opportunities to showcase and hone their talents in NFL youth and flag football leagues. NFL scouts have their eyes on kids who are barely 18 and begin to envision them on their team from the following years. The life of an NFL star is portrayed as a life of glamor and riches, something hard to turn down especially for kids that grew up with next to nothing. However, the serious physical and emotional effects that result from an NFL career are becoming documented and show an alarming percentage of past NFL players that have withstood serious mental and physical trauma. Recently, players like Justin Strzelcyk, who died in fatal car crash, and Chris Henry, who died in another car incident, have proven that football players suffered from serious brain trauma, even if they aren’t suffering the much publicized concussions
Now to my point, If this sport is so detrimental to the health of its employees, is the NFL in violation of the Harm Principle and possibly further violating the notion of Republican Liberty. The NFL has come under harsh criticism from the medical community for its failure to recognize and address the issue. This is seen in this ESPN article :http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?id=2736505. The atmosphere of that has existed in the NFL is frankly appalling.
The NFL presents an offer that few can turn down. If they envision their future life in the NFL, they can relax on their academics and prepare for the fame and riches of the NFL. So, the NFL is in a way coercing young people to enter their league, knowing fully that the future players will suffer serious harm to their mental and physical health. They are only encouraging young athletes to play the sport so that the business of the NFL can thrive and not for the benefit of the athletes. Mill believes that if a “business” is coercing a person into engaging in act that is clearly not in their best interest, the government may intervene( similar to prostitution and voluntary slavery). Although an individual player is only hurting themselves when they enter into the NFL, their physical and mental trauma also has far-reaching consequences for their families and friends that they leave when they will eventually die a young death. Further, by ignoring and failing to take action on concussions until very recently, the NFL was harming its players by promoting an unsafe environment that was too complacent to take action. Even today, concussions are as prevalent and no medical study or safety policy can take out the brutal nature of the sport. Although these athletes are consenting to playing in the NFL, they are doing so under a level of coercion and are suffering serious harm. The executives of the teams and the NFL benefit while the players sacrifice their bodies.
The following video shows a medical professional testifying before the House Judiciary committee on NFL Player Head Injuries:
To conclude, I believe that Mill would want the American government to intervene and ban the sport. Mill is all for freedom and experiment in life but the NFL experiment has failed. It has allowed the executives and teams to dominate the players, coercing them to absolve their freedom and submit to a life of suffering. Although the NFL is a great source of revenue I believe Mill would posit that he harm it subjects to its athletes should not be allowed by any legitimate government. In the name of the Harm Principle and Republican Liberty, lets say it with Mill: DOWN WITH THE NFL