Opinion Brief

Is the NFL right to ban 'devastating' hits?

Amid rising alarm over brain injuries, the league will start suspending players who deal out bone-crunching shots — even legal ones. Does that make sense?

After a series of brutal head injuries on Sunday, the National Football League has announced a crackdown on aggressive hits of the sort that could put players at risk for concussion-related brain damage. Ray Anderson, an NFL vice president, said the league on Wednesday will start suspending players for "devastating hits," like the one by the Atlanta Falcons' Dunta Robinson against Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson last weekend, which resulted in concussions for both men. But detractors are already decrying the new policy as vague and unenforceable. Is the NFL doing the right thing? (Watch Dunta Robinson's hit)

This is a futile effort: "There is no making football safer," says Dave Zirin at The Nation. "There is no amount of suspensions, fines, or ejections that will change the fundamental nature of a sport built on violent collisions." When you have "a sport that turns the poor into millionaires" for running over each other, people are going to get hurt, and hurt badly."In the NFL, the violence comes to a head"

The NFL had to try something: Brutal tackles make the highlight reels, says Dawn Knight in The Washington Post, so for players whose careers depend on getting noticed the "recognition far outweighs the risk of fines." But suspensions just may be drastic enough to get their attention. After Sunday's brutality, the NFL has to do something to make the field safer, so this crackdown can't start soon enough."Head to head combat"

The league needs to focus more on the refs: Suspending players won't solve the problem, says Doug Farrar at Yahoo! Sports. Referees have the power to discourage excessively violent play now, but they too often look the way on crowd-pleasing rough tackles. The violence will continue as long as negligent officials don't face the same fines and suspensions as any "dirty player.""Something must be done about illegal hits, but what?"

The new rule is dumb and dishonest: "The NFL wants hitting," says Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune. "That's what it licenses in its video games. The players want hitting, as well. It's their job." This "ridiculous" and unenforceable new rule about "devastating" hits is pure "subterfuge": The NFL has to appear like it cares so that it can safeguard it's monopoly status and convince the players' union to accept an expanded 18-game schedule."NFL's plan to outlaw hits is all money, not safety"

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