Longtime ESPN football personality Ed Cunningham announced Wednesday that he was resigning his post as one of the network's top color analysts due to "ethical concerns" over the effects of football on the brain. Cunningham, 48, told The New York Times that his discomfort with the physical damage players sustain on each down prompted his decision. "In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear," Cunningham told the Times. "But the real crux of this is that I just don't think the game is safe for the brain."
Cunningham joined the network in 2000, signing on to what was then ABC Sports as a college football analyst. He previously played college football at the University of Washington, winning the national championship in 1991, before spending five seasons in the NFL. Cunningham explained to the Times how his personal experiences in and around the game informed his decision to step away:
[Dave] Duerson was a teammate of Cunningham's with the Phoenix (now Arizona) Cardinals in 1992 and 1993. He killed himself in 2011 and was posthumously found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE [...]
Cunningham was also a professional teammate of Andre Waters in Arizona, and he has vivid memories of being humiliated in his first college start by the future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau. Waters and Seau killed themselves and were later found to have CTE, too.
"This is as personal as it gets," Cunningham said. "I'm not hypothesizing here." [The New York Times]
ESPN has not announced who will replace Cunningham in its broadcast team; Cunningham was the color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Mike Patrick. Read more about Cunningham's decision at The New York Times.