Mommy Mayhem · School Talk

This Mom Says No to Super Bowl Spirit Day for Her Pre-Schooler and Says NFL Has Rejected Science

Kate Mitchell

Massachusetts mom Kate Mitchell was not having it when it came to her child’s pre-school telling students to wear Patriots gear the Friday before the Super Bowl and she wrote about it for WBUR. And while you may be thinking that her beef must be that neither she nor her daughter are Patriots fans, it has nothing to do with team loyalty. The mother, as well as her husband, are opposed to the sport of football and to the NFL. They believe that the league is ignoring science when it comes to traumatic brain injury—CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)—and in doing so, showing that they do not value the lives of young men.

Here is her initial letter to the school after seeing the note come with her daughter about “Super Bowl Spirit Day”:

As you know, [my husband] Marton is a coach who works with young children and I am a public health professional/scientist. We, as a family, have made an active decision not to support, promote, or even expose our children to football. The science is unwavering in its evidence that football (in the way it is currently played in our society) causes traumatic brain injuries. Those chronic traumatic injuries are associated with trauma to the very parts of the brain that control a person’s ability to regulate their behavior and have been strongly linked with depression, aggression, and impaired judgment of all sorts. They have even been linked with suicide.

I recognize that others don’t think about football in this light–but I would encourage you, as an institution focused on the development of young minds, to reconsider your endorsement of the NFL, and all that it stands for today.

What are your thoughts on this?”

Mitchell, a public health consultant and doctoral student at Boston University School of Public Health, acknowledges that the school’s director responded quickly with a respectful note in which the director admitted they hadn’t thought of those concerns, would raise with with teachers, but that the spirit day would go on as planned.

Mitchell also sent a letter to her daughter’s teacher in which she explained a bit more about her discomfort with the whole spirit day thing as well as the larger issue of football and the NFL. She shared a variety of links to articles about CTE as well.  She draws a link to Colin Kaepernick and explains how the situation with him is inherently linked to the issue of traumatic brain injury.

Here’s an excerpt:

Our reasons for boycotting football have to do with the NFL’s rejection of science and the evidence that proves the link between tackle football and traumatic brain injuries, as well as our support for Colin Kaepernick and his efforts to call attention to police brutality. While those might seem like two separate issues, we see them as one: a decision not to value the lives of young men, especially young men of color.

Leila will not be dressed in Patriots gear tomorrow. We will have a conversation with her tonight about our family’s values and how they square with football. We will also talk with her about the importance of being respectful of different points of view on this topic.

The mom goes on to describe the conversation she had with her daughter (and the sort of awesome outfit her daughter picked out to wear on the day in question) but she has started a conversation that has already been brewing under the surface for many folks. Here is part of how she described the conversation with her daughter, Leila:

As promised, I sat down with Leila on Thursday night and explained to her that there was a big football game coming up, and that she would hear about it at school the next day. I told her that many of her friends and teachers would probably be dressed up in football clothes. I explained to her that in our family we do not see football as a safe game — that, in fact, it can be very dangerous.

For many parents across America, football is a part of life, whether they are watching their own kids play or watching professionals on TV. They embrace it, love it even; it is a central part of their existence. For other countless parents, football has become an “absolutely not” when it comes to their own children playing, but they still love to watch their teams on Sundays and get decked out in the jerseys of their favorite players or don the latest winter hat that the pros are wearing on cold game days. And then, there are parents like Kate Mitchell, who have a fundamental problem with everything that football and the NFL represent which, in her view, include a rejection of science, a failure to value the lives of young men, and a conscious decision to put profits over the health of players.

She certainly gives us something to think about on the heels of the Super Bowl and a tough loss for Patriots Nation.

So, what say you Moms and Dads and Coaches and everyone else out there?

Please share your thoughts on what is sure to be a spirited debate—just try to do it nicely. As Kate Mitchell told her daughter during their football talk, “lots of people really like football, they don’t think about it as dangerous, and that it is OK for us to see things differently.”

What do you think?

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