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The NFL, NCI, and Risk Print E-mail
By Matthew Hanley   
Friday, 08 November 2013

This past month, the National Football League has come under intensified fire for how it has handled knowledge regarding potential long-term consequences of concussions even as it has earned points by being an active participant in the highly visible “awareness” campaign against another politicized health issue: breast cancer.

You don’t have to doubt the sincerity of the NFL’s pink campaign to notice that it nonetheless makes for great PR. It might even be said that the campaign – much like the NFL’s desire to establish a new franchise in London – is mainly about expanding their brand among new demographics.

What’s that you say? Only 8 percent of the money spent on pink merchandise actually goes to breast cancer research, with the lion’s share of the rest going to the NFL and individual teams? Maybe it really is all about business. I suppose that goes with the territory. They are, after all, a business.

Do we really expect the NFL to play the role of our public health institutions, from which we rightly expect a genuine, service-oriented quest for knowledge that would help us respond intelligently to the various causes of breast cancer?

I’ll return to that point in a moment. First, though, while NFL players were wearing pink this past October, PBS aired a documentary indicting the NFL over its approach to concussions. Suffice it to say that it clearly created its intended impression: that the NFL had knowledge about a possible relationship between concussions and other serious conditions later in life – and that, as its title, “League of Denial” plainly suggests, they actively tried to cover it up.

Now, that is a serious charge (and one I won’t weigh in on here). Even businesses have ethical imperatives to put the just treatment of their employees above the bottom line; that would entail being honest about particular risks so that people may make informed decisions.

In this instance, it appears that PBS investigated a plausible theory, while zeroing in on one of the private institutions in which concussions occur with some frequency.

Nevertheless, there are also grounds for suspicion that something aside from a pure aversion to concussions is at play. If that were the sole concern, consistency would demand that we’d have to do something about bicyclists. As a group, they sustain a greater number of traumatic brain injuries than do football players in general, much less the minute percentage that make it to the NFL. And what are we to do about girls who play soccer? After boys playing football, they suffer the most concussions.

Let us suppose for a moment that the documentary is entirely accurate in depicting the NFL as the culprit by virtue of its refusal to deal with knowledge it did not want to come to light. And let us further suppose that PBS (the media in general) is merely driven by an uncompromising desire to protect individuals from harm by furnishing inexcusably NFL-buried data.


Supposing all this, could you please tell me why, then, doesn’t PBS turn the same critical eye upon our leading cancer institutions that refuse to acknowledge the relationship between abortion and breast cancer? Because that it precisely what they have done.

I suspect that, of the minority aware that induced abortion is a risk factor (spontaneous abortions are not, by the way), a much smaller minority knows that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has proactively denied any such linkage, particularly since 2003, when they convened a meeting designed to officially dismiss the preponderance of evidence indicating this very connection.

Some insiders have since admitted the linkage; many acknowledge that to credit it would simply be “too political.” In other words, the science on this matter must be ignored; isn’t that one way we tend to describe fundamentalists?

At present, those who reject the mere suggestion of any linkage out of hand can simply point to our official “authorities” who have pronounced on the matter (out of deference to those who don’t want there to be one). But anyone sincerely pursuing the truth would have a difficult time dismissing Dr. Joel Brind’s devastating account of the NCI’s evasive maneuverings.

We can’t expect the NFL or even PBS to “raise awareness” about breast cancer if our leading public health institutions cannot summon the courage to be honest about its single most preventable cause. (Some other risk factors – i.e. predisposing genes – cannot be controlled).

Here it bears reiterating that abortion opponents have no need for any such connection. The moral argument against abortion has long been incontrovertibly settled, regardless of any subsequent consequences to physical health. The more germane consideration is that those who claim to revere science but ignore the available evidence do need abortion to be a perfectly harmless enterprise.

In many walks of life today, a cult of safety seems to prevail. But even safety takes a back seat to other decidedly unsafe actions. Risk itself has become politicized; some risks are to be highlighted, some denied altogether – even if, in practice, that means ignoring an elementary principle codified at Nuremberg: every individual must first grant fully informed consent, free of any form of deception or coercion, prior to any procedure.

It isn’t our finest hour when our own National Cancer Institute so boldly violates, rather than venerates, this basic imperative with impunity. And when PBS, dutifully, it seems, elects to take aim at the NFL and not the NCI.

As much as we like to distance ourselves from the abuses of the past and even accuse the innocent of past wrongdoings, Pius XII would never have been an accomplice to such deception. And he wasn’t even a scientist.

Isn’t dishonesty still universally frowned upon – antithetical as it is to the “scientific” mindset? And are Catholics the only ones who can supply a needed corrective to the ongoing ideological corruption of the healing professions?

 
Matthew Hanley is senior fellow with the National Catholic Bioethics Center. With Jokin de Irala, M.D., he is the author of Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West, which recently won a best-book award from the Catholic Press Association. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Hanley's and not those of the NCBC. 
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (11)Add Comment
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written by Grump, November 08, 2013
Maybe women can start wearing blue to raise awareness of prostate cancer. The NFL is becoming a sissy league. Now we are supposed to believe that it's possible to "bully" a 24-year-old, 6-5, 320-pound lineman and a full-scale "investigation" is warranted because he got called bad names. Tsk, tsk. Well, at this rate, the NFL teams ought to wear pink all season.
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written by Manfred, November 08, 2013
The world is controlled by very powerful, wealthy elites. Some of these elites control their business partner, the Catholic Church, when one understands the monies the US government pays to the Catholic hospitals across the Country. That is why no pro abortion, pro sodomite "marriage" catholic politician is ever excommunicated. I spoke with Dr. Brind at a small Right to Life fundraiser some years ago, He explained that the elites had determined that the world would be better off if there were dramatically fewer people on it. To accomplish this, they would encourage the use of, and make readily available contraceptives and abortifacients (note that these items are the sine qua non of Obamacare!), knowing full well the very deleterious side effects.
Intelligent Catholics should not be surprised at this. Christ continually warned the the world is a very dangerous place, that death comes "like a thief in the night". It is important how we respond to this piece today. Do we simply become cynical, or do we convert our lives with daily prayer and penance in order to survive our experiences here and to anticpate eternity with God in Heaven where he truly wants us to be?
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written by Q, November 08, 2013
If we could ban the Pink silliness and the NFL the world would be a better place.
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written by william manley, November 08, 2013
Conservatives confirm the growing perception that they are hard hearted grumps when they begin to complain about the wearing of pink to help raise awareness about breast cancer.
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written by Stanley Anderson, November 08, 2013
I suppose the line from the song "Have a Cigar" by Pink Floyd almost demands to be uttered in irony here, "Oh by the way, which one's Pink?"
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written by Stanley Anderson, November 08, 2013
There have been numerous books and discussions and debates about whether science and religion are mutually exclusive or not. Forget all that -- instead, apparently, the debate should be about whether or not there is a difference between science and politics these days.
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written by Stanley Anderson, November 08, 2013
Wow, william manley, sort of like what hard hearted grumps they would be if they also, say, complained about the display of swastikas to help raise awareness about the economic hardships of workers in pre-WWII Germany. Might other factors play into the display of such "symbols" that could influence a person's view? (Yeah, yeah, I know, Godwin's Law and all. The point remains...)
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written by tom, November 08, 2013
Pius XII? Hmmm. The jury is still out as to whether or not he was an "accomplice" to the terrors of Nazism. Not sure I'd use him as an example here. I'm puzzled as to why he's mentioned at all in this article.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, November 08, 2013
Every time I see someone sporting one of those dumb pink bows, my consciousness becomes obsessed with a word that will not leave me: LEMMING.

The last time this happened was when I saw other, equally as dumb, people holding signs saying, "Yes, We Can."

There's got to be a cure for this condition.
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written by tom, November 08, 2013
Pius XII? Hmmm. The jury is still out as to whether or not he was an "accomplice" to the terrors of Nazism. Not sure I'd use him as an example here. I'm puzzled as to why he's mentioned at all in this article.
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written by Sandra, November 08, 2013
After the "blow-up" between the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood. (Hint if you missed it, the founder is gone from the organization and they still "partner" with Planned Parenthood.) My family DOES NOT support the organization (Susan G. Komen for the Cure) and are firmly against the "pink-washing" done by many corporations.


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