ESPN Analyst Dumps Football Over 'Carnage' on the Field

Ed Cunningham walks away from long career, saying the game is 'unacceptable'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2017 8:00 AM CDT
ESPN Football Analyst: I Can't Stay With 'Unacceptable' Game
This Sept. 16, 2013, file photo shows the ESPN logo prior to an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers.   (AP Photo/David Kohl, File)

An ESPN and ABC sports analyst is ditching his job because he finds the sport he's analyzing to be "unacceptable." That sport is college football, Ed Cunningham tells the New York Times, and he's leaving a two-decade career of offering his commentary on it because of the injuries he sees players racking up, with their brains at special risk. Although the 48-year-old ex-NFLer has long been a vocal critic of the "reckless hits" players take and iffy coaching decisions—often getting him in trouble with coaches and fans—he finally decided he had to take a stand and ditch his association with it all. "I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport. I can just no longer be in that cheerleader's spot," Cunningham says, with the Times noting he may be the first broadcaster at his level to step away from football because of his uncomfortable witnessing of the "carnage."

Cunningham cites past teammates and opponents who were posthumously found to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, after their suicides. As a former Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals player, per, he's been tested himself for brain damage (he seems to be OK). Cunningham admits it's difficult to leave a "great" job, one with a "really nice six-figure salary" and that he likely could've stayed in for decades to come. He notes he made his decision to leave in April, when ESPN pink-slipped a slew of on-air announcers, though at the time he cited family and work reasons. Cunningham also stresses he's not anti-football—just that he wants to make the game safer for college kids. "I know a lot of people who say: 'I just can't cheer for the big hits anymore,'" he says. "'I used to go nuts, and now I'm like, I hope he gets up.'" More on his safety suggestions here. (More CTE stories.)

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