A longtime college football analyst is not returning to the broadcast booth this fall due to his growing discomfort with the dangerous nature of the sport.
Ed Cunningham has left his position with ESPN and ABC after nearly 20 years, citing the large amount of damage inflicted on players as his primary reason.
“I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” Cunningham told The New York Times. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”
Cunningham told the Times he had grown weary of being a close witness to constant carnage and making his living on a sport he knows is taking the lives of some players.
“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham said. “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”
A captain on the 1991 Washington team that won the national championship, Cunningham played center for the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks over five seasons, working as an analyst and color commentator since. He told the Times that brain health is “as personal as it gets” for him, citing the suicide of former teammate Dave Duerson, who was posthumously found to have CTE, the debilitating brain disease found in many former players.
Cunningham hopes by speaking out the conversation on football safety would be furthered without undermining the game.
“I think people are starting to think, ‘What should we do here?’ ” Cunningham said. “You can’t throw out everything. You can’t say it’s all broken. You have to change the paradigm. How should it be different 20 years from now? It’ll be different, and I think quite a bit different. And that’s OK.”