Bob Costas says football ‘destroys people’s brains,’ and his network distances itself

Bob Costas says football ‘destroys people’s brains,’ and his network distances itself
NBC broadcaster Bob Costas discussed the dangers of football and the sport's tenuous future at an event at the University of Maryland last week. (Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis )

Bob Costas has been synonymous with NFL coverage on NBC for a long time.

But, when the veteran broadcaster had some harsh warnings about the dangers and future of the sport, his network made sure to distance itself quickly. After all, NBC pulls in more than $900 million per year in NFL advertising revenue.

What Costas said

Costas, speaking at an event at the University of Maryland last week, predicted the eventual collapse of football in America.

“The cracks in the foundation are there,” Costas said. “The day-to-day issues, as serious as they may be, they may come and go. But you cannot change the nature of the game. I certainly would not let, if I had an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old son, I would not let him play football.

“The reality is that the game destroys people’s brains,” Costas said. “Not everyone, but a substantial number. That’s the fundamental fact of football, and that to me is the biggest story in American sports.”

How NBC responded

An NBC Sports spokesperson made sure to separate Costas’ words from the opinions of the network, which broadcasts Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football.

“Bob’s opinions are his own, and they do not represent those of the NBC Sports Group,” the spokesperson said.

Costas has covered the NFL for NBC off-and-on since 1984, and will be the host of Super Bowl LII in February.

Does Costas have a point?

Research is increasingly linking football with brain disease; specifically, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Just a few days after Costas made his comments, researchers revealed unprecedented levels of damage in the brain of late New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Hernandez was convicted of murder and hanged himself in April while serving a life sentence in prison. He was 27 years old, and researchers said his brain showed damage typical of someone 20 years older.

“We can say collectively, in our collective experience, that individuals with CTE — and CTE of this severity — have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses or aggression, often emotional volatility and rage behaviors,” said Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE research center.

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