Presbyterians Today

FEB-MAR 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 29 was profoundly sobering. I can't believe how ignorant we were about concussions. John was in the NFL 12 years; we had no clue. It's shameful how little we knew. We were naïve. We were oblivious and never looked critically at the layers of injustice. It was a moral failure on our part. It's why we helped create a sports reform movement made up of people concerned about the inequi- ties in sports today — particularly in NCAA revenue sports. PT: Any regrets walking away? Would you do it again? Shoop: Giving up coaching in big-time sports involved a huge economic loss. I'm not going to lie — there are days we really struggle with how different our life is now. We miss the players, the work, the money. When we finally decided to make a change, we realized that we really weren't advocating as strongly as we could have on things like head injuries. Our lives were dependent on the money. That's how it works in big-time sports. They pay you more, give you more incentives. It keeps everybody quiet. But all of our experiences and cherished relationships have strengthened our resolve that we need to keep advocating for justice- minded reform in the sports world. Our focus is on collegiate revenue sports. Everything from due process, to "pay for play," to traumatic brain injuries, to racism, inequality and abuses of power is now being discussed. Paul Seebeck is a communications strate- gist for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. a movement of kneeling before the national anthem is played at NFL games — using sports as a venue for protest and a call for change? Shoop: I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Colin is trying to do. Again, it's a mirror to our larger culture. People of color are trying to say, "It's not working for us. We are at a disadvantage." Opportunities and advantages are not equally distributed in this country. He hit a nerve, just as Black Lives Matter hit a nerve. There is a white backlash coded in language that doesn't name race, but codes it in things like patriotism and the flag. But the basic message is "Shut up. Remember your place in society. We don't have to listen to you." We've heard such insulting and dismissive statements about NFL players for years. People say about the players things like: "You are all so spoiled. You make all this money. You should be grateful." What they're saying when they say Colin is "unpatriotic" or that he should be "respectful" is "Get back in your place." It's deeply troubling rhetoric. PT: What about the NFL's concussion problem and the increasing number of former players diagnosed post-mortem with the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)? Shoop: When the biographical sports drama film Concussion was released about the forensic patholo- gist who fights the National Football League, who is trying to suppress his research on CTE, John and I saw it together. There was actual footage in the film where John was calling the plays in a Bears game, where the players were hitting each other hard enough to cause concussion. Talk about a kick in the gut. We were part of what causes CTE, knew nothing about the seriousness of concussions at the time. The movie LEARN MORE To learn more about Shoop's work in sports reform, visit and click on "Sports Reform." To listen to the podcast "Going Deep," go to ANDREW HANCOCK Marcia Mount Shoop and her husband, John Shoop, have helped to create a sports reform movement elevating awareness about the inequalities in sports today.

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