Leading intellectual Malcolm Gladwell, while at the University of Pennsylvania, lambasted the university for continuing their football program after the suicide of Penn football captain Owen Thomas. The examination of the 21 year old's brain showed that he had early signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) possibly caused by hits to the head on the field. NFL players that have prematurely died, such as linebacker Junior Seau, have also suffered from the same condition.
Gladwell, the author of New York Times bestsellers "Outliers: The Story of Success," and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference," called the continuation of the program "a moral abomination". The New Yorker magazine journalist compared the university's disregard of the warnings to the callous indifference of the coal mining industry towards black lung disease.
He mocked their mercenary attitude - "We have to have football. The alumni would be anger if we cancelled the program." He urged students to boycott football games and protest outside.
"Maybe, if there is only 1500 alumni smoking cigars at the game, the university will cancel the program," he said.
He did not call for an outright ban of football, but instead held the university to a higher standard.
"A university's job is to educate and care for students not maximize alumni donations," said an outraged Gladwell.
The university official that closed the event looked uncomfortable, but graciously handled the criticism.
On the way to dinner with Gladwell, he said, "One definition of an intellectual is someone who bites the hands that feeds you,"
It will be interesting to see if Gladwell's cri de couer results in the cancellation of the football program. The students did not seem to embrace Gladwell's suggestion. But it might be because a group of students standing in line to hear an intellectual are not going to football games.
One senior football player said that football had given him many opportunities that he would not normally had.
"Being 270 lbs and 6' 2", I can not play soccer," he said.