ESPN’s extensive layoffs of on-air talent have been one of the biggest stories in the sports media world. However, college football broadcaster Ed Cunningham’s absence from the network did not come as a result of those defections, but rather as a result of his choice to resign from his post.
In an interview with John Branch of the New York Times, the 48-year-old announcer opened up on the reasoning behind his choice and, in short, it came because of his real doubts and feelings about the sport of football in general. In addition to saying that he could “no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot” in the booth, Cunningham went on to say that the game isn’t safe and that is “unacceptable” to him.
“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear. 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.”
Cunningham went on to reflect on the loss of former teammates of his, including Dave Duerson.
“I know a lot of people who say: ‘I just can’t cheer for the big hits anymore. I used to go nuts, and now I’m like, ‘I hope he gets up.’ It’s changing for all of us. I don’t currently think the game is safe for the brain. And, oh, by the way, I’ve had teammates who have killed themselves. Dave Duerson put a shotgun to his chest so we could study his brain.”
It is easy to see how someone so closely connected to the sport and retired players could come to this conclusion. At the same time, Cunningham stands on an island in essentially giving up a (very) prominent spot on the air as a result and the fall-out from this will be quite interesting.