Players And Families Talk With NPR's Michel Martin About Football's Ups And Downs | KERA News

Players And Families Talk With NPR's Michel Martin About Football's Ups And Downs

Jan 28, 2015

As Super Bowl Sunday nears, a lot of people are talking about the team they’d liked to see win, the parties and, of course, the commercials. On Tuesday night at the Perot Museum in Dallas, the topic was football and ethics. 

Here’s a recap of that conversation, which was hosted by NPR’s Michel Martin and cosponsored by KERA.

Dallas football fans may remember former Cowboys Raghib “Rocket” Ismail – the yards he ran and the touchdowns he scored. But off the field, that success had a price. His wife, Melani Ismail spoke candidly about that Tuesday night.

“For me, it’s been a very emotional ride because of the injuries,” Ismail said. “It hasn’t been necessarily a positive situation for us, which is why I try to steer my son towards the basketball goal, and it worked up until last year.”

Ismail was joined on the panel by author and former Denver Bronco Nate Jackson as well as Nahshon Ellerbe, a Trinity Christian Academy senior and running back. Host Martin asked why people love the sport so much. Last year, for example, 111 million people tuned in for the Super Bowl – the largest audience for that event ever.

Jackson talked about the competitiveness and the camaraderie. And how it felt when he played.

When the ball is thrown to me or when the ball’s thrown to you, time has a way of stopping,” Jackson said. “Everything ceases to exist. In this moment, the ball is in the air and it’s my ball. That moment is difficult to replace.”

Jackson wrote about football in a book called Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile. Tuesday night, he didn’t hold back, talking also about what he doesn’t like about the sport.

“I think one of the biggest problems right now is that the players never have a say, whether it’s their own bodies, the medical health care stuff or the media stuff,” Jackson said. “So not only are their bodies controlled, but their minds are controlled.”

Nahshon Ellerbe is heading to Houston this fall to play – and study – at Rice. He said he’s aware of football’s risks and thinks it’s not for everyone.

“I think football is a violent sport by nature. You have bodies flying around full speed, but it’s not a sport for violent people,” he said. “So, if you’re a violent person – if you have violent intentions – don’t pick up a football and think that’s going to be your way out.”

Amid the headlines about concussions, domestic violence and “Deflate Gate,” Melani Ismail said the stakes are clear.

“NFL – it’s on you now,” she said.

Food for thought for Sunday’s Super Bowl parties.

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