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Malcolm Gladwell, Jason Whitlock and Buzz Bissinger to Debate Banning College Football

Slate as part of its “Live Debates About Fascinating and Contentious Topics” series, will have Malcolm Gladwell, Buzz Bissinger, Jason Whitlock and Tim Green debate whether college football should be banned. Expect some blustering.

Gladwell will be arguing against college football, using the longterm risks from concussive and sub-concussive injuries as a battering ram while sprinkling in points about it being contrary to the university’s academic mission.

They are absolutely right. Sports teach all kinds of virtues. I wonder if there is a way, though, to teach teamwork and discipline without maiming people. I mean if we could prove that coal mining taught discipline and teamwork and built school spirit, would we build coal mines on every major college campus?

Whitlock will argue for college football, by bringing up the social benefits of the sport as it relates to diversity.

One of the biggest incentives I would offer for participation in college sports, particularly football, is that it gives many people their first experience of American diversity. Not just ethnic, but financial, religious, and class-based. You have players from all walks of life, and you throw them into a locker room with a shared goal.

You don’t go to college just for the books. I can pick out athletes by the way they conduct themselves socially—they’re more advanced. I’m not talking about their primitive dealings with whomever. But in terms of being able to work with people across different class and religious boundaries, they’re better at that than the rest of society, because they’ve participated in goal-oriented group activities that confront them with diversity.

Both likely will find common ground on the point that “student-athletes” should be paid. From Gladwell:

If you want college athletes to assume an as yet unknown risk of permanent physical and neurological damage, you should pay them. Properly. It’s a bit much both to maim AND exploit college football players.

Ethically, it’s an interesting issue. Practically, increased knowledge of everything shady and dangerous about college football has not dented interest in the slightest.

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