NCAA Forces Removal of Some Women Soccer Players From FIFA 16

Polygon writer Owen Good has an excellent opinion piece on the appalling behavior of the NCAA toward a small number women soccer players over the upcoming video game, FIFA 16.

FIFA 16 is the first installment of that video game to include women soccer players, and it’s about time that happened. But, the NCAA has forced Electronic Arts to remove the names and likenesses of 13 women, who also attend U.S. universities, because of the NCAA’s insane eligibility requirements,

On Thursday, Electronic Arts acknowledged that 13 members of three national teams — Mexico’s, Spain’s and Canada’s — had to be wiped from its upcoming FIFA 16 at the last minute. That’s because the NCAA, which doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do with this video game, said these players’ appearance — legally secured with permission from their nation’s soccer federations — would violate one of its rules and forfeit their eligibility.

. . .

Per Electronic Arts, neither [Canadian defender Kadeisha] Buchanan nor any of the other 12 players “were to be compensated individually” for their appearance. What that means is EA (properly) paid some fee to these players’ national associations to use their likenesses and others, on a group basis. The distribution of that money, if any is disbursed, is up to those federations’ agreements with their players.

Those deals may respect NCAA amateurism rules or may have exemptions granted. Who knows. In the end, we’re left to assume it’s not any money that’s the problem because the people making the game aren’t paying the women. It’s their appearance in the game itself that’s the violation, probably because the NCAA construes it as the direct endorsement of a commercial product.

The NCAA has no problems for someone like Caleb Porter, coach of the University of Akron men’s soccer team, raking in a salary of $350,000/year to coach “amateur” athletics, but god forbid a “student athlete’s” name and likeness appear in a video game.

Why I Stopped Watching the NFL

After reading this New York Times story, I stopped watching National Football League games.

The gist of the story is that for years the National Football League has ridiculed studies done by outside researchers trying to determine what, if any, affect playing in the NFL has on cognitive behavior. Do all those hits and concussions lead to Alzheimer’s-like diseases and other mental problems for players?

At least one survey of retired NFL players conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found a correlation between playing in the NFL and a number of cognitive impairments. Not to worry, though, as an NFL official helpfully dismissed the study as “virtually worthless.”

So the NFL commissioned its own studies, including a recently completed survey of retired NFL Players. That study found NFL players were much more likely than men who didn’t play in the NFL to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or similar problems.

The NFL’s response? Mostly to highlight the shortcomings of the study. And make no mistake, this survey is not perfect. For example, the survey asked players whether or not they had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a similar memory problem, but it didn’t directly diagnose them — some of the players could be mistaken. Of course NFL players were asked the same questions that the National Health Interview Survey asks of the general public which was used as the baseline rate of incidence to compare the NFL rate to.

Similarly, it could be that the correlation is not due to dangers on the field, but rather the access that elite athletes have to health care off the field: former NFL athletes might be diagnosed with dementia at a higher rate because they have access to better medical care and their physicians are more likely to look for dementia given the violent nature of the sport.

Certainly this study calls for more rigorous follow-ups. But in general the comments of the NFL spokesmen and their hired guns make it clear that the NFL doesn’t really want to know whether or not playing football causes cognitive problems unless the answer is “no.” The fact that the NFL has only begun looking at the problem in the last few years and then resorted to trashing one of the few completed studies it actually bothered to fund, suggests a business that genuinely sees its employees as disposable cogs.

I’m not saying you should stop watching the NFL, just that I can’t stomach the spectacle anymore given the league’s obvious indifference to the legitimate health concerns of its players. That’s far more offensive television than Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple.