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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: football

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October 30, 2014 at 6:21 AM

Should college athletes be paid for performance?

Husky linebacker John Timu celebrates a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown. What was that play worth?

Husky linebacker John Timu celebrates a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown. What was that play worth? (Photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

The Pac-12 this week held itself out as the most progressive big athletic conference in the country in passing a suite of reforms of the increasingly criticized “student-athlete” model.

Here’s what progressive reforms look like: guaranteed 4-year scholarships for athletes, and an ability to tap the scholarship later if they leave before graduation; reimbursed medical expenses for on-the-field injuries up to four years after leaving school; liberalized transfers within Pac-12 schools; and a seat at the Pac-12 governance table.

It’s hard to argue with any of these, although it is surprising they’re new in a conference and at institutions that reap tens of millions from the athletes’ performances. Washington State University President Elson Floyd, who chairs the Pac-12 CEO group, said the conference is working on “the total cost of attendance.” That term of art refers to the gap between an athlete’s scholarship and the out-of-pocket costs, estimated to be an average of $3,500 per athlete.

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Comments | Topics: college athletes, football, NCAA

February 5, 2014 at 6:20 AM

How much will the Seahawks Super Bowl parade cost?

The Seattle Seahawks are throwing the 12th Man the biggest super-sized party Seattle has seen since 1979. And they’re picking up the bill.

More of this: Seattle Sonics victory parade, 1979. (Vic Condiotty / Seattle Times)

More of this: Seattle Sonics victory parade, 1979. (Vic Condiotty / Seattle Times)

The Seahawks’ city-issued parade permit includes standard costs for traffic control, said Jeff Reading, Mayor Ed Murray’s spokesman. Costs above that – including a call-out of “every available police officer,” according to a city source – will be paid for by the Seahawks.

How much that will be is a secret, for now. Seattle police don’t disclose costs for big events in advance, for security reasons.

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Comments | Topics: celebrate 48, football, NFL

February 4, 2014 at 6:07 AM

Seahawks Super Bowl win raises awareness about brain injuries

Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after Seattle won Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Seahawks beat the Broncos 43-8. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after Seattle beat the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks gave the world a heck of a game Sunday night. Now it’s time for the 12th Man and all football viewers to give a little something back. How about some attention on the issue of traumatic brain injuries among current and former football players?

Not to be a Debbie Downer in the midst of this town’s post-Super Bowl euphoria, but this is a good time to praise Seahawks owner Paul Allen for investing in traumatic brain injury (TBI) research here in Seattle. Read this Nov. 20, 2013 Seattle Times news story on Allen’s $2.4 million donation toward research. Shortly after, the editorial board published this opinion:

By emulating the latest investment, other NFL owners would stand to gain value and credibility with fans who increasingly care about balancing game-time thrills and the long-term health of athletes.

In a Jan. 31 Forbes.com Q&A, Allen reiterated that he is working closely with the league:

We’ve talked extensively with the league about the kind of research that should be done and that we want to do. We’ve specialized until now on the genetic characteristics of brains and how cells are affected by different conditions. Now we’re going to get some brain tissue from a bunch of different sources. You can have concussion trauma from all sorts of things, like IEDs in Iraq and motorcycle accidents. We’re going to look at some of this tissue and see how it differs from some of the tissue we’ve already scanned and have in our data banks to see how genetic characteristics have changed. But it’s going to take us a few years to get a better handle scientifically, at a very detailed level, what happens when you get a concussion. We’re cooperating with some of the same scientists that the league is working with. We’ve talked about everything from helmets to measuring impacts in real-time on the field.

Last month, CBS News reports the NFL made a smart decision to invest millions more into research through a partnership with the National Institutes of Health. The league can’t afford to ignore this problem.

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Comments | Topics: concussions, football, NFL

December 30, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Seahawks win unites us during dark days of winter

I was at a ramen house in University Village on Sunday with my sister from Los Angeles, refreshing the Seahawks app on my phone between slurps and conversation. My Twitter feed, too. We headed to a dessert shop afterward. A well-dressed mother and young daughter sitting next to us wondered aloud what the score was. I broke out my phone and gave them an update. Just four ladies at Fran’s Chocolates, talking football. The little girl’s father is a rabid fan and season ticket-holder. They weren’t with him at the game, but they were with him in spirit.

Russell Wilson takes the field as the Seattle Seahawks face the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, December 29, 2013. (Photo by Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Russell Wilson takes the field as the Seattle Seahawks face the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, December 29, 2013. (Photo by Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

On Sunday, the Seahawks won the NFC West division title by beating the St. Louis Rams and secured home-field advantage until the Super Bowl.

For the first time in my life, this Washington native is genuinely interested in Seahawks football.

I’m cheering on my home team because it unites us. Brings us together during these dark, cold dreary days of winter.

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Comments | Topics: football, seahawks, Seattle

October 31, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Poll: Time to strip the NFL of its nonprofit status?

Are we so blinded by our love of sports that we’re willing to be fleeced by the most profitable sports league in the world and its billionaire team owners?

The Seattle Seahawks defeat the Tennessee Titans 20-13 Sunday October 13, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle (BETTINA HANSEN/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

The Seattle Seahawks defeat the Tennessee Titans 20-13 Sunday October 13, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

I couldn’t make it past the first graph of this recent Atlantic magazine story, an excerpt from Gregg Easterbrook‘s book “The King of Sports,” without fuming.

In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who styles himself as a budget-slashing conservative crusader, took $4 million from taxpayers’ pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins, for the team to upgrade a workout facility. Hoping to avoid scrutiny, McDonnell approved the gift while the state legislature was out of session. The Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1 billion. But even billionaires like to receive expensive gifts.

Throughout the report, Easterbrook provides an exhaustive look at how American taxpayers have financed “70 percent of the capital cost of  NFL stadiums,” in addition to many ongoing infrastructure and operating costs. Here’s a tidbit about the Seattle Seahawks:

CenturyLink Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play, opened in 2002, with Washington State taxpayers providing $390 million of the $560 million construction cost. The Seahawks, owned by Paul Allen, one of the richest people in the world, pay the state about $1 million annually in rent in return for most of the revenue from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and broadcasting (all told, perhaps $200 million a year).

The Seahawks are a great team, but this is just plain wrong, especially when we’re struggling to fully fund public education and to sustain the cost of essential services such as the Metro transit system and health care.

Here’s the kicker: The National Football League is tax exempt. To the IRS, the NFL has been known as the Nonprofit Football League for decades. NBC News reports it gets away with this by only claiming tax immunity for the main office, which operated in 2011 with about $255 million worth of revenue. The NFL’s main function is to distribute billions generated from licensing and television deals to its 32 for-profit teams, each worth on average $1.2 billion according to this Forbes report. Still doesn’t pass the smell test. How many trade or charitable organizations pay their top official (in this case NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) nearly $30 million?

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Comments | Topics: congress, football, NFL

October 14, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Would you let your son play football?

Sorry to bring everyone down from their Sunday Seahawks high, but the question must be asked in light of mounting evidence that football is a dangerous game: Would you let your son play football?

Whether you have a kid or want to answer this hypothetically, here’s a quick poll:

Regardless of your answer, the NFL is here to stay. Americans adore football despite dire warnings from scientists that football has caused long-term brain damage in some players.

  • Last week, PBS’s investigative series “Frontline” broadcast a two-hour program on this topic. Here’s a link to a brief, must-see visual interactive explaining how Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has affected at least 50 players as young as 17. Watch the program below:

[do action=”custom_iframe” url=”http://video.pbs.org/video/2365093675/” width=”630″ height=”500″ scrolling=””/]

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Comments | Topics: brain injury, football, frontline