Chris Borland’s Decision To Retire Should Be Respected


Chris Borland, the San Francisco 49er’s budding star linebacker made his surprising announcement to retire from the NFL after his rookie season more than five months ago now.

The decision sent shockwaves throughout the league, and again put the issue of concussions and football safety at the frontline. ESPN labeled Borland as possibly “the most dangerous man in football” for it’s latest feature news piece on E60 and ESPN the Magazine.

Those are strong words to describe an individual who was just making a personal decision. You have to respect the fact that he had the wherewithal to look at all the evidence and personal experiences to make a tough decision about his career and long term livelihood.

At just 24 years old, Borland potentially gave up millions of dollars and long term financial stability to find an occupation less hazardous to his mind and body. To many, it’s the courageous and contrarian thing to do. And many believe he should be applauded for not being blinded by the glitz and glam of the National Football League.

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San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Unfortunately for Borland, he seems to be caught in sports controversy purgatory. In one section of ESPN’s piece on Borland, you can that tell he is uncomfortable being a spokesperson for sports related concussions and their long term effects. Even though he made the decision to choose health over football, he maintains that that was his decision alone and shouldn’t be impressed upon those who are in similar predicaments.

“I’m conflicted,” Borland said. “I don’t want to tell a 16-year-old who’s passionate about playing football to stop, or his parents who are passionate to stop. But I don’t know if I’ll have my kids play either. I don’t think it’s black-and-white quite yet.”

On the flip side, Borland knows that his retirement has caused many people to question his toughness and commitment to the game. Regardless, Borland maintains that being overprotective of his health outweighs the opinions of his peers and critics.

It’s hard for many to hear Borland accept that criticism when most, if not all of his detractors, pretend like they know what it’s like to be an NFL linebacker. There are so many casual NFL fans who are entertained by the game, but have never put on a football helmet, and believe Borland’s decision to be ridiculous.

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Borland described it best. He said that when you want to play good football, you have to go above and beyond to execute the play, and often times that requires a lot of violence and destruction. Do you want to respect the opinion of the armchair athlete or the player who had to go toe to toe with “Beast Mode”, Marshawn Lynch? That seems pretty obvious to most thinking people.

The narrative surrounding Borland and his retirement should be positive, but instead it seems to be straying more towards the cautiously negative. The NFL is a source of serious joy around the nation, and anything that could disrupt that happy balance is prone to harsh criticism. In time, there are many who hope that fans will be able to stop dehumanizing players and realize that there can be greater things than just the money and fame a career in the NFL can bring.

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