Ed Cunningham has resigned as a college football analyst for ESPN and ABC because of his growing discomfort with the players’ health and safety due to the sport, he explained in an interview with John Branch of The New York Times.
Cunningham, 48, was the captain of the Washington Huskies on their 1991 national championship team before enjoying a five-year NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. He has served as a color commentator on ESPN and ABC for the past two decades. He says that he left behind a six-figure salary with the network. Cunningham was not one of the dozens of on-air personalities that was laid off in April.
“I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” he said. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”
“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham added. “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”
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The death of his former teammate Dave Duerson affected him deeply. Duerson killed himself in 2011 and it was later discovered that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in his brain.
In July, a new study by Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee revealed that 202 brains of deceased football players were examined and found that 110 of the 111 brains of former NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The results were published the Journal of the American Medical Association.