Ed Cunningham has been a mainstay and ABC and ESPN's college football coverage each Saturday since 2000. No longer.
Cunningham resigned from ESPN among the company's layoffs in April, for reasons he is just publicly revealing now. Cunningham told his Bristol colleagues at the time he wanted to free up time to devote to his day job as a film and TV producer and to his 5- and 3-year-old sons, which are both true. But the New York Timesdoesn't write big profiles on announcers who quit to spend more time at home. No, Cunningham left his job as a game analyst because he says he can no longer be party to the game's violent nature.
The money quote:
“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham said. “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.”
Cunningham played on Washington's 1991 national title team and spent five years in the NFL before devoting the last 17 seasons to broadcasting, working most recently with Mike Patrick on Saturday afternoon games on ABC and ESPN. At 48, Cunningham says he's spent 70 percent of his life has been "dominated" by football. You may remember him as the most outspoken member of ESPN's college football roster.
He doesn't hate the game, he says, he can just no longer promote it.
“I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” he told the paper. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”
Cunningham is the first broadcaster to voluntarily leave a that many who have it cling onto until they reach their 80's due to this reason. Al Michaels told the paper he doesn't see a line forming behind Cunningham headed out the broadcast booth:
“I don’t feel that my being part of covering the National Football League is perpetuating danger,” he said in a phone interview. “If it’s not me, somebody else is going to do this. There are too many good things about football, too many things I enjoy about it. I can understand maybe somebody feeling that way, but I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody else in my business who would make that decision.”
While Cunningham is, for now, the first in a group of one, his departure will only further cement that conversations about head trauma are now a mainstay in football.