Time to talk about the election.
No, no! Don't stop reading! I don’t mean that election about which you’ve been hearing too much. I’ve got another election in mind and another candidate.
"I believe there will be a movement to ban high school football," says Russell Davis, who is running for a position on the Board of Trustees of the Clark County School District in Nevada, the fifth-largest in the country.
And he doesn’t just believe there will be a movement to ban high school football; he’s made eliminating the sport at high schools in Clark County a campaign promise.
"I’m running on a platform to protect our kids from head injuries," Davis says. "And part of the main component of that platform would be to ban high school football. We do not have an airbag between our brain and the skull. And when you get hit, it moves."
For the record, the remaining planks in Mr. Davis’s platform are not “Down With Old Glory” and “Cuba’s Got It Right.” In fact, he used to be a fan of the great American tradition of high school football.
"Well, I grew up in a small town of Gardnerville, up in northern Nevada. And that was Friday night. Friday night during the fall was football season, and we all went down to watch the game," Davis says. "It is part of a tradition. I don’t think it’s as big as it is in Texas. We’re not spending $62 million on a new high school football stadium. But my thing is, traditions come and go. Why don’t we have boxing any more in high school?"
Once you get past the emotion, then I think they really sit down and they go, 'You know what? You’re right.'"Russell Davis
A rhetorical question if there ever was one, I suppose. Obviously Russell Davis’s point is that young men should not be getting their brains bounced around in their heads under the auspices of activities at the public schools they attend. There are 49 high schools in his district, and at least according to what anecdotal evidence he’s been able to compile, Davis is not alone in his conviction.
"I did a call-in show the other day, and, out of five people that were able to call when I was on, three of them supported my position on it," he says. "All I need is a majority. I’m good with that."
Spoken like a politician. But what makes candidate Davis think those three of five callers can be representative of the electorate in Clark County?
"Once they get past that emotion," he says, "then I think they really sit down and they go, 'You know what? You’re right.'"
According to some of the Facebook posts responding to Davis’s candidacy, “getting past the emotion” won’t be easy. One among the more restrained of those posts goes like this: “The positives I got from playing high school and college football far outweigh the two concussions I had.” Here’s another one: “I’m waiting for the day when kids have to stand completely still, with no physical contact with other students whatsoever.” Parents who are emotionally invested in the high school football careers of their sons may be similarly disinclined to transcend emotion.
Maybe the two dissenters who called that radio show felt that way, too. Or maybe they were concerned with the rest of Davis’s platform, which includes higher pay for teachers, smaller classes, mandatory personal finance classes, and healthier school lunches.
But probably not. Davis is well aware that it’s his position on high school football that distinguishes him from the school board candidates around the country who want more bake sales or fewer references to evolution. He knows the revelations about chronic traumatic encephalopathy have inspired doubts about football at all levels. But though the President of the United States himself has said that if he had sons, they wouldn’t play football, that’s not a popular stance in the land where the NFL is king, which is part of the reason Russell Davis makes a distinction between football as played at public high schools and the game the big kids play.
"I grew up a big fan of the Raiders, and there’s talk about the Raiders coming to Las Vegas, and I’m excited about that," he says. "But these are adults. And as an adult, you can measure your decision based on the risk versus the reward. I’m talking about kids."
Of course, if the kids stop playing in high school, the pool of potential college players will shrink dramatically, as will the pool from which the NFL picks those fellows allegedly capable of measuring risk against reward. But that’s not something Russell Davis is concerned with right now. He’s got an election to win next week. And as soon as the Clark County returns are in, we’ll let you know whether Mr. Davis has a new job.
This segment aired on June 11, 2016.