From The New York Times:
Denny Doyle is a committed Catholic and a lifelong football fan, and he saw little conflict between the two until his grandson was old enough to play the game. That’s when he began reading about the risks that tackle football posed to young boys, whose brains are particularly vulnerable to concussions. To Doyle’s relief, his grandson opted for flag football.
But Doyle, his eyes opened, saw a bigger problem: The Roman Catholic Church that he loved was putting tens of thousands of other boys at risk by sponsoring the Catholic Youth Organization, or C.Y.O., which runs tackle football leagues around the country.
A former lawyer, Doyle feared that the church could be sued if a player sustained a catastrophic brain injury on the field or developed neurological or cognitive problems years later. After all, the church had pledged to protect children from harm after the child abuse scandals that led to billions of dollars in settlements.
Eventually, Doyle thought, an enterprising plaintiffs lawyer would make the case that the church was still exposing children to harm on the football field.
So Doyle made it his mission to get the church out of the business of tackle football.
“Nothing like this upsets my faith because my faith transcends Catholicism and my own relationship with God,” Doyle said. “But it’s disappointing and it’s sad because I think that they’re making a terrible mistake and they’re injuring children’s brains. It’s the second child abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.”
Doyle’s mission is also personal. He began playing tackle football at 7 and had concussions in grade school, high school and college, leaving the team at Xavier after one especially nasty hit. Doyle wondered whether he might incur the same cognitive and neurological issues that N.F.L. players have faced.
In the four years since he began lobbying church officials, Doyle has urged the archdiocese in his hometown, Cincinnati, to recognize the risks it faces. He hired a Catholic sports law professor to write opinions outlining the archdiocese’s legal exposure by allowing youth football to be played on its property, and sent them to church officials.