Ronnie Lott discusses importance of athlete safety, moral obligation
THE SANTA CLARA
October 16, 2014
In 1985, NFL safety Ronnie Lott broke his pinky finger midseason. Rather than choosing surgical reconstruction, he opted to have it partially amputated to avoid a long recovery period.
The hall of fame player joined Santa Clara women’s soccer head coach Jerry Smith to discuss football, controversy and life in this year’s first installment of the President’s Speaker Series on Oct. 9.
Lott played in the NFL for 15 seasons, owns two car dealerships and founded an investment company. He has been an activist for decades, advocating for players’ rights and helping at-risk children in the Bay Area. According to Smith, Lott was known for his hard hits and unrelenting, competitive attitude as a player.
His experiences have been driven by his core set of personal values, which he discussed at length Thursday night.
“There is a genuine humility about him that belies the fact that he is unquestionably one of the top NFL players of all time,” said Dan Coonan, director of athletics and recreation. “Bouncing from topic to topic over the course of the evening, you start to see a powerful moral compass emerge that anchors his viewpoint and approach to all of these issues.”
Lott went in depth about the issues of athlete safety, especially about the prevalence of traumatic head injuries in sports, an issue that has come under immense national scrutiny in recent months.
Margaret Avritt, the director of the President’s Speaker Series, said Lott’s background and depth of knowledge in that area was a major reason the university asked him to speak.
“We need to understand that there are other qualities coming out of the game other than hitting somebody,” Lott said. “I would encourage all of us to learn how to learn. If I were playing today, I would learn how to keep my head out of the tackle. A professional is a person who evolves and gets better.”
Lott offered advice not only to professionals, but to college athletes as well, insisting that student athletes should focus on being a kid and having fun, rather than approaching sports like a job.
Regarding the debate over the name of the Washington Redskins football team, which many argue should be changed because of its derogatory link to Native Americans, Lott endorsed taking a path of acceptance and social justice.
“Any time someone feels that they’re being neglected or discriminated against, to me, we have to take a stand as a country,” he said, arguing in favor of a name change.
In addition to his background in football and business, Lott has quite a few ties to Santa Clara and the community.
He serves on the board of the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics is a member of the Santa Clara Board of Regents.
Lott has teamed up with Jerry Smith for his Coaching for Life Academy, a motivational workshop aimed at teaching students, parents and coaches about leadership in sports. Lott also has a son and daughter currently attending Santa Clara.
According to Coonan, the Santa Clara community benefits from Lott’s involvement because he is a role model to students and his work contributes to Santa Clara’s reputation.
“I think the discussion that (Smith) facilitated with (Lott) was really a terrific moment for Santa Clara,” Coonan said in an email. “Here we have someone who is clearly a national icon…enunciating how much he respects and admires Santa Clara and wants to earn the respect of this community.”
Contact Collin Baker at email@example.com .