Ralph Nader asks Gary Bettman to ban fighting in the NHL

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Political activist and five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader has taken the NHL to task on his sports reform website, League of Fans.

In An Open Letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: It’s Time to Ban Fighting, Nader asks “the leader of the most influential hockey organization in the world” to “take immediate steps to ban fighting and outlaw all blows to the head.”

More, from League of Fans:

Fighting in hockey can no longer be a long-debated issue pitting those who find it barbaric and unsportsmanlike and those who argue that it’s an integral part of the fabric of the game.  The growing mound of research on sports concussions and brain injuries has taken the fighting issue to an entirely different level.  We’re talking about short-and-long-term damage to the brain, the very foundation of who we are as people.

Repeated head trauma has shortened the careers of Pat LaFontaine, Eric Lindros, and Keith Primeau.  Currently, concussions are threatening the careers of Pittsburgh Penguin’s superstar Sidney Crosby and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Chris Pronger.  Three enforcers, Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, whose primary job was to protect teammates by throwing fists at the heads of opponents, have died in the past year.  It’s certainly possible the brain trauma they received on the ice from their fellow combatants played a significant role in their deaths.

You can read the full text of Nader’s letter here.

This isn’t the first time Nader’s publicly challenged a major-league commissioner. He’s taken runs at NBA head honcho David Stern — once criticizing referees (then criticizing them again in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal) and once questioning the scheduling of Christmas Day games.