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#NPRreads: Three Great Reads To Cuddle Up With This Weekend

Retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, shown here in 2010, now says he regrets playing football.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Morning Edition editor Chinita Anderson:

My first memory of celebrating M.L. King Day was during my elementary years in an all-African-American Catholic school in Cincinnati where we cheerfully sang Stevie Wonder's hit song, "Happy Birthday."

King's holiday means many things to different people: for some it's a day off work, for others it's a day of volunteering or gathering with others to celebrate Dr. King's work towards bringing racial equality to America and to renew the call to continue his legacy.

In the journalism world, King's day is usually marked with a flush of stories focused on people upholding his quest to make America a fairer place.

This year The New York Times changed the game. Instead of another profile of a do-gooder, the gray lady dipped into her archives and gathered the obituaries of eight prominent African-Americans, including Dr. King, to give us a retrospective on how they were regarded at the time of their deaths.

As I read them, I marveled that W.E.B. Dubois was regarded as a "controversial leader" during his lifetime. I was emboldened by Shirley Chisholm's courage to run for New York State Assembly in 1964 because "the people wanted me (to)." I learned about Samuel J. Battle, the son of formerly enslaved Africans who became the first African-American to be appointed to New York City's police force in 1911.

This was the first time that I truly understood that an obituary could be more than a summary of events in a person's life. I hope to live my life in a way that my obituary reads of a life filled with good deeds, adventure and art.

From Steve Mullis, Editor For Digital News:

It is rarely, if ever, disputed that photography is important in journalism. What is often at issue for organizations, however, is when an image goes too far. This happens most often with photographs related to war, violence and conflict, when the decision to not show something can contrast with the reality of the written words.

Writer and photographer Teju Cole's essay "Against Neutrality" makes a case for how the proper (or improper) use of photos — attempting to spare our own sensitivities and pursuing "a blinkered neutrality at the expense of real fairness" can do more harm than good. He writes: "When the tragedy or suffering of only certain people in certain places is made visible, the boundaries of good taste are not really transgressed at all."

From Two-Way blogger Laura Wagner:

It's no secret that football is a dangerous sport. The evidence linking concussions to brain damage continues to mount, and the sport's physical toll on athletes' bodies is steep.

Even so, I was surprised by the vehemence with which former NFL player Antwaan Randle El expressed regret for playing football in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article this week. The 36-year-old former Steelers' wide receiver, known for throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL in 2006, said, "If I could go back, I wouldn't [play football]." The one-time star says he's forgetful, has trouble going down stairs and worries about being able to see his kids grow up. He warns parents against letting their children play the sport, saying: "It just comes down to it's a physically violent game."

As I settle in to watch the NFL playoff games this weekend, his words will be ringing in my head. The sport is inherently violent, and if the NFL is serious about eliminating the resulting casualties, it's going to have to drastically alter the game. But if football were to undergo a radical change — if it did away with helmets and pads, for example — would anyone watch? Maybe that's what Randle El meant when he said, "I wouldn't be surprised if football isn't around in 20, 25 years."

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