A second year linebacker out of the University of Wisconsin, Borland was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal year for the 49ers that saw the team miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and lose their oft embattled, but incredibly successful head coach Jim Harbaugh to the University of Michigan. A 3rd round pick in last year’s NFL draft, Borland emerged from relative obscurity to lead the team in tackles in 2014 and was slated to take over for the recently retired Willis at inside linebacker and become an integral part of the 49er defense.

However, after Borland received what he believes to be a concussion during the preseason last year—believes, not knows, as the 49ers didn’t test him for concussion symptoms and he continued to practice—he began to do research on the subject of head trauma in football. Last year, as he was earning defensive rookie of week honors in the NFL, Borland was also reading—a groundbreaking expose of the NFL’s copious efforts to sweep the issue of brain damage under the rug in recent years—and interviewing former players and leaders in neurological research around chronic traumatic encephalopathy in an attempt to determine whether or not he wanted to play. On Monday, he let the world know what he had decided and he also succinctly encapsulated the NFL’s vested interest in keeping players in the dark regarding head trauma, saying that

Borland’s announcement has produced a rash of articles from everyone from and to asking if this is the end of football as we know it. The answer to that question, as evidenced by , is a pretty emphatic no. If the NFL could cap off a season that featured the almost incomprehensible mismanagement of a domestic violence scandal and the suspension of the league’s star running back for beating his young son with a tree branch with the most watched television event in American history, the early retirement of a linebacker making the league minimum isn’t going to put much of a hitch in their step. With that being said, the retirement of Chris Borland does signify a shift in the demographics of NFL rosters in the coming decades.

Borland, the son of a financial planner in Dayton, Ohio, appears to be on the forefront of a growing trend of upper-middle and middle class Americans who believe football to be too dangerous a sport for their sons to play. A recent Bloomberg poll indicates that , a development that isn’t crippling to the NFL’s future, but will certainly change the socioeconomic makeup of its players. At the present, it looks as if the future of football is akin to that boxing—a sport that was wildly successful, but whose talent pool consistently drew from the most marginalized portions of society. Ask your average upper-middle class father if he wants his son to play football and you might encounter a great deal of opposition to the idea. However, ask that same father if he’s willing to stop rooting for his alma mater on Saturdays or his NFL team on Sundays and you’ll get a much different response. Sure, many of us feel increasingly guilty watching a game in which men batter their brains and bodies for our entertainment, but we don’t stop watching and, given our collective response to the deaths of men like Javon Belcher, it doesn’t look like we will anytime soon.