Malcolm Gladwell Returns to Penn, Won’t Be Hanging With Football Team

Urged students to boycott the sport his last time on campus.

Less than a year after he made waves by urging Penn students to boycott the university’s football team and the “violent, stupid game” itself, author Malcolm Gladwell is returning to campus for a talk later this afternoon. It’s open to university students, faculty, and staff only.

Gladwell earned particular anger at the time for mentioning Owen Thomas, a former Penn player who committed suicide—and was later found to have brain problems increasingly associated with football playing. “Owen’s case is more than just a piece of evidence,” defensive back Justyn Williams later wrote in response. “He is a figure that remains in the minds of all that knew him and who lived for the game of football. I’m almost sure he wouldn’t want to be associated with any case being made to destroy the game that he loved so much.

The Inquirer reports that Gladwell, scheduled to speak at 4:30, isn’t perturbed by the controversy he set off: “Sometimes I think people are too afraid of contradiction and useful disagreement,” Gladwell said. “We should be open enough and self-confident enough to entertain lots of different ideas.”