The long-term impact of repeated collisions on the skull, health and psyche of NFL players has become one of the sport's paramount concerns, with lawsuits and allegations flying. Now, the nation's First Football Fan has weighed in ... and he's expressing some trepidation about the game's future. In a wide-ranging interview on violence with The New Republic, President Obama touched on the culture of sanctioned (and potentially damaging) violence in football:
I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.
I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies. You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about.
Conspiracy theorists are no doubt going to scream that THE PRESIDENT'S ALREADY TAKIN' OUR GUNS AND NOW HE'S COMIN' FOR OUR FOOTBALL TOO!!!!, but make sure you read his word choice closely: Football "will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence," not "we have to change football." Hey, even the president doesn't pick fights with the NFL.
Obama will have a broad, football-rabid pulpit for his views next week. As is tradition, CBS News' Scott Pelley will interview the president before the Super Bowl. It'll be interesting to see if, on football's national holiday, Pelley will ask, or Obama will discuss, an issue that does not sync with the culture of football as it's existed for decades.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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