President Obama has weighed in on the subject of brain injuries in football, saying that as a parent, he’s not sure he’d allow a son to play.
“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,” Obama said in an interview with the New Republic. “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.”
The NFL has taken most of the public criticism for head injuries, but Obama said his greater concern is for amateur players who aren’t getting paid and may not have as full an appreciation of the risks.
“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,” Obama said. “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.”
The NFL has stayed a step ahead of the NCAA, both in enforcing rules designed to limit hits to the head and in treating players who suffer concussions. But fans of football at every level should be prepared for more political pressure on the sport to dramatically reduce hits to the head.