Health + Safety

Obama Not Sure If He Would Let Son Play Football

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So far, the ever-increasing awareness of the dangers of playing football hasn’t decreased the popularity of the NFL, but a number of fans and former players have said they wouldn’t let their children play football.

President Barack Obama may be a big Chicago Bears fan, but, in an interview with The New Republic on February 11, admitted that if he had a son he would struggle with the decision to let him play and would “have to think long and hard” because of the physical toll the game takes.

“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,” he said in the interview. “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.”

Obama’s larger concern is for college football, where players have no real advocate.

“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,” he 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,” said Obama.

“I am with Obama,” said Ed Reed, a Hall of Fame-bound safety for the Ravens. “I have a son. I am not forcing football on my son. If he wants to play it … I can’t make decisions for him. All I can do is say, ‘son, I played it so you don’t have to.'”

The president’s comments didn’t sit well with others, including the San Francisco and Baltimore coaches — brothers Jim and John Harbaugh.

“Well I have a 4-month old, almost 5-month old son, Jack Harbaugh,” said Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers coach. “And if President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little bit less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older.”

John Harbaugh, the leader of the Ravens, said he didn’t agree with Obama, and “football is a great game. … It’s challenging, it’s tough, it’s hard. There is no game like football. It’s the type of sport that brings out the best in you. It kind of shows who you are. I think it’s a huge part of our educational system in this country. And it’s going to be around for a long time.”

(Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)