Changing The Game: President Obama Speaks Out Against Violence In Football
President Obama has become the latest to speak out against violence in football, saying in an interview with THE NEW REPUBLIC, "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, "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." He added he tends 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: "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 NEW REPUBLIC, 2/11 issue). Syndicated columnist George Will said, "The most important letters in football are not ‘NFL.’ They’re now ‘CTE.’” Will said Obama's comments are "going to be a rebellion, like the president is speaking as a parent, from the bottom up that is going to say, ‘This game is just not suited to the human body.’” NPR’s Steve Inskeep said football can be safer if the “rules change and if there is this kind of upswell” Will was referring to. However, he added there is something “deeply American about the violence of this sport” (“This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” ABC, 1/27).
MASSIVE CHANGES COMING? ESPN's Mike Golic said of massive changes coming to football, "I don’t buy it, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Maybe I’m hard-headed about it, maybe I’m naïve about it that major changes are going to happen, but I don’t think they are. What I would like to see happen is starting from the little league on up is better technique teaching where they especially learn to tackle.” But ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, “I do think major changes are on the way in the NFL. I do believe that on into the future you're going see a game of football that will be unlike anything you would recognize today.” Golic said of additional safety elements being put in the game, “The only way you're going to legislate something like that is to take the helmets off the players or put leather helmets back on the players. The game will go away first before they go to that because less interest will come about with fans” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 1/28). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, “The one issue that threatens the long-term prosperity of this game is the health of its players and whether people will participate in the sport. When you get a President coming out and saying he would balk at letting his sons play, that magnifies the issue and shines a spotlight squarely on it” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/28). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote, “I love football. And it scares me. And like Obama, I've never had to make this decision, but I would come down about where he does on it, in the ‘think long and hard’ area. I honestly don't know if I'd say yes or no” (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 1/27). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes as more is learned about the connection between head injuries sustained in football and the effect it has on the quality of life after football, there could be a “dramatic increase in the number of kids playing baseball” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/28).
FINISH LINE IN SIGHT? Ravens S Bernard Pollard said of the NFL's long-term future, “Thirty years from now, I don’t think it will be in existence." Pollard: "With the direction things are going -- where they (NFL rule makers) want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else -- there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up.” He added, “Guys are getting fined, and they’re talking about, ‘Let’s take away the strike zone’ and ‘Take the pads off’ or 'take the helmets off.' It’s going to be a thing where fans aren’t going to want to watch it anymore.” Pollard: “The league is trying to move in the right direction (with player safety), but at the same time, (coaches) want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I’m waiting for ... is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death.” He continued, “Like I said, I hope I’m wrong, but I just believe one day there’s going to be a death that takes place on the field because of the direction we’re going” (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/25).