President Obama Says Football Needs to Become Less Violent

President Barack Obama said he loves football but thinks the sport should “probably change gradually” so that there are fewer concussions, particularly at the college level.

President Barack Obama runs along the Colonnade of the White House with Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough’s children, Jan. 25, 2013. The President announced McDonough will become Chief of Staff, replacing Jack Lew, the nominee for Treasury Secretary. Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

The New Republic has an interview with President Obama where the newly re-minted commander-in-chief discusses, among other things, violence in football. The President makes some reasonable observations about the sport and the changes he foresees—less exciting for fans, but safer for the players.

President Obama is arguably sports fan in the world – just don’t ask him if he would let his son play football. As a Chicago native, he is a fan of the White Sox and the Bears.

“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 a wide-ranging interview with The New Republic magazine published early on Sunday on its website.

The commander in chief holds he highest office in America and Mr. Obama is known as an avid sports fan and athletic competitor, having played basketball and other sports while keeping busy during his four years in office.

Football is America’s most popular televised sport, an industry worth $9 billion a year. But in recent years, suicides by brain-injured players and lawsuits from their families have raised concerns about the impact of repeated concussions.

Obama was asked how he squares his love of the game with rising awareness of the impact of repeated head injuries on players.

He replied: “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.”

President continued: “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.”

But the President making his opinion known about football isn’t a new trend by a long shot. Back in the early 1900s when football was mostly a college game, President Theodore Roosevelt helped create the NCAA itself and made the sport less violent.

In an interview in the magazine’s Feb. 11 issue, Obama said he worries more about college players than he does about those in the NFL.

“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 change is still a long way from coming, but it’s the way the league has been leaning over the past few years.

President Obama has never hidden his love for sports and has been featured on ESPN over the past few years during March Madness to pick his bracket. He has thrown the first ball out at a White Sox game and he also will appear in an interview with CBS before the broadcast of this years Super Bowl.

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