President Obama may love football as a fan, but he said he would have to “think long and hard” before allowing his son to strap on a helmet and lower his shoulder.
“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,” he told The New Republic in a new interview. “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 president went on to express greater concern for the NCAA’s college players, young athletes who lack the legal protection of a players’ union and the compensation the pros collect to risk repeated trauma to their bodies and brains.
The president’s assessment comes as an expected 100 million Americans gear up for Super Bowl XLVII–a battle between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, where there is a reasonable chance you’ll see at least one player suffer a concussion. Repeated brain trauma–and the resulting condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE–is a potential health crisis facing commissioner Roger Goodell and the wealthy NFL, the most popular sport in America.
Already, a class action lawsuit aimed at the league includes thousands of former NFL players and their families. Last week, the family of linebacker Junior Seau–who killed himself in May–filed their own suit blaming the league for failing to protect the athlete from dangerous hits to his head.
Cases of depression, dementia, and a rash of other former player suicides have put the league in a tricky position: how to acknowledge the problem and work to protect players without watering down the league’s hard-hitting excitement.
One player who will appear on the field Sunday, Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, told CBSSports.com that he doesn’t believe the NFL will exist in 30 years because of these competing pressures.
Brain trauma in the NFL has been a continuing topic for Martin Bashir. When Robert Griffin III had his high-profile ACL and MCL tears, Martin argued that it is the athlete’s head, not his knee, that the young athlete’s fans should be most concerned about.
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