President Barack Obama called the NFL an "old boys network" while discussing the league's handling of the Ray Rice controversy, as well as issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, in an ESPN radio interview Friday.
“The way [the Ray Rice case] was handled indicates the NFL was behind the curve, as a lot of institutions have been behind the curve in sending a clear message. You don’t want to be winging it when something like this happens. You want to have clear policies in place,” the president told Colin Cowherd, host of "The Herd."
“There have been some blind spots that are rooted not just in pro football but dating back to college football and certain behaviors have been tolerated historically that really should not have been tolerated. Hopefully this is a wake-up call," Obama added.
In the aftermath of the Rice incident, Obama said he was "so glad that we've got more awareness about domestic violence." The president went on to offer his support from more diversity in the higher echelons of pro sports. "You make better decisions when you've got different viewpoints." he said.
The NFL rolled out what league commissioner Roger Goodell called a "comprehensive" new personal conduct policy on Wednesday, which includes the appointment of a league disciplinary officer and a minimum six-game suspension without pay for a wide range of infractions.
The president, who is an unabashed sports fan, has appeared on ESPN outlets in the past, advocating for a college football playoff (which is now a reality) and making his annual picks for the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. During his appearance on "The Herd," Obama said he watches "Sports Center" when he works out in the mornings. But with the exception of the World Series, the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals, he doesn't really have the time to watch games in full. Obama did admit, though, that when he's saddled with a "fat briefing book" he will keep a game on television with the sound turned down.
Obama also talked about the pitfalls of being a pro athlete. “Most professional athletes understand that until you win that championship there are going to be times when you’re a bum,” he said, before lamenting the sorry state of his hometown Chicago Bears. However, the president remains bullish on the Chicago Bulls, which some prognosticators think are favorites to reach the NBA Finals.
The president said that one way that politicians differ from sports stars is that ultimately they shouldn't see themselves as competing with each other. In politics, we forget that we’re all on one team,” said Obama. "The American team."