The safety of American football has long been a topic of discussion, especially recently after the suicide of Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau and its potential link to head injuries sustained while playing in the NFL. The discussion has now extended to President Barack Obama, who voiced his own concerns to The New Republic.
In the interview, President Obama made it clear that he would have second thoughts if he had a son who wanted to play football, this despite being a football fan himself.
”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,” Obama tells The New Republic.
”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.”
President Obama is right in speculating that the game will gradually introduce rule changes to reduce its violent nature. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be less exciting. For example, the NBA has gone to great lengths since the 1990s to reduce its physical nature (most notably outlawing hand-checking). As a result, the game is faster, scoring is up, and players’ athleticism are rewarded over the kind of bruising enforcers that were very prevalent in the ’90s.
Granted, the NFL can’t exactly limit violence in the same way the NBA has. The sport is predicated on players being able to hit and tackle one another, after all. But as the NFL institutes new rules designed to limit player injuries (no horsecollar tackles, no helmet-to-helmet hits, and no spearing defenseless players are all current rules that immediately come to mind), the game should see the same benefits of a cleaner sport that the NBA has found over the past two decades.
With the violent nature of the NFL, though, hopefully it doesn’t take two decades for football to become safer. And with players from the ’80s and ’90s already coming forward with stories of how they are still living with injuries sustained in their playing days, changes need to be made now before another 20 years pass and the NFL loses another generation to lifelong injuries.