President Obama says if he had a son, he doesn’t know if he would let him play football

The president weighs in on how new safety measures in the NFL may affect fans and the future of the game

January 28, 2013

Judith Ruiz-Branch

President Barack Obama is weighing in on football concussions and admits if he had a son, he’d have to think long and hard about letting him play “because of the physical toll the game takes.”

"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 told 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."

Retired NFL quarterback Wayne Clark said he’s already seen a lot of these changes. Clark played for the San Diego Chargers, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs throughout his career.

“They’re already doing that, obviously, in the NFL, the rules are a lot different than when I played, with regard to protecting the quarterback and every other position too,” he said. 

Clark was one of five retired NFL players who participated in a recent study linking concussions to brain disease that Chicago-area  NorthShore University Health System collaborated on.

For the first time, doctors in the study were able to detect something called tau proteins in living players like Clark, which are linked with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

Prior to the study, this evidence was only available via an autopsy, like in the cases of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, and former San Diego Chargers linebacker, Junior Seau

Clark said when he was playing back in the '70s, concussions were just apart of the game and he didn’t think twice about getting one.

“ No more so than an ankle sprain or a sore arm for a quarterback or whatever,” he said.

Clark, 65, lives in Tustin, California.

Just like the president, he had to think twice about letting his only grandson play football.

“His parents have decided not to allow him to play pop warner or tackle football until he gets older and I think that’s a wise decision,” Clark said.