President Barack Obama said that he would not let his son play football, and said that he believed NFL players “know what they’re doing” with respect to their long-term health.
Obama’s comments were included in a lengthy profile in The New Yorker that was published on Sunday. It was written by David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker and a former sportswriter for The Washington Post.
They came on a Sunday in which the NFL is taking center stage, with conference championship games between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos in the AFC and San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC.
During a fundraising swing in late November, Obama invited Remnick to his cabin on Air Force One, where he was watching the Miami Dolphins take on the Carolina Panthers. Remnick asked Obama if he was skittish at all about watching the sport:
Reports of multiple concussions and retired players with early-onset dementia had been in the news all year, and so, before I left, I asked if he didn’t feel at all ambivalent about following the sport. He didn’t.
“I would not let my son play pro football,” he conceded. “But, I mean, you wrote a lot about boxing, right? We’re sort of in the same realm.”
The Miami defence was taking on a Keystone Kops quality, and Obama, who had lost hope on a Bears contest, was starting to lose interest in the Dolphins. “At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor,” he went on. “These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”
Obama chewed furtively on a piece of Nicorette. His carriage and the cadence of his conversation are usually so measured that I was thrown by the lingering habit, the trace of indiscipline. “I’m not a purist,” he said.
A federal judge last week denied preliminary approval of a $US760 million settlement between the NFL and more than 4,000 former players related to head injuries. U.S. District Judge Anita Brody questioned whether the sum was enough to cover all injured players.
In the lengthy, 17,000-word New Yorker profile, Obama also said that he thought marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol. In fact, he suggested that it was less dangerous, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer,” but emphasised that it was “not something I encourage.”
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