President Donald Trump called football a “dangerous” sport and said he would be uncomfortable with his youngest son, Barron, playing it.
Asked if he would allow the 12-year-old to play the game during a CBS interview coinciding with Super Bowl Sunday, the president hesitated.
“It’s [a] very tough question. It’s a very good question,” Trump said. “If he wanted to? Yes. Would I steer him that way? No, I wouldn’t.”
In his interview, set to air ahead of the Super Bowl, Trump said he doesn’t like “the reports” on football, likely referring to studies that show a strong connection between people who play the sport and serious brain injuries.
“I just don’t like the reports that I see coming out having to do with football ― I mean, it’s a dangerous sport,” he said. “I thought the equipment would get better, and it has. The helmets have gotten far better but it hasn’t solved the problem.”
He continued, “I hate to say it because I love to watch football. I think the NFL is a great product, but I really think that as far as my son ― well I’ve heard NFL players saying they wouldn’t let their sons play football. So... I would have a hard time with it.”
Along with several NFL players saying they wouldn’t let their children play the sport, high school football participation has steadily dropped in recent years amid heightened injury concerns. Football enrollment on this level has dropped 6.6 percent in the last decade, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Research has shown that the declines are particularly stark among white suburban and upper-class families. Black participation has remained steady, and high school football participation has increased in states with the largest proportion of black populations.
Football has become a “troubling picture of how economic opportunity — or a lack thereof — governs which boys are incentivized to put their body and brain at risk to play,” The Atlantic said in an article published Saturday.
Trump’s comments to CBS appear at odds with past statements he’s made about football, such as in 2015 when he worried the sport was getting too soft.
“I hope they don’t soften the game up too much,” Trump said during an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s Fox Sports radio show in November 2015. “I was reading yesterday they might not do [kickoffs] anymore and eventually you’re not going to have the same game. They have to be careful with that. Don’t make it too politically correct. What we’re doing in the country is that everything has to be [politically correct]. It’s a violent game.”
Trump’s latest comments on the sport echo concerns expressed by former President Barack Obama. “I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” Obama told The New Yorker in 2014.
Referring to professional players, he said, “These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret.”
Reporter Travis Waldron contributed reporting.