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Would You Let Them Play? NFL Players And Coaches (And The President) On Kids And Football

The NFL preseason is in full swing, which means your Sundays (and Mondays and Thursdays) will soon be dominated by gigantic men in garish spandex smashing into each other. Take the high road and lament how everyone’s still freaking out about Tom Brady’s deflated balls if you want, but at least that absurdity distracts from the conversation a lot of fathers might want to avoid: Given everything that’s now known about prevalence of concussions in the game, and the terrifying long-term impact they can have on a kid’s health, would you let your own kid play football?

It turns out, even for NFL players and coaches — some of whom now suffer from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — there’s not much consensus. For high profile guys beyond the game, though, the consensus runs all the way up to the White House.

Tony Dorsett, 62
Hall Of Fame Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
Diagnosed with CTE In 2013fatherly_tony_dorsett“I would (let my son play football). I would just be a little bit more concerned about certain injuries. When I was playing, my whole mentality was that if I could walk I’d play. Obviously there’s been a lot done for head injuries. They know a lot more about the brain and head trauma that can be created because of being knocked unconscious so many times. The game is still a great game. It’s football. It’s a very physically demanding sport on one’s body. And when you play football you sign up for that. It’s what you want to do. You like that contact.” (via The Dallas Morning News)

Barack Obama, 55
44th President Of The United States
fatherly_barack_obama“I would not let my son play pro football. It’s sort of in the same realm (as boxing). At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor. 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?” (via NFL)

Jim Harbaugh, 52
Former NFL QB and Head Coach, University of Michigan
“Well, I have a 4-month-old — almost, soon-to-be 5-month-old — son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then (there will) be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older. That’s the first thing that jumps into my mind, if other parents are thinking that way.” (via Yahoo! Sports)

Harry Carson, 61
Hall Of Fame Linebacker, New York Giants
“I cannot in good conscience allow my grandson to play knowing what I know. Now, his father might want him to play because his father doesn’t know. But knowing what I know, I don’t want him to play. He’s got golf clubs, I take him swimming, we do all kinds of stuff. But I don’t want him to play football, because I think this young, smart black kid, I want him to be intelligent; I want him to be brilliant; I want him to be able to use his brain and not his brawn. And I want him to be the best that he can be.” (via PBS)

Terrell Suggs, 33
All-Pro Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens
fatherly_terrell_suggs“It would have to be his choice. Football isn’t for everybody. If my son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want to play football,’ then I would let him play.” (via CBS DC)

Ed Reed, 37
Former All-Pro Safety, Baltimore Ravens
fatherly_ed_reed“I have a son. I am not forcing football on my son. If he wants to play it — I can’t make decisions for him. All I can do is say, ‘Son, I played it so you don’t have to.'” (via CBS DC)

Nate Jackson, 37
Author and Former Tight End, Denver Broncos
fatherly_nate_jackson“I would indeed allow my children to play football. And you should, too! Like football, life is a dangerous game. We drive cars, fly in airplanes, get drunk, fall in love. We go to great lengths to ensure our own safety and the safety of our loved ones, but deep down, we know that we are never truly safe.

That’s what makes life exciting. And that’s what makes football exciting. The players are never safe. Anything can happen at any moment. The controlled chaos on the football field is astonishing to witness, and refreshing for a spectator who may fear the chaos in his own life, and may need to be reminded how to take the leap.

Football is about action. Fast, explosive, and deliberate action that does not mince words, give false implications, make promises, or tell lies. It is all there for everyone to see—the good, the bad, and the ugly. So if my son wants to play the same sport as his daddy, then I’m behind him. If football doesn’t get him, something else will.” (via Slate)

Mike Ditka, 76
Hall Of Fame Tight End and Head Coach, Chicago Bears
“[It’s] sad. I wouldn’t. And my whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do.” (via TIME)

Barry Sanders, 48
Hall Of Fame Running Back, Detroit Lions
Son Barry Jr. plays running back at Stanfordfatherly_barry_sanders“For me, the game’s been great. I think organized sports of all kinds are good for kids. (My son) started at a young age. He plays because he enjoys the game and that’s what he wants to do; he’s at one of the finest universities being a student athlete now and I couldn’t be prouder. The thing about the game now is we’re much smarter about how we handle head injuries and how we monitor concussions so I think we’re in much better shape than we were before.” (via AOL)

Troy Aikman, 49
Hall Of Fame Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
“I think that we’re at a real crossroads, as it relates to the grassroots of our sport, because if I had a 10-year-old boy, I don’t know that I’d be real inclined to encourage him to go play football, in light of what we are learning from head injury.” (via Business Insider)

Richard Sherman, 28
All-Pro Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
fatherly_richard_sherman“Football will probably be one of the first sports (my son) plays. I don’t know too many 6, 7, and 8-year-olds that are just full-speed running into each other, getting concussions. Crazy injuries happen in any sport, but there’s also a lot of positives that come along with this game. Football teaches you discipline, helps you develop a sense of leadership and courage and camaraderie amongst your friends and teammates. It shows you how to work with a group, how to depend on one another, how to trust someone to do their job and how to be dependable and do your job. These are things you learn and they’re essential throughout your life.” (via New York Daily News)

LeBron James, 31
Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
“We don’t want them to play in our household right now until they understand how physical and how demanding the game is. Then they can have their choice in high school, we’ll talk over it, but right now there’s no need for it. There’s enough sports they can play. They play basketball, they play soccer, they play everything else but football and hockey. It’s a safety thing. As a parent you protect your kids as much as possible. I don’t think I’m the only one that’s not allowing his kids to play football, it’s just that I’m LeBron James and it gets put in the headlines for no reason.” (via ESPN)

Steve Young, 54
Hall Of Fame Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
“I would — well coached, well protected. For other reasons, I don’t know that I would want my son to play professional football. It’s just there is all kinds of other challenges. But young kids, well coached, protected, proper attention to the issues, yeah, I’d let my young son play for sure. Would I let him play linebacker? I don’t know. Quarterback? Yeah, he can play quarterback.” (via PBS)

Mark Cuban, 58
Dallas Mavericks (NBA) Owner
fatherly_mark_cuban“I wouldn’t want my son playing football, would you ? I’m sure helmet technology will improve over the next 10 years, but why risk it ? There are plenty of sports to play. Plenty of ways to get exercise and if my son decided to do anything outside of sports and never pick up any ball of any kind, I’m fine with that. I can think of 1k things I would prefer him to get excited about doing.” (via Facebook)

Brian Urlacher, 38
Former All-Pro Linebacker, Chicago Bears
fatherly_brian_urlacher“Yeah, for sure. By the time (my son) gets old enough to play, it’s going to be flag anyway, so he’s not going to be able to tackle. With the direction it’s going, it’s just getting less and less physical, so I think by the time he starts playing tackle, there won’t be harder collisions. He’ll be just fine.” (via CSN Chicago)