As the nation geared up for the Super Bowl XLVII matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, President Obama said he stood by his recent comments that as a parent he’d hesitate allowing his children to play football and that he viewed the contact sport differently in light of recent heightened national awareness of its health dangers.
In a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS’ Scott Pelley, the president reiterated what he’d told the New Republic.
“It is a great sport, I am huge fan, but there is no doubt some of the concerns that we have learned about when it comes to concussions have to give parents pause,” he said. “And as I said before. I feel differently about the NFL, these are grown men, they are well compensated, they know the risks that are involved. But as we start thinking about the pipeline, Pop Warner, high school, college, I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make the sport safer.”
The president admitted it may mean less drama for those “those of us who like to see a big hit,” but also acknowledged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent commitment of $30 million to the National Institutes of Health to accelerate research into the bodily effects of the contact sport.
Capitalizing on the massive audience for the Super Bowl — more than 111.3 million tuned in to watch last year and the game receives the highest viewer ratings of any broadcast — each year Obama has granted a game-day interview to whichever network airs the National Football League championship.
In a news cycle dominated by national debate on immigration reform and gun violence, Pelley today asked Obama about some topics that have received less attention, including military women in combat roles and whether the Boy Scouts should allow gay members into their organization.
In January the Pentagon announced it would lift a long-standing ban on women serving in combat. Pelley asked Obama if he had any hesitation as commander in chief in ordering female service members into harm’s way.
“I don’t,” Obama replied.
“Women as a practical matter are in now combat, they may not be treated as such, but when they are in theater in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they are vulnerable, they are wounded and they have been killed, and they have carried out their jobs with extraordinary patriotism, and distinction.” he said.
The president said he’d met women soldiers who could do “anything that a man can” and that they should not be prevented from “advancing in an institution we all revere.”
Meanwhile, later this week the Boy Scouts of America will convene to decide whether to allow members of the LGBT community into their ranks. Continuing his long-held stance, the President reiterated they should be allowed entry.
“My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunities, the same way as everyone else does, in every institution and walk of life,” he continued. “And you know the Scouts are a great institution, that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. And I think nobody should be barred from that.”
The interview also touched on the fallout of the from the “fiscal cliff” federal budget negotiations, in which the President signed legislation through Congress that raised taxes on annual household income over $450,000, an agreement reached by Democratic and Republican lawmakers after weeks of stalemate. Pelley asked Obama whether his administration would promise not to raise rates again in his next term.
“There is no doubt we need additional revenue coupled with smart spending reductions,” Obama replied, reiterating his past stance on reduction of healthcare costs and closing tax loopholes. Obama said the tax system needed to be “fair and transparent,” noting the average American couldn’t take advantage of loopholes or offshore accounts.