Public concern about the long-term risks of football on young children — including that expressed by President Obama this week — may ultimately represent the biggest threat to the future of the nation’s most popular pasttime, former Saints player Steve Gleason said during a panel discussion on the issue Tuesday night.
Until very recently, it would not have been uncommon for a 6-year-old boy to dream of growing up to be like San Diego Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, Gleason said. But after Seau committed suicide last year — and was subsequently discovered to have signs of a depression-causing degenerative brain disease linked to repetitive head injuries — children may now be starting to decide they don’t want to be like NFL players, Gleason said. When the President of the United States speculates that if he had a son, he might not want him to play football, that’s one more major step in that direction, Gleason said.
“Now, that kid — and his parents — do not want to grow up to be like Junior. As a result, the talent pool is diminished, and the game slowly becomes less relevant,” said Gleason, who is also battling ALS. “Obama, with his hypothetical comment, in his own way diminished the hypothetical talent pool, which is the greatest asset the NFL has.”