Bob Costas has become the latest person to speak out against the dangers of football, stating publicly that if he had a son, he wouldn’t let him on the field. And new youth football enrollment numbers seem to suggest that Costas isn’t the only person who shares that opinion.
“I’d tell them no,” Costas said when asked if he’d let his kid play. “I know that goes viral tomorrow. … I know many, many thoughtful people in football … who belie the stereotype that we think we’ve got coming out of the Dolphins locker room, very thoughtful people where football has shaped their lives in a positive way, so I’m not going to paint everyone with a broad brush.
“Maybe the better answer is: Be advised of the extreme dangers, know what you’re getting into. But let me put it this way: If it were my son and he was 13 years old and had reasonable athletic ability, I would encourage him to play baseball, or to play basketball or to play soccer or something other than football.”
Costas’ statement comes alongside a new report that Pop Warner participation is down 9.5 percent between 2010 and 2012. According to data provided to Outside the Lines, a record 248,899 played Pop Warner football in 2010, but that number fell to 225,287 by the 2012 season. Additionally, participation in USA Football dropped 6.7 percent in that same span.
Dr. Julian Bailes, Pop Warner’s chief medical officer, said the decline can be attributed mostly to the increase in awareness about head injuries.
"Unless we deal with these truths, we’re not going to get past the dropping popularity of the sport and people dropping out of the sport," Bailes told OTL. "We need to get it right."
Youth football isn’t going anywhere just because Costas is taking a stand against it, and I’m not sure that’s what Costas and others have in mind when they speak about the dangers of the sport. They’re just looking to find a safer way for kids to play, and as long as that remains the goal, it’s a crusade that’s tough to argue against.