SAN FRANCISCO — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was heavily criticized for being tone deaf about the risks associated with playing football when he used what seemed to be an awkward analogy during his Super Bowl news conference on Friday.
However, on Monday Goodell stood by his remarks, insisting that his message is for people to be involved in sports as a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
On Friday, Goodell was asked if he felt comfortable encouraging the parents of young athletes to play football, given the fact that as many as 13 high school football players died in 2015.
“There’s risks in life. There’s risks to sitting on the couch,” Goodell said. “What we want to do is get people active and want them to experience the game of football because the game of football will teach you the values . . . the discipline, the teamwork, the perseverance. Those are values and those are skills that will lead you through life, and I believe football is the best to teach that.”
The couch analogy was seized upon by Goodell’s critics, who maintain it was an inappropriate comparison, given the recent attention on former players having been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
But Goodell defended his remarks.
“That’s what I said, we want people to get up and be active,” he said in an interview with Newsday. “It’s very important. There are risks associated with not being active. We want people to get involved in sports. It doesn’t have to be football. It can be other sports.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello expounded on Goodell’s remarks.
“The point was obvious: that there are even health risks to doing nothing, to being physically inactive,” Aiello said. “As [Goodell] said in the full answer, we want to get people active. Playing football — flag or tackle — is one choice that has certain rewards, including physical fitness. There are other choices. His daughters play soccer and lacrosse, which have significant risk of injury. Our long-running Play 60 campaign promotes physical fitness for young people [60 minutes of play a day], whatever the activity.”
Many current and former players criticized the use of the couch analogy. That included Rams defensive end Chris Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long.
After Super Bowl 50 between the Panthers and Broncos, Long tweeted: “I am #blessed to survive a night on the couch. But I knew the risks.”