Bo Jackson: ‘If I Knew Back Then What I Know Now, I Would Have Never Played Football’

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

The NFL’s television ratings took a noticeable nosedive this season, before correcting itself slightly after the United States presidential election.

But the recent words of retired running back Bo Jackson should terrify commissioner Roger Goodell more than protesting athletes and shortened consumer attention spans driving their viewership down.

“If I knew back then what I know now. I would have never played football,” said Jackson, who was named to one Pro Bowl in the NFL and one All-Star team in the MLB. “Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.

“The game has gotten so violent, so rough. We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff, there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today.

“Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football.

“I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Jackson’s words reflect a growing sentiment that could truly drain the NFL of its exceptional talent—athletes picking other sports early in their lives thanks to grave safety concerns for football players. Jackson might have stuck to baseball exclusively and played a long career, rather than one shortened due to a hip injury sustained as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders.

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is one of many parents who don’t let their kids play football.

“We don’t want them to play in our household right now until they understand how physical and how demanding the game is,” LeBron said back in 2014. “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.”

In addition to being the No. 1 high school basketball player in the country, James was a start football player as a teenager in Akron.

“I needed a way out (of poverty),” James told a reporter in 2015 after being asked why his kids couldn’t play football even though he did. “My kids don’t.”