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Obama: Football needs change

President wary of concussions on youth, college levels

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President Obama provided a bit of pre-Super Bowl buzz-kill Sunday by saying that he believed football needs to make changes in order to reduce concussion risks.

"I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep the sport safer," said Mr. Obama in a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS anchor Scott Pelley. "That means the game's probably going to evolve a little bit."

The president, who said last month that he would think twice about allowing a son to play football, emphasized that the changes should be made at the youth and college level as opposed to the National Football League, given that NFL players are "grown men, they're well-compensated, they know the risks that are involved."

"For those of us who like to see a big hit, and enjoy the rock 'em, sock 'em elements of the game, we're probably going to be occasionally frustrated," Mr. Obama said.

The interview, conducted in the White House Blue Room, came as what has become an annual Super Bowl tradition during the Obama administration. Since he took office in 2009, the president has participated in a pregame interview by the network airing the Super Bowl.

The interview touched on several other issues, including tax increases, the economy, women in combat and gays in the Boy Scouts. The president said he supported a proposal under consideration by the Boy Scouts of America that would allow openly gay Scout leaders and Scouts.

"I think my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else has in every institution and walk of life," Mr. Obama said.

He said he also supports the Pentagon's move to include women in combat roles, noting that "women as a practical matter are now in combat."

"I meet extraordinary women in uniform who can do everything a man can and more," he said. "The truth is women are serving, they're taking great risks, and what we should not do is somehow prevent them from advancing in an institution that we all revere."

Pressed on whether he would back another increase in tax rates, Mr. Obama said he would support other means of raising tax revenue, such as by eliminating loopholes and deductions, along with "smart spending reductions."

"If you combine those things together, then we can not only reduce our deficit, but we can continue to invest in things like education and research and development that are going to help us grow — without raising rates again," he said.

At the same time, he said he wanted to see the tax code become more "fair" to lower- and middle-income earners.

"The average person doesn't have access to Cayman Island accounts," he said. "We just want to make sure the whole system is fair, that it's transparent."

The president has in the past commented on the game itself, but this year he made no predictions or observations about the contest between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

"It is going to be a great game," said Mr. Obama. "I've got some wings waiting for me upstairs."

Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a Super Bowl party at the White House, where the exquisite neutrality was maintained on the menu.

In honor of Baltimore and San Francisco, the Obamas' guests were served Chesapeake crab cakes and San Francisco cioppino stew with sourdough toast. They were also treated to Anchor Steam and Clipper City beers from the competing cities.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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