Donald Trump believes he has found the perfect encapsulation of the decline of America: the NFL’s efforts to stop head-on collisions in football.
Speaking at a rally in Reno, Nevada, he lamented a game that has “gone soft”, while appearing to reference the penalties that cost the Cincinnati Bengals their playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“So I’m watching a game yesterday,” said Trump. “What used to be considered a great tackle, a violent head-on [tackle], a violent – if that was done by Dick Butkus, they’d say he’s the greatest player. If that were done by Lawrence Taylor – it was done by Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, right? Ray Nitschke — you used to see these tackles and it was incredible to watch, right?
“Now they tackle. ‘Oh, head-on-head collision, 15 yards.’ The whole game is all screwed up ... Football has become soft. Football has become soft. Now, I’ll be criticized for that. They’ll say, ‘Oh, isn’t that terrible.’ But football has become soft like our country has become soft.
Despite wide acknowledgement that the league needs to cut down on head injuries and concussions, Trump said that more protection for players will harm the NFL. “It’s become weak and you know what? It’s going to affect the NFL,” said Trump. “I don’t even watch it as much anymore. It’s going to affect the NFL. I don’t watch it. The referees, they want to all throw flags so their wives see them at home. ‘Oh, there’s my husband.’ It’s true. ‘He just broke up - he just gave a 15-yard penalty on one of the most beautiful tackles made this year.’ Right?”
Trump was quick to give his approval for one figure in the NFL though: his friend the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“It’s boring - although I love Tom Brady,” said Trump. “I gotta tell you. I do love Tom. He’s a great guy. But it’s different. But it’s become soft and our country has become soft.”