Bo Jackson—who will likely go down as the only person in the history of the world to be named both an MLB All-Star and an NFL Pro Bowl player during his illustrious career—probably wouldn’t be widely regarded as one of the best athletes of all time if he hadn’t spent four years in the NFL during the late 1980s. Sure, he still would have had a Heisman Trophy to his name, and people would have known that he had the potential to play more than one sport. But the fact that he actually played and excelled in both MLB and the NFL is what makes him such a special athlete.
If Bo could go back, though, he says he would have done things differently. According to an interview he did with USA TODAY Sports recently, he would have skipped playing professional football and just focused on baseball. Now that he knows all of the damage he could have done to his head and brain by playing football, he’s adamant about the fact that he wouldn’t have laced up his cleats and spent four years playing running back for the Raiders.
"If I knew back then what I know now, I would have never played football," he said. "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."
Bo also went on to explain that, if his kids were younger today and told him that they wanted to play football, he would steer them in a different direction.
"The game has gotten so violent, so rough," he said. "We’re so much more educated on this CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] 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.'"
Bo isn’t the first former NFL player to openly second-guess whether or not he would have played football if he had access to all of the information that’s available today. But the NFL has committed to trying to teach kids and, more importantly, their parents about how much safer football is now when compared to past years. And statements like the one Bo just made aren’t going to help matters much.
But then again, Bo has every right to speak out against football when you consider his involvement in the sport. It’s why his comments are getting so much attention and why people are going to listen when he speaks about the inherent dangers associated with playing football.