Justin Timberlake might be a football fan (though he wouldn’t actually give up who he was rooting for on Sunday), but when it comes to letting his 2-year-old son Silas play the sport one day, he’s pretty much made up his mind on the matter. And it’s basically: Um yeah, NOPE.
Days before the 37-year-old singer took to the stage for his Super Bowl LII halftime show on Sunday, Timberlake attended a Thursday-night press conference for the NFL, where he was asked whether or not he thought little Silas would ever don a pair of football cleats.
“Uh, he will never play football,” Timberlake reportedly said. “No, no.”
Timberlake certainly isn’t alone — according to a recent poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal, nearly 50 percent of parents wouldn’t want their kids playing the contact sport either, which in recent years has been widely linked to traumatic brain injuries, leading to mood disorders, behavioral problems, and even dementia later in life.
And while long-term professional athletes are certainly at a great risk (the NFL reportedly experienced the most concussions it’s seen in six seasons, with 281 concussions in 2017 alone), children are incredibly vulnerable. In fact, recent studies have led many experts to call for an outright ban on playing football under the age of 12, due to the stress the contact sport has on both the body and the brain.
Backing up that data are three retired NFL linebackers, Nick Buoniconti, Harry Carson, and Phil Villapiano, who are hoping to prevent more traumatic brain injuries in children by calling on parents to keep kids under 14 from playing tackle football. Instead, they ask parents to steer their football-loving kids towards flag football, where players aren’t subject to repeated hits.
“I beg of you, all parents to please don’t let your children play football until high school,” Buoniconti said in a news conference just last month. According to CNN, the former football player has been diagnosed with both dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease.
“I made the mistake starting tackle football at 9 years old,” says Buoniconti. “Now, CTE has taken my life away. Youth tackle football is all risk with no reward.”
Participation in the sport among 6 to 12 year-olds has actually dropped by 20 percent since 2009, the The New York Times reports, but that’s after it rose by 1.2 percent in 2015 to 1.23 million, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
As for Timberlake, it’s clear he has big hopes for Silas, but they don’t necessarily involve a Lombardi trophy.
“I mean, yeah, it’s kind of like that thing where my main objective is that he become a great person,” the singer shared Thursday’s press conference. “And if he wants to get into the arts or sports, then yeah, I would fully support that. I think I can hopefully offer him some advice on what to do and what not to do, so yeah, but right now we’re working on our manners. That’s a big deal in our house right now. It’s like, one thing at a time.”
Aaaaand that’s why we love him.