The telephone won’t stop ringing at his offices in Chicago and Alabama. The emails and messages keep pouring in.
It may have been 23 years since Bo Jackson put on a uniform, but his comments last week to USA TODAY Sports clearly struck a nerve.
Jackson’s statement that he “would have never played football” had he been aware of CTE and other health risks reverberated throughout the sports world, and he was floored by the subsequent attention. Jackson was lauded for his candor, but also bombarded by calls and letters from irate football fans, amateur coaches, and even parents, telling him to keep his mouth shut.
He was accused of being unqualified to speak out about one of football’s most controversial topics, with others calling him hypocritical.
“They wanted know why I would try to deface football when I have football training at my facility (Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports in Lockport, Ill.)?’’ Jackson told USA TODAY Sports after he was honored by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. “It’s different. We teach proper techniques to all sports, not just football, by people who have played the game at its highest level. We teach kids the proper technique to play the game. Tackling is an art form. It’s not about running into each other as hard as you can.
“I’m also getting people saying I know nothing about concussions and head injuries. Let me tell you this, I speak on concussions because I’ve had a couple. I speak on CTE because I have a tendency to forget little things like where I put my keys five minutes ago. Or I forget what items I came to the grocery store for. I had my bell rung a couple of times while I was with the Raiders. One time I got up off the field, came to the other sideline, and actually sat on the wrong bench.
“So people shouldn’t make comments about somebody unless you have walked in their shoes, or you have competed on the same level that they have. Period. All of the comments are probably coming from selfish people only looking to make a profit off the sport.”
Jackson says he has not and won’t join any legal actions taken against the NFL by former players.
“I think it’s best for me to stay out of lawsuits,’’ Jackson says, “so the guys who really needs those funds can have them.’’
Jackson, the former Heisman Trophy winner, Pro Bowl running back from the Los Angeles Raiders and All-Star outfielder with the Kansas City Royals, will be forever indebted to football and baseball, making him one of sports’ biggest icons. And even if he knew about the risk of head injuries growing up, Jackson says, he still would have played football at least through high school.
“But the higher you go up that ladder,’’ Jackson says, “the more risks that you are taking because you are dealing with bigger, stronger, faster caliber athletes, and everybody is trying to impress.
“The person I love in the NFL like my own son is Cam Newton (also a Heisman winnerfrom Auburn). I cuss him out like my own son. But every time he takes a hit to his head, that scares me, it scares the hell out of me.
“I witnessed him getting hit hard twice, and both times go to the locker room. I know he can take care of himself, but it still scares me. I care about all of those players playing, I don’t want to see anybody getting hurt.
“It bothers me when ex-NFL players are walking around homeless, don’t have medical insurance, and are walking around in chronic pain. It bothers me, even though I haven’t played game in 25 years. When I see something that’s not right it will always bother me.’’
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SOURCE: USA Today