WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Sunday said the NFL should consider how referees can control game footballs instead of individual teams and he defended his aggressive stance with congressional Republicans during a live interview during NBC’s Super Bowl pregame show.
The Obama interview mixed a discussion of the game’s high-profile controversy – deflated footballs – with a brief discussion of politics. But the president ducked picking between possible 2016 Democratic presidential contenders Joe Biden and Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Love `em both,” Obama said with a smile.
He also wouldn’t pick a favorite in the Patriots Super Bowl match-up against the Seattle Seahawks. “I think it’s always wise for me not to choose a team because then I just alienate one big city,” Obama said.
As the NFL investigates how the New England Patriots used the deflated balls in their 45-7 AFC championship victory, Obama said the Patriots would have defeated the Indianapolis Colts “regardless of what the footballs looked like.”
“The one thing I did not realize – and I’ll bet most fans didn’t – was that each team prepares its own footballs and brings them to the game,” Obama said. “I don’t think there’s any other sport like that so I’m assuming one of the things the NFL is going to be doing just to avoid any of these controversies is figuring out how the officials are in charge of the footballs from start to finish.”
Pressed on whether the Patriots were cheating, Obama said: “I think that if you break the rules then you break the rules.”
Obama traditionally gives a live interview in the pregame show, and this year Today Show co-host Savannah Guthrie brought a morning show vibe by staging a casual discussion in the White House kitchen over samples of White House-brewed beer.
On the topic of politics, the president rejected the idea he was doing his own end zone dance with a defiant State of the Union address after Democrats lost seats in the midterm election. “My job is not to trim my sails,” Obama said, confidently arguing for his ability to win over even some of his political rivals. He spoke on the eve of his presentation of a budget to Congress, where his proposals are certain to get a rough reception from the Republican majority.
“One thing I’ve learned over the last six years is that when I tell the American people very clearly what direction I think the country should go in, sometimes people change their minds,” Obama said. “And even Republicans occasionally start agreeing with me, although sometimes a little bit later than I would like.”