National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell spent his Saturday morning with roughly 100 members of the Akron Parent Pee Wee Football League, providing new helmets for the players as part of the new league-sponsored youth helmet-replacement initiative.
The project, which aims to replace youth football helmets that are 10 years or older for the sake of player safety, launched back in May in Cleveland, New Orleans, New York City, and San Francisco.
USA Football, the NFL’s youth-football development partner, targeted underserved areas for the initial round of the replacement program, based on economic need and federal poverty indices. Approximately $1 million has been contributed for the first year of the initiative by the NFL and a few other organizations.
On Saturday, Goodell spoke briefly with the Akron players about safety before sending them off to participate in a USA Football “FUNdamentals” clinic.
“You’ve still got to play the game by the rules,” Goodell said to the players, according to the Associated Press. “You don’t use your head as a weapon. You don’t use your helmets as a weapon. They’re there to protect you.”
In a press conference with reporters afterward, Goodell said that there’s “no question” the style of play in the NFL filters down to youth football, making it that much more important for the professional players to set a positive example for youths.
“Playing the game right has an impact on everyone who watches,” Goodell said. “So we want to make sure we’re doing it right so when they emulate them, they’ll do it the right way.”
Goodell was joined at the event by Consumer Products Safety Commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum, who was responsible for launching the helmet-replacement program this spring. It seeks to replace nearly 13,000 helmets in its first year, according to a press release from its launch.
“Make no mistake that change is happening at the youth level,” Tenenbaum said Saturday.
Photo: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with Jaqueal Hitchcock, 14, from the Akron Parents Pee Wee Football League in Akron, Ohio. These youth-football players from low-income families are among thousands nationwide who benefit from a youth safety and helmet-replacement program, partially sponsored by the NFL. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.