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Obama, on sports radio, talks Penn State sanctions, Chicago baseball

August 02, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • President Obama speaks during a campaign stop at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.
President Obama speaks during a campaign stop at Rollins College in Winter… (Edward Linsmier / Getty…)

President Obama on Thursday said stiff NCAA sanctions on Penn State's football program were "appropriate" in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.

"I have been a big admirer of Penn State football," Obama said. "Obviously Joe Paterno was a great football coach. But there are some things that are just more important than sports. And making sure our kids are safe is more important than sports."

The president's comments about the harsh penalties levied against Penn State -- which included a $60-million fine, vacated wins from 1998 to 2011, and a four-year ban from postseason play -- came in an interview with an Ohio sports talk radio show shortly before he left Florida for additional campaign events in Virginia.

Asked whether the punishment fit the crime, Obama said that it was "appropriate to send that message that we just have bigger priorities. ... We've just got to make sure that we are always looking after our kids. And we have an affirmative responsibility to make sure that we're preventing predators from taking advantage of them."

The rest of the interview covered lighter sports topics. The show’s hosts -- "the Common Man and the Torg" -- actually had divided Chicago baseball loyalties, one rooting for the Cubs and the other, like Obama, a White Sox fan. The president joked that there are "two kinds of Sox fans" -- those who root for them, and "folks who hate the Cubs."

"I'm in the former category. I'm not a Cubs hater. In fact, I feel bad that it's been a 100-something years," he said, referring to their World Series title drought.

Still, Obama said there's "nothing better than a summer afternoon, having a beer, watching a game at Wrigleys." That would be Wrigley Field, without the "s" -- a minor gaffe reminiscent of him once calling the White Sox's former home ball park "Cominskey," rather than "Comiskey."

The president said that since becoming president he's been mostly to Washington Nationals games and praised the talented young squad, currently leading in the National League East standings.

"But I'm a big believer in loyalty when it comes to your teams," he said when asked about a potential White Sox-Nationals Fall Classic. "You gotta go with the Sox."

Obama increasingly has been courting local media outlets, particularly in Ohio, including niche audiences such as Columbus' all-sports talk 97.1 FM. (He is spreading around his presence; while in Florida Thursday, Obama addressed via video feed a gathering of women bloggers, the BlogHer Conference in New York.)

In the roughly eight-minute Ohio radio interview, Obama also praised the performance of U.S. athletes competing in the Summer Olympics, especially the gold medal-winning women's gymnastics team.

"I can't even walk across that balance beam, and they're doing back-flips and this and that. I don't know how any human does it," he said.

He was even asked to weigh in on the NFL, specifically the potential quarterback controversy facing the New York Jets, who added Tim Tebow to a roster that already included Mark Sanchez.

"If I was a Jets fan I'd be pretty nervous," he said. "Sanchez is not Tom Brady yet, but he led them to the playoffs two years in a row. I think Tim Tebow seems to be a wonderful young man and he's got just a great winning attitude. He steps up when things count.

"But there's going to be a lot of tension in that situation," he added.

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Michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeMemoli

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