Marco Rubio Criticizes Halt in High School Sports: Experts 'Wanted to Kill Football Even Before COVID'

Florida Senator Marco Rubio urged Americans to push back against public officials who are advocating for the continued closure of churches, schools and athletic programs, remarking Saturday that many experts "wanted to kill football even before COVID."

The Republican senator continued his demands for people to "weigh cost versus benefit" of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, taking the opportunity this week to criticize the "heavily politicized narrative" of the pandemic.

Rubio, who has for years touted the benefits of extracurricular sports in general and football in particular, cautioned his constituents against trusting blanket COVID-19 restrictions against schools and churches.

Rubio on Saturday joined the nationwide debate over restarting high school, college and NFL play, saying that lawmakers and parents alike should "be flexible on start date[s]."

"High school sports like football help keep thousands of students in school & on track for graduation & college. Make it safer by adopting new technologies & best practices. Be flexible on start date. But don't be bullied by those who wanted to kill football even before Covid," the Florida senator tweeted Saturday, sharing a photo of electronic whistles and a high-tech helmet.

"Which setting presents a higher risk of spreading #COVID19? A. A football team having practice outdoors; or B. Kids from various households playing Madden for hours in a bedroom? Does the science match which one of these is banned & which one is allowed?" Rubio also remarked in a Facebook post last week.

During late June remarks on the Senate floor, Rubio challenged "the legitimacy of our health experts in the eyes of our people."

Newsweek reached out to Rubio's Miami office for additional comments Saturday afternoon.

Several college football teams, entire conferences and many high schools have outright cancelled all fall sports, citing public health expert warnings over new coronavirus cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, drew the criticism of outspoken sports fan Rubio last month after suggesting "football may not happen this year."

The Texas Medical Association recently released a report on the risk of various sporting activities, which placed tennis as "low risk," but deemed basketball and football as "moderate-high" risk.

Rubio's ties to football go back years, with the Florida Republican even throwing passes with former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino, during his tenure as a state lawmaker. A 2013 video showed the senator flying back from Washington in order to coach his son's youth football team.

"As far as chasing a sports dream, that's a good thing, it gives somebody a goal to go for and for a lot of people it gives them a chance to go to school," he told a local news outlet at the time.

But despite Rubio's call for more flexible deadlines on restarting sports programs and schools, Florida's coronavirus data has only worsened in recent weeks; the Florida Department of Health on Friday confirmed 11,433 new cases of COVID-19, making it the second-highest single-day total recorded since the pandemic started in March. Rubio told reporters in late June "everyone should just wear a damn mask."

In 2013, critics lashed out at former President Obama who had said in the days leading up to the Super Bowl: "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football." Obama cited health concerns stemming from young people using their head in tackles, blocking and other necessary moves within the contact sport.

One of those critics was Rubio. "When I played and when most people here played tackle football, you actually were taught to hit with your head," he said in a 2013 interview with BuzzFeed.

Rubio has repeatedly criticized the seemingly binary choice of responses Americans have been given to the coronavirus pandemic. Partially placing blame on President Donald Trump himself, Rubio posted to social media last week that "having a rational & effective response to COVID-19 will be hard to achieve as long as we have a heavily politicized narrative that demands you pick 1 of 2 views."

marco rubio throw football coronavirus
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said many public health experts "wanted to kill football even before COVID-19." JUSTIN SULLIVAN / Staff/Getty Images