American football would be nothing more than a historic footnote today had it not been for a gung-ho Republican president a century ago, a new documentary reveals.
"1905 was a very important year for football. That year, 18 people died playing football," Neil Zender, supervising producer and director of the new NFL documentary "The Forward Pass: A Football Life," told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"A whole movement sprung up to ban the game, and colleges across the country were shutting down their football programs," he said Wednesday.
"It was a big part of the progressive movement. The progressives did a lot of good things for America, you know, getting rid of child labor and stuff like that, but they also had some ideas that were kind of wacky, like abolishing alcohol and abolishing football."
But luckily for fans of the sport, President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in.
"When Teddy Roosevelt heard about this, he went nuts, because he thought football was so important for America to develop the character of young boys," Zender said.
"He did everything he could, used all the powers of the presidency at his disposal to save the game."
The documentary premiered this week on the NFL Network.
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