South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg said on Monday that supporting college football poses a moral conundrum he finds "problematic," but admitted his city "relies" on the sport.
While visiting Elkader, Iowa, for a town hall, Buttigieg fielded a question from Jewish Insider about the issue of student athletes going unpaid while risking serious injury on the field.
"First, you need to look at what we owe students," Buttigieg said. "Obviously the model says you get an education in exchange for contributing this way, plus the sport is supposed to be its own reward, but I don't think that that's really fair anymore."
Buttigieg added that the question is personally troubling because of his love for the University of Notre Dame's Fighting Irish football team. The South Bend native said he supports the team more because of the bond Notre Dame (where both of his parents taught) has with the city than for the sport itself.
"I think about it from a perspective of a city that relies on college football in the same way that Bahrain relies on fossil fuel," Buttigieg said.
Earlier in the day, according to Jewish Insider, Buttigieg told reporters on his campaign bus that the last time he can remember yelling was when Notre Dame football defeated University of Louisville earlier this month. But on the topic of not paying student athletes Buttigieg said "it's problematic and I don't have a solution for it."
Buttigieg also said that he would "hesitate" to let his own children play football.
While in college, Buttigieg was known to skip football games to pursue academic scholarships, according to the South Bend Tribune. The paper reported that Buttigieg missed the annual Harvard-Yale football game in both 2003 and 2004 because he was interviewing in Chicago for a Rhodes Scholarship.