WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said the NCAA penalties imposed on Penn State University for the school's failure to stop football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children were "appropriate" punishment.

The NCAA, the governing body of U.S. college sports, fined Penn State $60 million and voided its football victories for the past 14 seasons in an unprecedented rebuke last month over the Sandusky scandal.

"I think it was appropriate to send a message," Obama told Ohio sports radio station "The Fan" in an interview conducted on Wednesday during a campaign trip to the election battleground state and broadcast on Thursday.

"We have to make sure we're always looking after our kids and we have an affirmative responsibility to make sure we're preventing predators from taking advantage of them," he said.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said on July 23 that the school had put "hero worship and winning at all costs" ahead of integrity, honesty and responsibility.

Penn State was not given the so-called death penalty that could have suspended its football program, but it was banned from lucrative post-season games for four years and had the number of scholarships available to players reduced from 25 to 15.

Penn State officials were accused of not taking action after being alerted that Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, was sexually abusing children.

The scandal tainted one of college football's leading coaches, the late Joe Paterno, and led to his firing last year along with other top school officials. Sandusky was convicted in June of child molestation.

Asked whether the punishment for Penn State "fit the crime," Obama said: "I think it does."

"Obviously Joe Paterno was a great football coach," he said. "But some things are just more important than sports. Making sure our kids are safe is more important than sports." (Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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