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Calif. lawmakers debate youth football ban, Gov. Newsom says he won’t sign

Jan 18

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, has pledged not to sign a bill proposing a ban on tackle football for children under 12, as reported by Politico. The proposed legislation, introduced by California Assembly Member Kevin McCarty, D, seeks to gradually phase out youth tackle football by 2029, aiming to protect children from potential brain injuries and trauma.

McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, emphasized the importance of safeguarding young athletes, citing concerns about concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) linked to tackle football.

“I’ve been looking at this issue on concussions and CTE for a number of years,” McCarty told news reporters. “I just think we owe it to ourselves to protect kids in California. And year after year more, we know this youth tackle football doesn’t make sense for little kids’ brains.” 

While California could have been the first state to implement such a ban, Newsom shared McCarty’s concerns about young athletes’ health but expressed reservations about an outright prohibition.

In a statement to Politico, Newsom said his administration would collaborate with the legislature and the bill’s author to enhance safety in youth football while ensuring parents retain the freedom to choose appropriate sports for their children.

“My administration will work with the legislature and the bill’s author to strengthen safety in youth football — while ensuring parents have the freedom to decide which sports are most appropriate for their children,” Newsom said.

Newsom previously enacted a law restricting full-contact practices for youth football teams to address brain injury concerns. This law limits full-contact practices to 30 minutes per day for two days a week and prohibits them during the offseason.

Pulane Lucas, a mother of a former NFL player diagnosed with CTE, stressed the damaging effects of repetitive head injuries on young children’s brains.

“Those repetitive head injuries are damaging to the brains of young children, and they don’t see it when they’re five, six, seven and eight,” Lucas said. “They’re thinking about the love of the game, which is it’s very exciting and thrilling.”

The concerns surrounding brain injuries in tackle football may be influencing a decline in participation, with California experiencing an 18% drop in high school football players from 2015 to 2022, according to a survey by the California Interscholastic Federation.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

EVERY FALL, KIDS AROUND THE COUNTY GEAR UP FOR YOUTH FOOTBALL. OUTFITTED WITH HELMETS, PADS, CLEATS, AND A LOVE FOR THE U.S.’s MOST POPULAR SPORT, THEY HEAD TO THE GRIDIRON TO GO TO BATTLE. 

IN CALIFORNIA, THAT ANNUAL TRADITION COULD COME TO AN END AS CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS CONSIDER THE NATION’S FIRST STATE-WIDE BAN ON TACKLE FOOTBALL FOR KIDS 12 AND UNDER. 

BUT THEY’VE COME UP AGAINST A STRONG DEFENSE. 

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM VOWED THIS WEEK HE WOULD NOT SIGN SUCH A BAN 

THE PROPOSAL WOULD GRADUALLY BAN TACKLE FOOTBALL FOR YOUTH BY 20-29. 

KEVIN MCCARTY – A CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY MEMBER WHO INTRODUCED THE BILL – SAYS THIS WOULD HELP SAVE CHILDREN FROM BRAIN INJURIES AND TRAUMA.

[KEVIN MCCARTY]

I’ve been looking at this issue on concussions and CTE for a number of years. I just think we owe it to ourselves to protect kids in California. And year after year more, we know this youth tackle football doesn’t make sense for little kids brains. 

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THOUGH NEWSOM SHARED THOSE  CONCERNS ABOUT THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF YOUNG ATHLETES, HE SAID AN OUTRIGHT BAN WAS NOT THE SOLUTION, TELLING  POLITICO:

[GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM]
My administration will work with the Legislature and the bill’s author to strengthen safety in youth football — while ensuring parents have the freedom to decide which sports are most appropriate for their children.

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

NEWSOM PREVIOUSLY SIGNED A LAW RESTRICTING FULL-CONTACT PRACTICES FOR YOUTH FOOTBALL TEAMS. THE LAW LIMITS FULL-CONTACT PRACTICES TO 30 MINUTES PER DAY FOR TWO DAYS A WEEK AND PROHIBITS THEM DURING THE OFFSEASON.

[PULANE LUCAS | MOTHER OF FORMER NFL PLAYER DIAGNOSED WITH CTE]

“Those repetitive head injuries are damaging to the brains of young children, and they don’t see it when they’re five, six, seven and eight. They’re thinking about the love of the game, which is it’s very exciting and thrilling.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

CONCERNS ABOUT BRAIN INJURIES IN TACKLE FOOTBALL MAY BE LINKED TO A DECLINE IN PARTICIPATION. CALIFORNIA EXPERIENCED AN 18-PERCENT DROP IN HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYERS FROM 2015 TO 2022 ACCORDING TO A CALIFORNIA INTERSCHOLASTIC FEDERATION’S SURVEY.