Newsom blocks proposal to ban youth football: ‘Parents have the freedom to decide’

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks on the field before an NFL football game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, December 12. 29, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(Ted S. Warren/AP)

Newsom blocks proposal to ban youth football: ‘Parents have the freedom to decide’

Homepage News, California Politics

Steve Henson

January 17, 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed Wednesday to toe the line against a bill that would ban youth football for children in California, saying in a statement to The Times that he would veto such legislation.





Introduced last year by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), 734 cleared its first hurdle a week ago when a legislative committee voted 5-2 along party lines for the measure to be considered by the 80-member Assembly.

Originally written to ban children under 12

from to



To address football, the bill was amended in committee to ban the sport for children aged 5 or under next year from 2025. In 2027, the bill would increase the age at which the ban applies


and in 2029



gonna increase it

to 11.

California’s Democratic Governor Newsom

however, do not want part of a bill that would dictate age to parents

ir j

can let their children play sports.

“I will not sign legislation banning youth football. I am deeply concerned about the health and safety of our young athletes, but an outright ban is not the answer.”

“My administration will work with the legislature and author of the bills to increase safety in youth soccer while ensuring parents have the freedom to decide which sports are best suited for their children.”

California is closing in on becoming the first state to ban football for children under the age of 12

Research on the effects of blows to the head when playing tackle football is mixed. A 2016 study published by the Radiological Society of North America found that a single season of tackle football can affect the brains of players as young as 8 years old. Researchers concluded that even hits that did not result in a diagnosed concussion had adverse consequences.

The degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is linked to concussions and brain trauma, but cannot be diagnosed

to bottom

a person has died and his brain can be studied. Boston University found that among 211 football players diagnosed with postmortem CTE, those who started playing football before age 12 had exhibited behavioral and mood symptoms an average of 13 years earlier.

Every year younger the individuals predicted they started playing football


earlier onset of cognitive problems at 2.4 years and behavioral and mood problems at 2 years


years, researchers found.

Exposure of young people to repeated head impacts in tackle football may reduce resilience against brain diseases later in life, including but not limited to CTE, said Ann McKee,


Director of the Boston University CTE Center. It makes sense that children, whose brains are developing rapidly, should not hit their heads hundreds of times per season.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association


who followed football players aged nine to 12 over four seasons, found that repeated blows to the head were not associated with cognitive or behavioral problems. Neurocognitive performance is instead linked to medical diagnoses such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

How CTE is changing everything about football

No state has banned tackle football for children, but there have been attempts to do so. Similar bills previously introduced in California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland failed to pass.

McCarty’s proposed law follows the California Youth Football Act (CYFA) of 2021, which would require football coaches to undergo concussion and head injury education, and for parents


young participants to receive similar information. The law also requires youth soccer leagues to help detect sports injuries among young people.

Opponents of the bill say it is premature and that implementing and studying the effectiveness of the CYFA will take time. Newsom appeared to side with that position in his statement.

“California remains committed to building on the California Youth Football Act, which I signed in 2019, which establishes advanced safety standards for youth football. This law provides a comprehensive safety framework for young athletes, including equipment standards and exposure limits. to full -contact tackles.

Op-Ed: 5 steps to protect football players’ brains and keep the sport alive

Tackle football advocates and groups advocating for less government interference have vociferously objected to the proposed law. The California Youth Football Alliance posted on Facebook to “Bring California Together” and urged members to “protect parental rights, stand up to big government and separate fact from fiction.”

In a 2023 Washington Post survey of 1,006 adults, 75

% per cent

of those who identified as conservative said they would recommend youth or high school football to children, compared to just 44

% per cent

of liberals. This was a change from a 2012 postal survey, in which the conservative-liberal gap was just 70

% per cent

to 63

% per cent


McCarty said it is simply common sense to keep children from playing tackle football until they reach adolescence.

There are other alternatives for young children, other sports and other football activities like flag football, which the NFL is investing heavily in,” he said. “There is a way to love football and protect our children. We have come to realize that there is no truly safe way to play youth football. There is no safe blow to the head for 6, 7 and 8 year olds and they shouldn’t have to suffer hundreds of sub-concussions to the head every year if there is an alternative.

Still, Newsom would have a veto even if the bill passed the full Assembly and Senate, and he made clear he would exercise it.

We will consult with health and sports medicine experts, coaches, parents and community members to ensure California maintains the highest standards in the nation for youth football safety,” he said in his statement. “We owe that to the legions of families in California. who have embraced youth sports.”

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