Newsom deals blow to bill that would end youth tackle football 

The Santa Clarita Wildcats team, ages eight, nine and ten year-olds prepares for practice at Central Park as they get ready for a playoff game. A new bill would see youth tackle football be banned for kids under 12. Dan Watson/The Signal
The Santa Clarita Wildcats team, ages eight, nine and ten year-olds prepares for practice at Central Park as they get ready for a playoff game. A new bill would see youth tackle football be banned for kids under 12. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Assembly Republicans praise governor for vowing to veto legislation that cleared Assembly committee en route to floor vote 

Despite being passed out of committee last week to the full Assembly, it appears that the bill seeking to end youth tackle football in California will not see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom voiced his opposition to Assembly Bill 734 on Tuesday, vowing to veto any bill that would place an outright ban on youth tackle football.

“I will not sign legislation that bans youth tackle football,” Newsom said in a statement released on Tuesday. “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 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.” 

The bill in question, authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, would prohibit youths under the age of 6 from playing tackle football starting Jan. 1, 2025, followed by youths under 10 starting in 2027 and youths under 12 starting in 2029. 

“Kids only have one brain, only have one life, and there’s irreversible damage to kids’ brains that is totally unnecessary,” McCarty said during last week’s Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Tourism hearing. 

The bill is still set to be brought in front of the full Assembly at some point as of the publication of this story and would need a majority of the 80-member Assembly to approve it before it goes to the 40-member Senate. Should it be approved there as well, it would then head to Newsom’s desk for his signature, which, as he said in his statement, he would not give. 

On Wednesday, Assembly Republicans held a press conference, streamed live via YouTube, in front of the state Capitol in Sacramento to thank Newsom for his support of youth tackle football, but also to voice a need for further support. 

The legislators, including Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, whose 34th Assembly District includes Agua Dulce and eastern portions of the Santa Clarita Valley, were joined by leaders of various youth football organizations, as well as a couple of doctors speaking in favor of youth tackle football continuing. 

Some youth football players and their parents were also in attendance, some holding signs showing their opposition to the bill. One of those signs, held by a young child in a football jersey, read, “Kevin McCarty is NOT my father.” 

That point is one that Lackey and multiple others expressed, saying that the government does not get to tell parents what they can and cannot do in regard to their children. Lackey said that he, and others, have been fighting against a ban on youth tackle football for six years since McCarty first introduced a similar bill in 2018. 

“We have a victory that we should celebrate today,” Lackey said while wearing a cheese head in reference to his love of the Green Bay Packers. “It’s a positive moment, but I thought a couple years ago that we’d put this to sleep. We did not. That’s a very, very loud message to all of us that we need to protect not only just parental rights, but the future of our kids.” 

Multiple speakers on Wednesday referenced the California Youth Football Act that was passed by the Legislature in 2019. According to the California Youth Football Alliance, it is “the most comprehensive set of safety standards in the country” and requires coaches and organizations to do the following: 

  • Annually receive training on first aid, CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator). 
  • Annually receive training on heat-related illnesses, opioids, head injuries and concussion awareness. 
  • Annually receive certifications on tackling and blocking from nationally recognized programs. 
  • Track sports-related injuries for participants. 
  • Have a state-licensed paramedic or higher-level licensed medical professional at all games. 
  • Limit the number of full-contact practices to twice per week and no more than 30 minutes of contact per practice. 
  • Limit contact at practices to during the season only. 
  • Recondition and recertify all helmets every other year. 

While it appears that youth tackle football has been saved for now, Lackey wanted to make sure that people understood that this is an issue that will likely come up again in the future. 

“I can tell you that it seems like we may have stopped this bureaucratic blitz, to use a great football term, against tackle football today, but we need to stay engaged,” Lackey said. “Blitzes are only successful when you aren’t prepared for them. Let’s learn from this success today. Put your chin straps on.” 

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