Gov. Gavin Newsom said he opposes a ban on youth tackle football in California and will not sign a bill prohibiting children from participating in the sport.
“I will not sign legislation that bans youth tackle football. I am deeply concerned about the health and safety of our young athletes, but an outright ban is not the answer,” Newsom said earlier this month. “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.”
Assembly Bill 734 would ban children under 13 from playing tackle football. The bill is currently making its way through the Assembly and is opposed by youth football coaches across the state.
Many of these coaches say the ban could affect chances of obtaining college sports scholarships and could disproportionately impact Black children.
“It was unsettling that we even have to have a conversation about taking away something that has been around longer than I’ve been alive, and I’m 57 years old, so it’s nice to know that the governor has the backing of several communities and a sport that I’ve loved coaching for over 30 years,” said Jason Betts, coach of the Pasadena Wolves. “So we’re very happy. We just had a board meeting and we discussed that and we’re very happy with the governor’s stance.”
Newsom said his administration will consult with health and sports medicine experts, coaches, parents, and community members to ensure California maintains the highest standards in the country for youth football safety.
The bill cites safety issues in the sport.
A Boston University study published in August reported that out of 152 athletes who were under 30 when they died, 41% (63) had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The study shows that 87 of the 152 died by suicide, including 33 who also had CTE.
But another study showed that concussions were most likely to occur in practice since there are far more practices than games, leading to some calls for a reduction in tackling during practice sessions.
“California remains committed to building on the California Youth Football Act, which I signed in 2019, establishing advanced safety standards for youth football,” Newsom said. “This law provides a comprehensive safety framework for young athletes, including equipment standards and restrictions on exposure to full-contact tackles.”