‘Love for football doesn’t mean that we should ignore science…’
(Melody Gutierrez, Los Angeles Times) After failing in a bill that would have banned tackling in youth football, California Democrats are pushing a watered-down version that would put time-restrictions on the amount of full contact permitted.
A coalition of youth football groups who defended their sport against the earlier proposal said they would support the nanny-state’s new guidelines.
Beginning in 2021, the bill would limit children to two 60-minute practices of full contact, while barring tackling in the sport’s offseason.
The proposal introduced this month by Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) models the limitations on restrictions already in place for high school football in California, which caps full-contact practices to 90 minutes twice a week.
“We want to improve the safety standards for youth tackle football across the state,” said Joe Rafter, president of Southern Marin Youth Football in the San Francisco Bay Area, who is working with Cooper’s office on the bill. “It’s the right thing to do.”
But Rafter said their efforts would also block any new attempts by lawmakers to bar youth tackle football. A bill to set a minimum age of 12 to play organized tackle football died in April, but the authors of the legislation, AB 2108, promised to try again in 2019.
Assembly members Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) cited research showing youths who began playing tackle football before age 12 developed cognitive, behavioral and mood problems earlier than those who began full-contact sports later.
However, the Boston University study—conducted online and by telephone with former professional and college players—did not appear to factor in potentially mitigating factors, such as cultural or socioeconomic upbringing, which might have violated politically correct taboos.
McCarty’s office said he plans to introduce another bill banning tackling in youth football.
“I played organized football as a child and I love the sport to this day,” McCarty said after the bill was pulled from the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee in April when it became apparent it did not have the votes to pass. “But love for football doesn’t mean that we should ignore science.”
Cooper said he wants to ensure that kids can still play tackle football, but in a safer environment. Banning tackling outright goes too far, he said.
“Americans love football and kids love playing football,” Cooper said. “However, we must ensure our children are safe while participating in contact sports.”
©2018 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.