A proposal to ban tackle football for children under 12 in California passed an Assembly committee 5-2 on Wednesday and now heads to the full legislature.
Assembly Bill 734, which was proposed by California Democrat Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, seeks to prevent youth football teams from allowing kids younger than 12 years old to engage in full-contact football and push them toward flag football, KCRA reported. McCarty’s latest attempt to pass the bill marks the third time the California state assemblyman has introduced it, arguing that “Banging your brains around for little kids just isn’t safe.”
The bill would phase out tackle football for youth gradually, starting with kids under 6 in 2025, before moving to kids under 10 in 2027 and all children under 12 in 2029. That provision was added to the bill on Wednesday as the committee sought to move it to the full Assembly. AB 734 must now be passed by the Assembly and the Senate before it can go to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.
The proposal comes as league leaders at both the college and professional levels push for more safety precautions to prevent concussions. The NFL has promoted flag football throughout the world, even helping it become an Olympic sport, which will be introduced at the 2028 Olympic games in Los Angeles.
Many parents who oppose the legislation sat in on the Assembly committee hearing on Wednesday, bringing their children who wore their football uniforms. Ashley Bertram, a mother of three boys, slammed the proposal as an infringement on parental rights.
“In the state of California, I get to choose whether my child lives or dies in my womb. But I can’t decide what sport he plays?” she asked, NBC Bay Area reported.
Bertram added that her boys have played both flag football and tackle football, and in her experience, the former is more dangerous, since players don’t wear the same protective gear as in full-contact football.
“Flag football is still a contact sport,” Bertram said. “If you think that just because a 7-year-old boy is running up to take a flag, that they’re not ramming into each other to do that, you’re out of your mind! We’re talking about boys!”
Tyrone Jones, a youth and high school football coach in the Bay Area, added that the bill pushes the sport “in the wrong direction,” according to NBC Bay Area.
“We would lose the far, greater benefits that football provides to a limited risk, to injury,” Jones said.
Assemblymember Mike Gipson, another California Democrat, voted in support of the bill, arguing that it doesn’t take away from the good learning opportunities that football provides for the state’s youth.
“Football and organizational sports in general are clearly proven ways to keep kids out of trouble,” said Gipson, who chairs the state Assembly’s committee in charge of regulating sports. “This bill is not taking away that ability, it is simply saying that we’re going to move from tackle football to flag football and we can still have the same learning experiences.”