In a 5-2 vote, an Assembly committee in California approved a proposal to ban tackle football for children under 12, advancing it to the full legislature. Assembly Bill 734, introduced by Democrat Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, aims to prohibit full-contact football for kids under 12, redirecting them towards flag football. This is the third time McCarty has proposed the bill, emphasizing concerns about the safety of young children engaging in tackle football. The proposed legislation outlines a gradual phase-out, starting with children under 6 in 2025, extending to those under 10 in 2027, and encompassing all kids under 12 by 2029.
Supporters argue that the measure aligns with increased safety precautions amid growing awareness of concussion risks in football. The NFL, in particular, has been advocating for flag football and contributed to its inclusion as an Olympic sport in the 2028 games in Los Angeles. However, opposition to the bill is significant, with parents expressing reservations during the Assembly committee hearing. Some parents attended with their children in football uniforms, emphasizing their belief in the right to choose the sports their children play.
Ashley Bertram, a mother of three boys, criticized the proposal as an infringement on parental rights, highlighting the contradiction of being able to decide on matters like abortion but not children’s sports. Bertram, who has experience with both flag and tackle football, argued that flag football can be more dangerous due to the lack of similar protective gear. She emphasized that flag football is still a contact sport, with 7-year-old boys actively engaging in physical activity.
Tyrone Jones, a youth and high school football coach in the Bay Area, expressed concerns that the bill pushes the sport “in the wrong direction.” Jones argued that the potential benefits of football, such as character-building and discipline, could be lost by limiting it to flag football. Assemblymember Mike Gipson, a Democrat who supported the bill, contended that it doesn’t diminish the positive learning opportunities provided by football. Gipson, chairing the Assembly’s sports regulation committee, maintained that the bill merely advocates transitioning from tackle to flag football while retaining valuable learning experiences.