Gov. Gavin Newsom says he won’t sign a proposed ban on tackle football for kids under 12

Los Angeles Daily News

January 17, 2024

SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will not sign a proposed ban on tackle football for children under 12, ending advocates’ short-lived hopes of having the bill become law this year.

“I will not sign legislation that bans youth tackle football,” Newsom said in a statement late Tuesday. “I am deeply concerned about the health and safety of our young athletes, but an outright ban is not the answer.”

The proposal from Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty would have have been phased in gradually through 2029. Last week, a legislative committee sent the bill to the floor of the state Assembly, clearing the way for a vote by the end of the month.

But even if the bill were to pass, Newsom’s pledge not to sign it – first reported by Politico – means there is little, if any, chance of it becoming law this year. While California lawmakers have the power to override a veto, they have not done that in more than four decades.

The proposed ban was a step too far for Newsom, who is a potential candidate for president beyond 2024. The Democratic governor, now in his second term, is known nationally for his liberal policies, including banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035. But he also has acted as a bulwark against the Democratic Legislature’s most progressive ideas, including vetoing a bill last year that would have decriminalized some psychedelic mushrooms and some other hallucinogens.

The proposal to ban youth tackle football gained momentum this year amid increasing concern about concussions along with the rise in popularity of flag football. The goal was to have kids play flag football until age 12, which would give athletes about three years of playing tackle football before entering high school. Advocates say that would limit children’s risk of brain damage, which studies have shown increases the longer a person plays tackle football.

But the bill prompted strong opposition from parents, coaches and kids. Many attended a public hearing in the California Capitol last week wearing their football jerseys while asking lawmakers not to pass the bill.

California has regulated youth tackle football, with Newsom signing a law that took effect in 2021 limiting teams to just two full-contact practices per week of not more than 30 minutes each during the regular season. That law also required youth tackle football coaches to have training on concussions and other head injuries.

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