New California Bill Would Ban Youth Tackle Football

The San Francisco Standard

February 16, 2023

State Assemblymember Kevin McCarty—not to be confused with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy—has introduced a bill that aims to ban tackle football for children under the age of 12 in California.

McCarty, a Democrat who represents Assembly District 6, covering some of Sacramento’s eastern suburbs, proposed a similar bill in 2018. That bill, AB 2108, was pulled before it could reach a committee hearing after it was met with resistance from grassroots organizations.

McCarty is the sole author of this year’s bill, AB 734. His 2018 effort was co-authored by Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who became known around the state for introducing AB 5, a controversial labor rights law known as the Gig Worker Bill, in 2019.

The 2018 anti-tackle football bill also listed four Bay Area representatives as co-authors: Rob Bonta, Kevin Mullin, Bill Quirk and Philip Ting. Of those four, only Ting still serves in the state assembly.

“I think there’s a conversation to be had about youth sports in general and making it as safe as possible, but banning youth football before the age of 12 isn’t the best thing,” said Riordan head football coach Adhir Ravipati. “There are a lot of kids who play youth football that do so to get away from a bad home life. Youth sports build character and teach the value of teamwork.”

Ravipati is extremely familiar with concussions and neuroscience. He served as the vice president of product at Protxx, where he helped develop a sensor worn behind the ear that can help detect concussions. His team at Menlo-Atherton wore those sensors during the 2018 season.

“Football isn’t the only youth sport with concerns about head injuries,” Ravipati said. “It’s stigmatized more than in soccer or lacrosse. It may be more prevalent in football, but other sports aren’t exempt from those issues.”

“The game has changed a lot even since I stopped playing,” said Ravipati, who played his final season of college ball at Northeastern in 2010. “One of the problems is that you still have a lot of old-school coaches who are trying to teach tackling the way they were taught, instead of considering new techniques.”

Much of the support for the 2018 bill will likely be revived for AB 734, which advocated for kids to play flag football instead of tackle football.

“Flag football has its value,” added Ravipati, who saw one of his players suffer a concussion in 2021 on an unnecessary hit some 30 yards away from the play. “It teaches you how to pass the ball and play in open space, whereas youth tackle football is mostly played with tight, run-heavy formations. But both have value.”

The proposed bill could take effect on Jan. 1, 2026, if it is successful.

Assemblymember McCarty was contacted for comment.

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