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Bill Banning Youth Tackle Football in California Passes First Step

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A bill that would ban California youths under 12 from playing tackle football passed its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday. (AP File)
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A law that would ban California youths under 12 from playing tackle football passed its first committee on Wednesday.

The full Assembly has until the end of January to approve it. If passed, the bill goes to the Senate and then to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

If signed into law by the governor, the Golden State could become the first state to ban children from playing the tackle version of the sport.

By a 5-2 vote on party lines, the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Tourism advanced AB 734, which would allow for youngsters starting in 2026 to play flag football, but not tackle.

“This is a tough choice telling parents what they can and can’t do. But every once in a while government steps up and says, you know what? Kids shouldn’t smoke. Kids shouldn’t have a firearm. Kids should wear seat belts,” bill author Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, told the committee.

Other medical professionals testified on behalf of the bill, citing studies about the risks of head trauma to youths.

Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper, who authored a youth football safety bill  — AB 1 in 2019 — when he served in the Assembly, testified against McCarty’s bill.

“The confidence, mental well-being, and life skills fostered by the sport, particularly within the underserved communities, are immeasurable. For some adolescents, youth tackle football serves as their sole source of structure,” Cooper said.

McCarty countered that the same comradery can be found with flag football.

Several coaches and players offered public comment against the bill.

Tackle football at the high school level has been declining in California, the Associated Press reported. Participation dropped by more than 18% from 2015 to 2022, falling from a high of 103,725 players to 84,626 players, according to the California Interscholastic Federation’s participation survey.

However, football participation in California increased by 5% in 2023, up to 89,178 players.

How They Voted

Assemblymembers voting for the bill: Chair Mike Gipson, D-Carson; Mike Fong, D-Alhambra; Tina McKinnor, D-Inglewood; Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles; and Avelino Valencia, D-Anaheim.

Valencia, a former college football player at San Jose State, said he was conflicted, but the science showed a ban is needed.

Voting no were Greg Wallis, R-Bermuda Dunes, and Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale.

The bill will now head to the Assembly floor. There is no timetable for a vote.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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