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To protect California youth, tackle state’s failure to do so instead of contact football
youth football
A 2021 youth tackle football game between the Manteca Chargers and River Islands Riptide.

Gov. Gavin Newsom did the right thing to stop proposed legislation to outlaw tackle football for those 12 and under in California by vowing to veto it if the measure was passed.

But the reason he gave for doing so?

Well, that is open to debate whether it was motivated by the right or wrong reason.

Newsom said he wasn’t in favor of opening another front in the culture war.

That said, he vowed to work with lawmakers to strengthen protection for youth playing contact sports.

Proponents said it is dangerous for kids to take hits — especially to the head — at a young age.

The reason is that no one knows for sure what the long-range impact might be on the child’s future health as they age.

Tough to argue that one.

But if the California Legislature is serious about improving the physical health — both current and future — from young bodies taking a “beating”, they need to do the heavy lifting and not pursue click-bait debates that divide without really doing much to improve the safety of kids.

That’s because there is a 900-pound elephant in California — and the rest of this nation as well as the world — compared to the “flea” that tackle football is for those 12 and under when it comes to long-term injuries and worse.

There were zero deaths in 2020 of California youth 12 and under killed or maimed playing tackle football.

True, no one knows the long range impact there could be.

There were, however, 40 children under the age of 9 that were victims of homicides in 2020 per data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control.

Keep in mind, homicide is the unlawful killing of another.

The majority of those 40 deaths were not by guns.

They were by assault, brutal beatings, and targeted neglect such as deliberate starvation by parents and guardians.

The good news, if you can call it that, is 40 reflects a downward trend.

There were 131 children under the age of 9 in California that were victims of homicide in 1991. That number dropped to 81 in 2011 and to 40 in 2020.

It reflects a national trend that has seen a steady decline in the homicide of young children.

Experts believe there is a correlation between the drop in young homicide victims and safe surrender laws, access to family planning, and — one that many may not want to hear — easier access to abortion.

Essentially, the common thread between the three is they tend to reduce unwanted babies/children.

The death of young children at the hands of those that are supposed to nurture, protect, and love them is the tip of the spear.

The number of children under 12 that are abused physically and mentally is staggering.

They suffer crippling injuries and emotional damage that follows them into adulthood and, ultimately, the grave.

And, yes, they suffer serious brain injuries.

Circling back to tackle football under 12, it should be noted the decision whether a child plays is currently decided by parent or guardian and not the state.

You can debate whether that is a good idea until you are blue in the face.

But what you can’t argue is the number of deaths and carnage as well as lifelong problems that  happen to children under the auspices of the State of California.

Every week, there is at least one report that surfaces in the media in California about a child who the state failed to protect that is so bad it grabs attention.

And the onus isn’t just on Child Protection Services or even schools.

There are a number that lay at the feet of the court system.

Lady Justice, at least in family court and even criminal cases involving abusive parents, is beyond blind.

But here’s the real kicker.

The reduction enjoyed in child deaths by homicide — safe surrender, increased availability of family planning, and easier access to abortion — are the direct result of laws and programs (along with adequate funding) put in place by state lawmakers.

The courts must abide by the laws that are passed by the legislature and ultimately pass constitutional muster if they are challenged.

The CPS is in the same boat.

And in order to be more effective — read that, reducing the death and life-long physical and mental  consequences —  protecting children that come onto their respective radars, they need adequate staffing.

California politicians that are deep blue spend an inordinate amount of time preening about how great they have made the state, compared to other states that are under control of the red team.

This is not saying youths playing tackle football shouldn’t be a concern.

But if should be a low priority to tackle.

The record of the State of California controlled by legislative consensus is by far much more dismal than youth football when it comes to reducing serious risk to children once their plight becomes a state matter through the bureaucracy and/or the courts.

But instead of doing what one hopes serious leaders would do and devote energy to fixing what is broken, the legislature does its hummingbird routine.

They flutter from one “clickbait sweet issue” to another and expend a lot of energy with minimal lasting results.

It’s politically glamorous to be a hummingbird rather than a policy plow horse whose work often gives under appreciated.

It is the plow horse, though, that gets the job done.

Their work makes it possible for seeds to be planted to improve California’s lot.



This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at