Much to the relief of countless parents and children, California Governor Gavin Newsom vowed to veto a bill on Tuesday night that would have banned youth football in the Golden State.

AB-734, which a Democrat committee passed 5-2 on a party-line vote, called for the elimination of tackle football for anyone under the age of twelve.

“I am deeply concerned about the health and safety of our young athletes, but an outright ban is not the answer,” Newsom said in a statement.

“My administration will work with the Legislature and the bill’s author to strengthen safety in youth football — while ensuring parents have the freedom to decide which sports are most appropriate for their children.”

At the center of the debate is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that’s caused by head injuries.

Research released this past December from the University of Washington’s Medicine’s Sports Health and Safety Institute and Seattle Children’s Research Institute revealed that 5% of players between the ages of 5 and 14 suffered a concussion each season.

Neither doctors, parents, nor coaches should be cavalier when it comes to the dangers of childhood brain trauma. Head injuries can lead to significant long-term conditions impacting a person’s cognitive and behavioral health.

At the same time, it seems curious that many who advocate for children to be “liberated” from any prohibitions on drugs and abortion or retain the right to “transition” from one gender to the other without parental consent, are the same radicals so concerned about the potential dangers of pee-wee football.

Yet, one consistent element present in all of this is a refusal to defer to the God-given authority and rights of moms and dads when it comes to their children’s activities and actions.

The California legislators who supported the youth football ban are, in essence, telling parents: We don’t trust you to make the right decision for your child. You’re obviously not as smart as we are, so we’re going to make the decision for you.

This arrogance is born of hubris and ignorance, not genuine concern. Parents, not elected officials, should be the ones guiding and directing their children’s lives, including their right to play sports that for years have proven to be a collective good.

While technology and medical advancements have significantly improved what we know about brain injuries and how best to avoid or treat them, debate over the safety of tackle football isn’t new.

In fact, tackle football was almost banned in America in the early 1900s after its brutality on the college gridiron resulted in numerous deaths.  Back in 1897 alone, at least eight collegians died, and hundreds more were seriously injured. Calls increased to cancel the sport altogether, but President Teddy Roosevelt objected.

“I believe in rough games and in rough, manly sports,” he told an audience at the White House. “I do not feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets battered about a good deal so long as it is not fatal.”

Rather than do away with the game, Roosevelt suggested it be reformed. Convening representatives from top colleges at the White House, he urged coaches to make the sport less violent. It proved to be a difficult negotiation, but they all eventually agreed.

It seems Governor Newsom, who is normally no friend of parental rights, is taking a page out of the 26th president’s playbook, a wise step that will prevent the good from being thrown out with the bad.

Parental rights remain the foundation of a healthy and thriving society, a concept rooted in Scripture (Proverbs 22:6) and validated by evidence demonstrated across multi-millennia.


Image from Shutterstock.