By Lorenzo Recupero and Joe Prezioso
Many local youth leaders and advocates of the freedom to choose to allow elementary school children to take part in contact sports such as tackle football made their way up to the State House on Tuesday, April 16 as part of a growing protest of Bills H. 2007 and S.1223. Both are currently progressing through the legislature.
The bills, presented by Paul A. Schmid III of Westport, MA, and Bradley H. Jones Jr., of North Reading, MA, was presented to the legislature to help “prevent the practice of tackle football for children in grade 7 or under”.
The official website for the bill making its rounds states it’s “an act for no organized head impacts to school children.”
The bills were referred to the Committee of Public Health by the house on January 22 and the senate concurred.
The 2.5 hour rally combating the bills featured some big names, including guest speakers and former NFL players Merril Hoge and Andre Tippet.
The Mass Youth Football Alliance, USA Football, Pop Warner and American Youth Football have all teamed up to counter the bills that most certainly jeopardize participation in local youth football leagues across the state.
Massachusetts Youth Football Alliance’s Nathan Bilotta organized the event and called for the state to respect parents choices and new safety measures in youth football. (Photo by Joe Prezioso)
“I’ve been a head coach for over 30 years and I can count on one hand how many concussions I’ve ever had,” said Charles Leo, Director of Everett Pop Warner, who was throughly against the bill. “I can see why some people are doing this, but you can’t take away a game like this from the kids. I think it’s the parents decision if they want their children to play or not. It shouldn’t be up to these guys,” said Leo referring to legislators.
Joe Panniell, President of Eastern Massachusetts Pop Warner, also attended the rally and he echoed the sentiment shared by Charles Leo. His sticking point was the illegitimate studies legislators are using to progress the bill further.
“This bill, to me, is uninformed legislators who think football is back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s,” said Panniell. “Things have changed a lot. In the last 10 years we instituted tons of rule changes for the safety of our kids, including a reduce of contact during practices to only 25 percent,” said Panniell.
While legislature moves the bills along, the Mass. Football Alliance website states local youth leagues are “fighting for standards of safety practice and injury protocol while supporting the freedom of football choice”.
Now, which side are you on, the state or the parents?