NORTH TONAWANDA — A pair of local state lawmakers met with local youth football players, coaches and parents on Saturday to rally against a proposed state ban on tackle football for players 12 and under.

Assemblyman Angelo J. Morinello (R,C,I,Ref-Niagara Falls) has said he believes an outright ban on youth tackle football is an “extreme and unhealthy legislative measure” that was submitted without sufficient information.

“We’re here to start the dialogue,” Morinello told those in attendance on Saturday. “The impression seems to be around Albany … Is that there’s no safety measures. There’s no standards.”

Morinello said there are currently measures in place.

“Coaches have to be certified,” he said. “Equipment has to be certified.”

The assemblyman also pointed out that Albany has taken away enough parental choices in recent years, citing recent vaccination legislation.

“Parents know best,” he said.

Morinello went on to discuss muscle memory. “When you teach at a young age, it’s more conducive to safe play.”

Morinello was joined by Sen. Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) at the rally, held at Rescue Firehall on 1241 Strad Ave. in North Tonawanda.

Orit said the issue was a matter of protecting individual freedoms from governmental overreach.

“That’s what this is really going to come down to,” he said Saturday. “Who do you trust to keep your kids safe — mom and dad? Grandma and Granda? … Or Gov. Cuomo? Albany? I’m going to side with parents in that situation.”

The proposed ban would extend to school-sponsored football programs as well as Pop Warner and youth leagues that require parental consent for children to join teams.

At a legislative hearing last month, Chris Nowinski, co-founder of the Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation and an expert on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), contended prevention is now "the only tool" to curb traumatic head injuries in tackle football.

Nowinski, a former All-Ivy League football player at Harvard University, said evidence connecting tackle football to brain damage is "even stronger" than the link between smoking and lung cancer, yet the "same negligence and reluctance to recognize a major health danger is happening with CTE."

"If we ban youth tackle football, we can save lives," he said.

Robert Zayas, director of the New York State Public High School Athletics Association, countered that participation in football and other sports offers "countless benefits" to children. He said many safeguards have been enacted in recent years to reduce the chances of injury.

The prime sponsor of the New York legislation is Assemblyman Michael Benedetto. Proposals to ban youth tackle football have also been advanced in statehouses in Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois.


— Joe Mahoney contributed to this report.

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