Concerned Parents Are Opting for ‘flag’ football over the tackle version of the sport

EDITOR'S NOTE: What this article fails to mention is that tackle football is used to prepare our young people for careers of violence in the military. Terms like "gridiron" are used to describe the field of battle. The game of U.S. tackle football is a preparation for acceptance of violence in our society. While we applaud the Times for shining light on this issue, we also recognize the class limitations of their reporting. Their class outlook does not permit them to reveal the whole truth behind the game of U.S. football. We encourage all young people to participate in sports as friendly competition, not as preparation for war. 

(New York Times) "Concern about injuries, particularly those to the brain, is part of flag football’s growing appeal. Beyond a steady stream of former high schoolcollege and N.F.L. players being found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease known as C.T.E., several recent incidents demonstrated the dangers that younger players still face in tackle football. Last month, head injuries suffered during games resulted in the death of a high school player in Georgia and the hospitalization of a college player in Tennessee. Two weeks ago, a Mississippi player died after breaking his neck while making a tackle."

The N.F.L. recently pledged to give annual grants to 400 Boys & Girls Clubs for flag football programs to reach 100,000 players ages 6 to 18. It also used its media megaphone to try to give flag football a higher profile: Over the summer, the league-owned N.F.L. Network broadcast 11 games of a new national flag football tournament.

Few predict flag football will replace tackle football at the high school and college level anytime soon, but the game has taken hold in some of the sport’s most traditional strongholds. In Chicago, new leagues have siphoned scores of players from long-established tackle programs, while in Alabama, Hoover’s youth flag football league has nearly tripled in size over the past five years, to 91 teams.

“Football is part of our fabric,” said Jeff Lewis, a founder of the new American Flag Football League, whose games were broadcast by the N.F.L. Network and covered on the league website last summer. The tournament, the first U.S. Open of Football, saw 128 amateur teams and four “pro” squads compete this summer.

“Flag really is the version of the game that we all play on Thanksgiving morning,” Lewis said. “It’s what we play in our backyard.”

Still, concern about injuries, particularly those to the brain, is part of flag football’s growing appeal. Beyond a steady stream of former high schoolcollege and N.F.L. players being found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease known as C.T.E., several recent incidents demonstrated the dangers that younger players still face in tackle football. Last month, head injuries suffered during games resulted in the death of a high school player in Georgia and the hospitalization of a college player in Tennessee. Two weeks ago, a Mississippi player died after breaking his neck while making a tackle.

A 2016 UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion Research survey found that 78 percent of American adults did not think it was appropriate for children to participate in tackle football before age 14. Last month, the LA84 Foundation, which has given millions in grants to youth sports programs in Southern California, announced that it would no longer finance tackle football programs for children under 14.

Over the past three years, the number of 6-to-12-year-olds playing flag football, now more than 1.5 million, has surpassed those who currently play tackle football. Credit Emily Kask for The New York Times

In Hoover, the Bucs are still the most important team in town, and the looming presence of the University of Alabama — an hour’s drive away — hovers over the city’s booming flag football league; recently, the league moved its game days to Tuesday evenings from Saturdays to avoid conflicts with Nick Saban’s top-ranked Crimson Tide.

That makes for long, busy evenings for Brent Solberg, who runs the flag football program for Hoover’s parks and recreation department, which crowns champions in 11 youth divisions. Solberg recently helped organize a tournament for more than 60 teams, some from as far away as Texas and Florida.

“It’s really cut into tackle football here,” Solberg said. “Our tackle league has lost about 180 to 200 kids in the last two years. I have a lot of ex-college players among my dads and coaches, and they know the wear and tear and grind that goes into playing tackle. They say this is more fun for their kids.”

While flag football pitches itself as a safer alternative, some parents still steer their children away from football entirely. Jim Schwantz, a former N.F.L. player who is now the mayor of Palatine, Ill., discovered this after he started a recreational flag football league.

“I found that there was a group of parents, they don’t even want to introduce their kids to flag, period, because they’ll enjoy the game and then ask to play tackle,” Schwantz said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/20/sports/football/flag-football-nfl.html