An Historical Moment in Boston

Today marks an historical moment, no less significant than Tiger's comeback at the Masters three days ago, or the Boston Marathon completed Monday. In fact, our country has experienced many historical moments right here in this beautiful city of Boston. This city was founded in Sept, 1630 by colonists who lived a lifestyle with a strong emphasis on the importance of education. In December, 1773, our forefathers, the Sons of Liberty, sparked the Boston Tea Party in the bay that sits just over those buildings, and 243 years ago to the very same month, Paul Revere rode through the night warning us that our freedom was at risk. Our historical moment today is the launch of a National movement to Save Youth Football!

I am proud to rally with you on these same streets, with a new Paul, Paul Dauderis of the Massachusetts Youth Football Alliance, leading the charge through the streets of Massachusetts against a new threat to our freedoms from a group that is pushing an anti-tackle football agenda using emotions of fear and loss, hardly representative of our American mindset of freedom, growth, and love. I stand before you, to represent the great state of California, your brothers and sisters from the West Coast, and the National Football Fraternity to support your freedom to play tackle football at any age and your continual pursuit of improving the game to make it better and safer so future generations of Americans may continue to learn values like team work, overcoming adversity, and sacrifice for others from the sport.

My name is Joe Rafter, and I am a co-founder and President of the California Youth Football Alliance, where we are relentlessly accelerating the advancement of youth tackle football. We, as the youth football community, bear a significant responsibility with respect to the future of football and youth sports as a whole. We are a new age Football Sons of Liberty and we are pursuing consistent safety standards while maintaining the freedom to play your choice of football. While we are starting with football, we appreciate that this safety discussion won't end until all sports are able to meet comparable standards in their communities.

We have walked in your shoes. We faced a youth tackle football ban in CA one year ago. We now stand side-by-side with you as you fight for your freedoms with tackle football today and in the future. On April 11th we published an amendment to the California Youth Football Act, in partnership with Assemblymember Cooper from Sacramento, CA. This Act proposes the most comprehensive and detailed youth tackle football safety standards in the country, and demonstrates the commitment that the Alliance has towards our communities across America. We are recruiting you to join us by embracing this progressive legislative direction.

And while legislation will help, what really matters is making things better for every repetition of every drill in every practice, of every week, of every season for this year and every year thereafter. This is relentless improvement. Our youth deserve the very best in coaching, administration, quality of play, and duty of care, so we are partnering with world class providers to make this a reality for our youth. We recently announced our first partnership, with InjureFree, a technology provider whose mission is to transform pediatric care in America. With InjureFree we will be able to educate parents, coaches, administrators, and referees on health and safety topics as well as manage the return to play protocols in all 50 states. Solutions like InjureFree and others, when installed in the spirit of safety at all costs over a win at all costs mentality, will continue to advance our sport and allow our children to enjoy youth tackle football for years to come.

We have an incredible gathering here today, and I have a few key messages to specific groups regarding our shared future with youth tackle football.

For our legislators, we invite you to work closely with us. We have been making youth tackle football safer for years, and we are not done. Get to know us and our sport before you cast judgement. We love our children, and our sport. We all want the same thing, the safest possible environment for our children to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Get to know us. Come learn how much love we are pouring into our children and communities through the great sport of football.

For the medical community, our children need you now more than ever. In a time where children are spending more time in front of screens, youth sports increase in importance. Childhood obesity rate among 2- to 19-year-olds is 18.5 percent. Childhood obesity remains an American epidemic. More than 12 million U.S. children are obese — one out of every six children. Our children need youth sports, especially tackle football because our sport welcomes and reveres all levels, shapes, and sizes of student-athletes. I am one of those boys who avoided an unhealthy lifestyle by playing football. We want to join forces with you to put process, technology, and research together in a purposeful way to medically and responsibly inform our legislative future to make football better and safer.  (

For the clinicians and researchers in traumatic brain injury, we see you holding a high standard of education with respect to the media coverage of the brain, true to the form of the founders of the great City of Boston, as published in the Lancet on March 1, 2019. We appreciate your challenge to the current media narrative. We seek truth for our children, communities, and future Americans while the opposition, who are well funded by large corporate donors, operating with media savvy, are weaponizing science and sport to attack youth tackle football for financial gain. We must not stand by idlily and accept this false narrative. We want the truth, and we trust you to find it for our society.

For the media, we are the voice of 3M football families across America. We are a quiet majority that is under attack by a vocal minority. We challenge you to heed the words of the medical community and bring a more balanced degree of social responsibility to your reporting. We specifically invite you to help us celebrate our everyday story of volunteerism, improvement, and love for our families, communities, and sport.

For the National Football Fraternity, our big brothers and sisters in the high school, college, and professional football world, your youngest sibling is getting bullied on the playground we call tackle football. You are bigger, and stronger, with more organizational structure, so they are targeting the youth market because they think we are weak. They are learning differently! We will continue to stand up to those who bully us, and we ask that more of you, like Merrill and Andre join us and this cause.

And for the parents and players of youth tackle football in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the opposition wants you to believe that your youth tackle football is broken, not worthy, and should be cast aside. We are here today because we passionately disagree! In fact, everything about our sport says the very opposite of being broken. As a youth football coach, I know that this sport has never been safer to play and that my fellow coaches in Massachusetts and beyond are making it so through hard work, volunteerism, education, and living our football culture of relentless improvement.

Football is a victim of a faulty generalization. A faulty generalization is when someone draws a far-reaching conclusion about all or many situations, based on just one or a few observations of that situation. Simply said, some people are jumping to conclusions about football. You may have experienced this bias yourself when you witness others generalize about all people, or all members of a group, based on what they know about just one or just a few people. If we see only white swans, we may suspect that all swans are white. Faulty generalizations may lead to further incorrect conclusions. We may, for example, conclude that citizens of country X are inferior, or that poverty is generally the fault of the poor, or that one sport causes CTE.

We cannot allow a limited data set of research with a narrow bias, to be used to cast a wide conclusion across everyone. This is the faulty generalization of CTE science. Make no mistake, I love my football players more than I love my sport. This means that I seek the truth, and will continue fighting to protect our children's safety by making football safer every year.

To our Opposition, I want to extend the same invitation to you that we have to others. By launching another bill against our sport and children, you continue to take us down a path of conflict. This is not constructive. Instead of attacking us with faulty generalizations, we invite you to work with us. Many of us have been working to make our sport safer for decades. We want to work together for the benefit of our children, and we are prepared to fight if you continue on your current path. Our sport is a gift to our communities. Our coaches are gifts to our sport, and our children are blessed to play youth tackle football. We are ALL on the job to accelerate the advancement of youth tackle football in a medically informed manner. Will you join us in our work to continue making youth tackle football safer, and ultimately all youth sports safer?

In closing, I am reminded of the eternal wisdom of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."   We are a passionate, disciplined, and committed national fraternity of football, and we want a different path, one influenced by love. Love of scientific truth, love of our children, love of our grandchildren, love of the American way of life in our local communities, and love of the great sport of football!