Towson's Ambrose on proposed youth tackle football ban: 'Banning is the antithesis of a conversation'

A proposed bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would prohibit children from playing tackle football on public fields until they reach high school has the support of one former Towson University football star: Madieu Williams, who later played at Maryland and then in the NFL.

It also has a vocal opponent: the Tigers’ longtime football coach.

Asked at his national signing day news conference Wednesday about the legislation, Towson’s Rob Ambrose said that “conversation, education, adaptation” would better remedy the problems facing youth football, such as head injuries.

“I wouldn't disagree that there are some poor excesses in youth football and that, just like a lot of good ideas in our country, they started off as good ideas and have gone awry based on listening to wrong people, doing the wrong things,” he said. “Historically, the concept of banning anything has never really worked out. ...

“I believe that banning football — because that's what it is; don't tell me flag football is football — banning youth football is not an answer, and that it will bring on the downfall of the game permanently. I truly believe that.”

Ambrose said children are more open to trying new things, even if they fail. If youth tackle football were eliminated, he said, fewer newcomers would come out for the sport at more advanced levels, such as high school football.

Those who do begin the sport at older ages also would be at greater risk for injury, he said.

“I'm glad that this is a conversation,” he continued. “It's about time that this has been a conversation, that it is an important [topic] — not a regional, not a Maryland, but a national conversation. But it needs to be a conversation, not a knee-jerk reaction that [says], ‘Let's ban it.’ Because then, it's not a conversation. Banning is the antithesis of a conversation. Banning is the antithesis of growth, and I don't believe in that at all.”

jshaffer@baltsun.com

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