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Pop Warner League Nixes Season, Blames Flag Football

Jason Scott

As safety concerns surrounding youth football continue to mount, a growing number of players (and their parents) are opting for non-contact options, leaving tackle football teams and leagues suddenly low on participants.

In Clark, N.J., one such league was forced to take drastic action. Clark Pop Warner canceled its upcoming season due to competition from a flag football league, sponsored by a local Catholic Youth Organization.

Pop Warner president Arturo De Martinis wrote an email to inform parents of the decision on behalf of the league’s board, citing the CYO’s competitive offering as a reason for the cancellation.

“[W]e will not be able to field any teams for this year, unfortunately due to low enrollment and more importantly, some untimely and spiteful and vengeful people who live in our town decided to start a FLAG league of their own and competed with our league with some very manipulating and enticing advertising and a lower enrollment fee,” the email reads. 

De Martinis went on to slam one of the organizers of the CYO league, Vincent Gioffre, a former Pop Warner coach and current high school football coach, according to news source TAPintoClark.

“The organizer of the CYO league… has been a high school football coach for well over 25 years, and he doesn’t think the kids should hit,” the email continued.

Both men acknowledged concerns surrounding player safety, but disagreed on how to handle it.

From ABParalyzed at 13, Ex-Pop Warner Football Player Dies

Gioffre told TAPintoClark that he believes the flag football league could help save traditional football.

“It’s a great way to reintroduce it to people who may have walked away, never played, are leery of it,” Gioffre said. “Ultimately, this idea might save the sport, when people can get comfortable with it.”

De Martinis contends that the Pop Warner league uses the Heads Up Football guidelines to teach safer tackling techniques, and kids who don’t learn those skills will be at greater risk for injury later on.

The Clark Pop Warner league hopes to return to action in 2017. 

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