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New Jersey Pop Warner Football Association Throws Flag, Cancels Season

7 Sep, 2016

By: Michael Popke

An average of 12 young football players die every year, concussions increasingly dominate sports reports and Sports Illustrated imagines a world without the game in its 2016 NFL preview issue. So it’s easy to understand why football participation numbers aren’t what they used to be.

In August, the Crusaders Pop Warner football association in Clark, N.J., --part of the Jersey Valley Pop Warner Conference -- canceled its season, citing low numbers and blaming a startup flag football league. Take a look at this excerpt from a lengthy email (filled with uppercase words for emphasis) sent by the Clark Pop Warner Executive Board to parents of registered players:

We are emailing you today to regretfully inform all who have registered and paid to be part of our Football family this year, that we 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.

As Forbes.com reports, the league’s ire is directed at the St. Agnes Catholic Youth Organization, which is resurrecting flag football after a long absence in the community.

Here’s more from the email sent by Pop Warner’s local board:

The organizer of CYO league, if you didn't know, has been a High school football coach for well over 25 years...and he doesn't think the kids should HIT! The Hypocrisy is overwhelming! …

We at Clark Pop Warner know that some of the children that will be playing there are probably never going to play full contact Football and that's ok, but for the parents of the children who think that this is sufficient amount of training and knowledge to move up to the next level which is contact, they are sadly mistaken. …

Clark Pop Warner, and ALL OF POP WARNER FOOTBALL has been affiliated in the proper training and extensively trained by USA HEADS UP FOOTBALL www.usafootball/headsup. This is what we teach, please visit the website and read up on what we, POP WARNER are doing to keep our children safe.

The neighborhood news site TapintoClark.com wrote that CYO organizer Vincent Gioffre, a former Pop Warner coach, says the new league is based on Christian values, which include providing opportunities for community interaction.

“We wanted to start a one-day, low-impact kind of thing, not a lot of time; just an opportunity for those kids who want to play football but didn’t want to tackle, “Gioffre said. “So kids can come join in and have fun. … It’s a great way to reintroduce [football] 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.”

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