Today In Depressing Things: High School Football Player With Down Syndrome Kicked Off Team
19-year-old Brett Bowden, a student with Down Syndrome and fixture on the Hobbton High varsity football team sideline for the past two years, has had his official status with the squad revoked for his senior year due to an inflexible age limit policy.
Bowden may not have been the team's most valuable player, but he was certainly the most adored. The rising senior would suit up for every game and cheer, eventually earning the right to lead the Wildcats onto the field and run a touchdown play after every contest.
However, Bowden recently turned 19 and is thus ineligible to participate in high school sports according to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. The organization has expressed its sympathy and understands the extenuating circumstances, but maintains that nothing can be done to bypass the NCHSAA age regulations.
In an effort to clarify its official position, North Carolina High School Athletic Association Commissioner Davis Whitfield released a statement about Bowden's varsity eligibility on Wednesday.
"I want to be clear that the student-athlete has not been 'kicked off the team,'" Whitfield said in the statement, which he emailed to Prep Rally directly. "Brett Bowden could still be a part of the team, lead his team on the field, wear his jersey and be with his teammates, including some of the post-game activities he has done in the past.
"The only thing that he cannot do now that he could do before is dress out in full uniform, since a student must be eligible to be dressed for a contest. He is over the age limit based on the eligibility rules, and this State Board of Education policy is one we are not allowed to set aside."
Brett's younger sister Taylor has launched a Facebook campaign entitled "Let Brett Bowden Play" in an effort to convince the NCHSAA to reverse its decision. Nearly 49,000 people have "liked" the page, with many posting messages in support of the cause. One individual wrote "Rules are made to be broken not dreams or hearts."
The N.C. High School Athletic organization now finds itself in a delicate situation, as not allowing Bowden to play will only prolong this inevitable PR nightmare, while making an exception for one player could set a dangerous precedent across the North Carolina high school sports system moving forward.
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