After months of back-and-forth through various hearings and appeals, the state’s governing body for high school athletics has granted a fifth year of athletic eligibility to autistic Brick High School kicker Anthony Starego, who became a national sensation last October when he booted a game-winning field goal in a varsity football game.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s unprecedented decision to allow Starego a fifth year was made in conjunction with the Commissioner of Education, Brick High and its football opponents.
Starego had previously been ruled ineligible by the NJSIAA because he had already played four consecutive years of football and turned 19 before Sept. 1.
But after several appeals by the Starego family — who argued playing football helped their son’s development and served as an inspiration for others — the NJSIAA made the surprising decision today to allow Starego to play the rest of this season.The Daily Record adds detail:
The reversal comes less than three weeks after a federal judge — ruling on a lawsuit Starego’s parents filed against the NJSIAA and state Department of Education — denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to grant Anthony a fifth season.
Raymond and his wife, Reylene, alleged that the NJSIAA and state violated their son’s civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires reasonable accommodations be made to include those with disabilities in interscholastic sports.
U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson wrote in her 29-page opinion that the “plaintiffs failed to show that the Association’s decision denying Anthony a waiver violates the ADA,” but she also rejected every one of the NJSIAA’s reasons for not granting that waiver.
As a result, the NJSIAA potentially faced a protracted legal battle with the possibility of another court ruling in Starego’s favor. The Starego family’s lawyer, Gary Mayerson already had filed a new complaint in Superior Court, relying on Wolfson’s ruling.
According to Steve Goodell, NJSIAA legal counsel, once the federal court affirmed the association's position regarding the ADA, it seemed appropriate to resolve the matter promptly, without excessive, additional debate.