Football Star With Autism Sues for Right To Keep Playing

BRICK, NJ (May 30, 2013) -- In a test of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the parents of a New Jersey high school placekicker with autism who kicked a game-winning field goal have filed a federal civil rights suit to gain their son an extra year of eligibility to play football. Anthony Starego's game-winning kick in the final seconds of a game last October was immortalized in a video, Kick of Hope, produced by ESPN. 

The suit, filed by Raymond and Raylene Starego on behalf of their son Anthony, names the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) for denying Anthony's request to play one more year at age 19. Also named as defendants were Brick Township High School and the New Jersey Department of Education.

Starego will not attend college, but rather continue studying at Brick Township High School until age 21 as provided under the federal IDEA Act. The NJSIAA in March denied his request for an extra year of eligibility, claiming Starego would bring "college-level skills" onto the field that would give Brick High School "an advantage against other teams."

Brought by the New York law firm of Mayerson & Associates in U.S. District Court in Trenton, the complaint charges the NJSIAA failed to provide Anthony "reasonable accommodation" under ADA to the "public accommodation" of a public high school field. As precedent, the complaint cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision for Casey Martin, a professional PGA golfer who won the right under ADA to“cart” between holes while other golfers had to walk.

The complaint counters the NJSIAA's finding of an unfair advantage by noting that Brick Township went 3-7 with Starego already on the team and that because of the school's no-cut policy, allowing Starego to play an extra year would not displace any other player from the roster. Starego's teammates supported his request to play an extra year.