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NJ Denies Star Football Player Extra Year of Eligibility

March 15, 2013

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (March 15, 2013) -- New Jersey athletic officials have denied a waiver for Anthony Starego, a high school football placekicker with autism, to play an additional year, despite pleas from professional players, a university athletic director and advocates, including Autism Speaks. Starego was immortalized in an ESPN video, Kick of Hope, for his game-winning field goal last fall for Brick High School.

As reported in The Star-Ledger, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) concluded that Starego brought "college-level skills" to the game that would give Brick High School "an advantage against other teams." The decision was unanimous.

Starego's father, Ray, said "it’s all still about winning and losing.” He was considering a further appeal to the state education commissioner.

“They said, regardless of his story, they had to treat him like he was any other kid,” Starego told The Star-Ledger. “So in other words, his development meant absolutely nothing. And I think that’s probably the scariest thing at all, because they ignore all of that and gave that no weight. And that’s the whole point."

Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president for programs and services, told the NJSIAA that denying Starego another year of eligibility "could produce a negative impact on the remaining years of his high school career or even produce an adverse consequence on his adult life. Why risk affecting his future?"