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Down Syndrome Boy Kicked Off Football Team, But Maybe Not For Why Youd Think

Brett Bowden

Brett Bowden on the field in younger days

It’s important to teach kids that rules must be obeyed, right? But that they can never be broken, or even bent? Ever, never? What’s that teaching them?

Brett Bowden has played on the Hobbton High School football team in North Carolina for the past two years. He suited up for every game and was a fixture on the sidelines, cheering on his team and even scoring an official touchdown in one game despite the fact that he rarely played. Oh, and he has Down Syndrome, too.

This month he learned he won’t be able to play football this season — his senior year — because he’s too old. He recently turned 19, an age which the North Carolina High School Athletic Association has deemed too old for participation in high school sports.

“I want to be clear that the student-athlete has not been ‘kicked off the team,’” Whitfield said in the statement to Yahoo’s Prep Rally website. “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.”

That sounds minor, right? But according to Brett’s mom, he doesn’t see that he has Down Syndrome and wants to be one of the guys fully dressed on the field if he weren’t fully dressed, he wouldn’t feel like a member of the team. And the Hobboton community agrees that the NCHAA’s decision is unfair — several thousand of them have “liked” a Facebook page protesting Brett’s ban from wearing a full uniform just because of his age.

The final word is now in the hands of a state organization who will decide if the rules can be bent just this one time, or if that exception would just lead to problems for other schools in North Carolina in the future.

Teach kids to abide by the rules, by all means. But shouldn’t kids also be taught that there are occasionally worthy exceptions to some rules, and sometimes people and their feelings are even more important than what’s written in a rule book?

Do you think Brett should be allowed to suit up in his full uniform?

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