NCHSAA: Down Syndrome Athlete Too Old to Suit Up

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The North Carolina High School Athletic Association is standing firm in its decision to bar a 19-year-old student with Down syndrome from suiting up for football games based on the association's age restrictions, reports.

For the past two seasons, Brett Bowden, a junior at Hobbton High School in Newton Grove, had participated in practices and led the team onto the field for games. He even scored a touchdown in limited playing time.

Bowden will still be able to don a jersey, lead the team onto the field, and participate in pre- and postgame activities, but only as a manager or coach. Ineligible players are not allowed to wear equipment, according to NCHSAA rules.

According to Pat Bowden, her son doesn't see himself as having Down syndrome. "Brett wants just to be one of those guys, out there dressed, thinking that he is a football player, feeling like he's a football player," she told Wilmington's WWAY-TV.

"I want to be clear that the student-athlete has not been 'kicked off the team,' " said NCHSAA commissioner Davis Whitfield in a statement Wednesday. "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."

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