18-year-old Bailey Roby is a senior at Mountain Vista High School in Colorado who’s been playing basketball for the past two years and specializes in the long-range jump shot. It’s no surprise that Roby can dunk in three-pointers from beyond the perimeter as he’s 6-foot-5 when he’s wearing special prosthetic legs. But for all his athletic prowess, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) recently ruled that Roby was ineligible to play because of his disability.
Care2 member Gavyn Stegeman started a petition demanding that the CHSAA let Roby play ball. More than 2,100 people signed and hundreds posted on Twitter using the hashtag #LetBaileyRobyHoop. Amid this outpouring of support for Roby, the CHSAA issued a statement, according to which Roby “will be permitted to play in games.”
Roby was born with fibular hemimelia, meaning that he was missing the fibula in each of his legs. Doctors amputated both of his legs below the knees when he was seven months old and outfitted him with his first prosthetic limbs when he was a toddler. While in the eighth grade, Roby started playing basketball with Mountain Vista’s Unified Sports basketball team, which includes players with disabilities. He proved to be such a good shooter that, last year, he made the junior varsity team.
Citing concerns about safety, the CHSAA issued Roby a letter of authorization to allow him to play with JV teams. Things changed when Roby started to play varsity basketball this year. Noting that he would face “bigger, stronger and faster competition” when playing varsity sports, the CHSAA ruled Roby ineligible to play. CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann invoked National Federation of State High School Association Rule 3-5-1 under which state associations can “provide reasonable accommodations” to individuals with “disabilities and/or special needs” and “extenuation circumstances” but only so long as these do not “fundamentally alter the sport, heighten risk to the athlete/others or place opponents at a disadvantage.”
Roby’s parents protested, saying that they had been “kept in the dark” and that their son’s playing did not pose a danger either to himself or other players. “We would just prefer to see Bailey be able to finish out the year, finish what he started,” Scott Roby said to the Highland Ranch Herald.
Thanks to the CHSAA’s reaccessing of Roby’s situation, the teenager athlete will be able to play with Mountain Vista. There is a caveat: as CHSAA’s statement spells out, Roby will be granted permission to play on a game-by-game basis. Before every game, Mountain Vista and any opponent must have “an agreement to ensure safety.”
More and More Kids With Disabilities Involved in Sports
In January of 2013, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that students with disabilities must be given an equal opportunity to participate in school athletics. While in the past, it’s been the case that students with disabilities have been unable to participate in sports due to a lack of opportunities, today there are more and more programs for them, be they wheelchair basketball, a Challenger Little League or a Special Olympics team.
Even more, new technologies (like the Ossur Flex-Run legs that Roby uses) are making it possible for athletes with disabilities to participate in ways that would have been impossible not too long ago. As such devices are developed, it’s very likely that there will be more and more students with disabilities ready and willing to play sports.
As Roby said in the Denver Post, it makes him “feel happy to be out there in front of all the other students.” There’s no reason someone with his abilities should be kept from playing a sport that he excels in.
A huge thanks to the more than 2,100 Care2 members who signed Gavyn’s petition and urged the CHSAA to do the right thing and let Roby play. To let the “powers that be” know what you think about an injustice such as Roby faced, why not start your own petition and let your voice be heard?
Photo via VistaBaller/Twitter