Editorial: Sports committee spoils deserving Michigan athlete’s senior season

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

The news is filled with plenty of depressing and bleak stories. The stock market falls, kids get shot and soldiers die every day.

As human beings, we need a story every now and then to bring some light to the world. A story about a person who defies the odds, goes above and beyond and brings hope to the world. Eric Dompierre is one of those people, but his story may change if the Michigan High School Athletic Association has its way.

Dompierre has Down syndrome, but since elementary school he has been able to play sports with the other kids in Ishpeming, Mich. He kept playing, even when he reached high school, joining the Ishpeming High School football and basketball teams.

He practices and works out with the other players and has even made played a few minutes in games. Dompierre’s father recorded video of Eric making a three-point shot in a basketball game and kicking an extra point in a football game with fans on both sides cheering.

Dompierre faces a problem heading into his senior year, however, as the constitution of the Michigan High School Athletic League does not allow students who turn 19 before Sept. 1 (Eric was held back in kindergarten because of his disability). The rule does make sense normally, as it prevents a competitive advantage from a more developed athlete.

One would think, however, that an exception could be made for a student with a disability, but a committee with the athletics association refused two proposals to allow kids like Eric to participate in high school sports.

There is no reason the committee cannot change its constitution to allow Eric to play his senior year. It may be understandable for the committee not to hesitate if this issue had come up out of the blue, but Dompierre’s parents and the Ishpeming High School District have been trying to get the rule changed for the past two years so he can play his senior year.

James Derocher, president of the committee, said one of the concerns is if Dompierre is allowed to play, other 19-year-olds could claim a disability for a competitive advantage in the future. As long as the exception to the rule specified the types of disabilities that would allow a student to participate past the age of 18, Derocher’s concern should not be a problem. Doctors can check if students really have a disability such as Down syndrome.

As of right now, 23 states allow age exceptions for students with disabilities. It should be 50. People who believe otherwise are stuck in very old ways. The rule in Michigan, for example, is 100 years old. As Eric Dompierre’s father, Dean Dompierre, said, our country has come a long way in our treatment of people with disabilities.

Dompierre should be allowed to continue playing high school sports. He has the backing of his school district, his town and 80,000 more people, according to an online petition on Change.org.

The committee needs to come through for Eric and his family. There should be nothing to fear in terms of Dompierre greatly affecting the outcome of games. The only consequence will be making a good kid happy, and perhaps having a little more light in the world.