CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Parents and members of a local youth basketball team in Carter County are outraged and upset by the league’s sudden decision to remove a 12-year-old boy from the team.
However, this isn’t just any 12-year-old, his name is Austin Osborne and he stands at 6 feet and 3 inches tall. According to Austin’s parents, there were questions surrounding Austin’s eligibility to play in the league at the start of the season. The discussion was not due to his height, but rather the fact that he splits residency between Carter and Unicoi counties.
Austin’s parents decided to sign him up for the Hampton Boy’s Youth Club league in Carter County. Not only does he live there 50% of the time, but this league also featured a number of Austin’s friends that he had played football with in past years. His parents said they received a call from the commissioner on the first day of the season saying Austin was voted eligible to play.
Austin’s team has won every single one of their games, making them 7-0. However, following the decision on Monday that removed Austin from the team, parents and coaches learned that their wins were also removed.
Outraged parents took to social media following the news of this vote to voice how unfair this was not only to Austin, but also his fellow teammates.
“We don’t play with just Austin, we don’t play with just him, we play as a whole team and it’s a brotherhood. They are excellent together and this has crushed them all They’ve stripped all of our wins from us. We went from being 7-0 to 0-7 because someone doesn’t like the fact that we have a tall player,” said parent, Sara Cole.
Sara Cole’s son plays on the team. She said the boys work well together and really are a great team, Austin’s height aside. Cole said if they looked at each game and removed the points scored by Austin, their team would still have that winning record.
Although Cole said the reasoning stated for the decision comes from questions surrounding Austin’s main county of residence, she believes it has more to do with than just that. She said throughout the season, parents of players on other teams would heckle Austin for his height and shout inappropriate statements during the game, statements she believes led to this decision being made.
News Channel 11 sat down with Austin and his parents who confirmed that not only would parents yell profanities and inappropriate things during games at their son, but children on other teams would try to hurt Austin.
“He would have red marks on his legs and footprints on his basketball shorts, I know this is a contact sport, but how do you get a footprint that high if you’re not trying to kick someone?” said Austin’s father, Paul Osborne.
Osborne said he taught his son to be above those who mistreated him, and as a result, Austin would shrug off the comments and actions against him, but his father said that the comments still hurt Austin.
However, his parents say what hurt Austin the most was being removed from the team and his friends. “I was mad and I was sad too because those are all my friends. I just like hanging out with them more than playing the game,” said Austin.
Austin’s mother, Tiffanie Curl, said people have always questioned Austin’s age because of his height. She said upon joining any league, they have shown his birth certificate and a state-issued identification card that both prove he is in fact 12 years old.
As far as the issue with residency, Austin splits his time 50/50 between Unicoi and Carter counties but his main address is in Unicoi because he wanted to attend a Unicoi County school. Curl said that had the league decided he couldn’t play at the beginning of the season because of questions surrounding his residency, she would have completely understood. However, to let him play half a season, then revoke it like this, she believes that this decision was actually fueled by angry parents.
“There are other schools, other youth clubs that do the same thing and the only thing it does is hurt the kids. It’s supposed to be about the kids not about whose parent doesn’t like who, or whose doesn’t like that child, or whatever. It’s about the kids,” said Curl.
Other parents like Ashley Roberts, agree whole-heartedly that this decision was entirely uncalled for.
“I think that the parents should be able to voice their opinion and that they should hold a meeting, not only for the board. I think it should be an open meeting and it should actually be voted on fairly,” said Roberts.
The team’s first game without Austin will be Tuesday night (1/28) and Austin will not be playing.
We reached out to the President of the youth club league as well as the league’s commissioner regarding this situation and have not yet received comment on the matter.