Football Player, MSHSL Clash in Court Over Targeting Suspension

October 31, 2018 08:35 PM

An East Ridge High School football player is challenging the Minnesota State High School League in court. He has filed a lawsuit over a play that sidelined him for the playoffs. His attorney claims he was denied due process.

Marco Cavallaro has been suspended for four games for "targeting" - or taking aim at or hitting a player above the shoulders - during a hit against a Centennial player. The suspension could end his high school football career.

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Cavallaro points to game footage which he claims proves the referees made a bad call. The league has refused to consider the video, prompting Cavallaro to file the lawsuit. Both sides clashed in court Wednesday.

"He has worked really hard for this. To have it in jeopardy is tough to watch him go through," said father Chris Cavallaro.


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"Clearly from the video, you can see I did not hit him in the head or neck. I hit him in the chest," said Marco Cavallaro. "I feel I should not have been ejected for that call."

Cavallaro’s parents wrote the league asking for an appeal and for the video to be reviewed. MSHSL Executive Director Eric Martens responded saying, "based on our bylaws, the decisions of game officials are final."


IN-DEPTH

This isn't the first time the Minnesota State High School League has had its bylaws challenged in court. Students have sued the MSHSL over issues related to its bylaws nine different times since 2012.

Earlier this year, Dmitri Moua filed a lawsuit over the MSHSL’s bylaw declaring competitive dance a girls only sport. Dmitri is challenging the league's rule that prohibits boys from taking part in dance as unconstitutional. His case is currently pending before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A check of court records shows the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, by comparison, has been sued one time by a student over its bylaws during that same timeframe.


"It wasn’t a late hit. It wasn’t a flagrant hit. It wasn’t a targeting hit and that needs to be addressed," said mother Amanda Cavallaro.

"What's troubling is the league has purposefully chosen not to set up any system of due process," said attorney James Smith.

Smith filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in an effort to get Cavallaro back on the field for the playoffs.

Attorneys for the league argued the bylaws are clear and it would be harmful to force the league to hold evidentiary hearings on calls. They also noted it would impact their ability to keep and recruit referees.

The judge will consider the case, but noted he couldn’t guarantee a decision by Friday, when Cavallaro hopes to suit up with his teammates for the playoff game.

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Jackie Cain

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