Antonio Orsini has been playing football since he was a child. But now the father who once cheered him from the sidelines wants the teen banned from the field.
As KDKA News reports, 17-year-old Antonio is a running back and linebacker for his high school in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania. According to the New York Times, Antonio and his two brothers started playing football as young as five, and his oldest brother plays for Case Western University.
Their father, John, is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan who played football as well. After John and Janice Orsini divorced in 2004, John continued to come to his sons' games and practices.
In the last few years, however, spurred by reports about the long-term effects of concussions, John has done an about-face on his son's passion for football. Citing concerns about Antonio's health, John is doing everything he can to keep his youngest son off the football field.
John, who is a former plaintiff's attorney, told the Times that his change of heart came after his son suffered three concussions in about three years. The first came from a baseball accident, but the next two concussions happened on the football field:
“The moment for me started when he repeatedly got diagnosed with concussions and the doctors kept telling me there was no reason for him to not keep going. His mother didn’t question the doctors, but in my profession it is an impossibility.”
In summer 2017, John went to his son's school and petitioned to have Antonio barred from playing football. While he was initially successful, mom Janice countered by taking the matter to family court. A judge granted her request to let Antonio play while the legal dispute went on, and Antonio was able to rejoin the team.
Antonio made it through the 2017 season without further injury, but John is still trying to stop his son from playing in the coming year or in college. He has an extra sense of urgency because Antonio will turn 18 in November.
John told KDKA he's trying to protect his son's future and “save his life.” He added that he can't even enjoy the games:
“I can’t stand watching him play anymore. It’s hard on me, ’cause he’s in danger.”
While Janice refused to be interviewed, her attorney sent a statement to KDKA, explaining that Antonio has been examined and cleared to play by his doctor:
The mother and her 17-year-old son have reasonably relied upon the input and opinions of his treating physicians and medical providers, and have considered the state mandated safety and concussion protocols followed by the school district, in deciding whether it was appropriate for him to continue to participate in football.
Unconvinced by the doctors, John is determined to continue his lawsuit and have his son barred from football. The legal battle has caused a family breach, and neither Antonio nor his brothers will speak to their father. John told KDKA that regardless of the family fallout, he's optimistic that he'll win in court:
“I’m hopeful that my son will just go on, get a good education and lead a healthy life. That’s all I want.”
Janice's lawyer, John Demas, told the Times that Antonio's mother has confidence in the doctors they've consulted and the coaches at her son's school. Most of all, she believes their son (currently a high school junior) is aware of the risks involved and old enough to make up his own mind about playing.
And Antonio clearly wants to keep playing despite his dad's concerns. As Demas told the Times:
“The truth is, this young man loves to play football and understands the dangers, and based on the science now, his mom thinks the benefits are worth the risks.”