By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
For years, hazing has been an expected ritual in the realm of athletics. Most students who played high school sports could probably attest to carrying a senior’s shoulderpads freshman year or hauling a varsity player’s bat bag JV season. Even the big leagues haze: Major League Baseball players use September as rookie hazing month, a time when veterans make first-year players wear women’s clothing ,among other nonsense.
But what happens when harmless hazing evolves into sexual assault?
Just ask three junior varsity football players at Mepham High School in Bellmore, N.Y.
In the last week of August, the team’s five coaches and 60 players traveled to a pre-season training camp in nearby Wayne County, Pa. During the camp, three varsity players-two juniors and one senior-allegedly sodomized three JV players with broomsticks, golf balls and pine cones while other players watched, Wayne County district attorney Mark Zimmer said. According to a report by the New York Newsday, one of the JV players was injured so badly that he required surgery.
As a result, the Bellmore-Merrick school district canceled the team’s entire season last week, and subpoenas have been served this week to Mepham High coaches and school officials, who until now have been uncooperative with the investigation.
The entire situation is unbelievable. It’s not even hazing; it’s hazing on crack. The players’ actions are appalling, but even more so is the lack of action from the coaches.
ACU freshman football player Philip Muns played at Dallas Christian High School, where hazing at their preseason camp in Huntsville was simply not done. Why?
“The seniors wanted to do stuff to the freshmen but the coaches wouldn’t let them,” he said. “If coaches talk about how they’re not going to put up with hazing, then it’s probably not going to happen.”
At Mepham it did, despite a lousy letter that players and parents had to sign agreeing not to haze teammates. Shame on the coaches for letting a piece of paper-and not their words-serve as enforcement.
“It’s pretty ridiculous,” said Tayler Cates, freshman football player and McKinney High graduate. “I don’t like hazing; it just discourages the younger guys from playing the sport.”
As for the three accused players-they’re enjoying a measly five-day suspension from school. Perhaps now only prison bars will help them distinguish between what’s funny and what’s inhumane.