Hazing has seemingly always been a part of sports. Regardless of what level or what activity, the act of veteran athletes going after newcomers has been ingrained into the culture of athletics.
But what took place in New Jersey last week has even the most die-hard sports fans in disbelief, after seven Sayreville High School football players were charged in a sexual hazing scandal that could mean the end of the program.
"Whether we have a football program moving forward is certainly a question in my mind," Sayreville superintendent Richard Labbe told NJ.com last week. "Based upon the severity of the charges, I'm not sure. I have to look at the results of the investigation. I have to await more information from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office."
The seven football players who were charged range in ages from 15 to 17. Because they are juveniles, their names have not been released.
According to the Middlesex Prosecutor's Office, three of the players were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the juvenile victims. One of those defendants and four others were charged with various counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of some of the victims.
The players' charges were announced late Friday night and first reported on NJ.com.
"While we are legally restricted from speaking about individual students, it would be fair to say that any student arrested in connection with the matter involving the football program is suspended from Sayreville War Memorial High School," said school board attorney Jonathan Busch, of the Busch Law Group. "We are in the process of arranging for an alternative education, pending further investigation."
On four separate occasions, multiple players are accused of holding victims against their will, while others improperly touched victims in a sexual manner at SHS. The events occurred between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29, according to the prosecutor.
According to NJ.com, a parent of a Bombers player provided detailed description of what took place during the hazing. The parents said four older members of the team would pounce on a freshman and restrain him while two more kept watch at the locker room’s entrances. The final attacker, the parent said, would sexually assault the prone victim, inserting a finger into his rectum and then placing the finger into the freshman’s mouth.
More than 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year, according to insidehazing.com. It also reported that 79 percent of the NCAA Athletes report being hazed initially in high school.
A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park across the street from the high school for victims of alleged sexual assault by Sayreville football players
"The prosecutor said it was pervasive and led me to believe that it's more than one year," Labbe said. "To the extent of that, I'm not sure. I'm confident that it was more than one year. How many more years? I'm not sure."