A top-ranking New Jersey high-school football team has canceled its playoff game set for Friday night after “hazing” allegations surfaced—including older players abusing a younger player with a broomstick handle.
Several upper-class teens from the Wall Township High School boys football team are under investigation for abusing younger players after a video of the horrific encounter circulated. School Superintendent Tracy Handerhan sent a memo announcing the extraordinary cancellation of the playoff game, according to NJ Advance Media. “Because of this pending investigation, and after consultation with the board counsel, administration and the office of the Monmouth County Interim Executive County Superintendent, the football game scheduled for this Friday is canceled,” Handerhan wrote in a memo. “District and high-school decision makers take the safety of our students and staff very seriously. There is no greater priority.”
One of the alleged attacks involved a mop or broom handle and six older players, who were seen on a video surrounding and pinning down a younger player who screamed for help. One of the parents who saw the video said that it does not explicitly show sodomy, but that it was clear that was the intention, according to NJ Advance Media.
“I just can’t believe this is happening,” a parent told the publication. “I would never dream of ever treating someone like this. It’s disturbing, and I think everyone’s main concern is that it’s going to be covered up because of the size of the program.”
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office is now involved in an investigation into the matter. “Juvenile records are by their nature, confidential and therefore we cannot confirm or deny any details about this matter,” Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Christopher Swendeman told the Asbury Park Press.
“Upon becoming aware of the allegation, we immediately contacted the appropriate authorities,” Wall Township Board of Education President Ralph Addonizio said in a statement. “There’s a pending investigation, and the school district is cooperating fully. We cannot comment further on a pending investigation of a student matter.”
The issue has divided the parents of the school's students, with some using social media to urge suspension of the team until an investigation can be completed while others insisting the suspension should only happen after the investigation has run its course.
The athletic director of the Delsea high school team, which was set to face Wall Township Friday night, said the cancellation was justified. “They handed in a letter and pulled out of the tournament,” Ken Schoudt, athletic director at Delsea, said Wednesday according to NJ.com. “It’s bigger than football. Just a bigger lesson to be learned, [that there are] consequences for actions.”
The team was ranked No. 1 in New Jersey’s Top 25 list for 2020 and was on its way to another successful season.