The high school football team at Conestoga High School in suburban Philadelphia had a hazing ritual called "No Gay Thursdays." On that day, behavior players would normally call "gay" were allowed on specific Thursday. One incident in October has led to three players being charged with assault.
Three seniors, including a team captain, grabbed a freshman they didn't like, who was trying to leave the locker room during a hazing ritual. Two held him down, while the third penetrated his rectum with a broom handle, officials said.
"That's over 400 pounds of senior holding down this freshman," said Thomas P. Hogan, the Chester County district attorney, adding that the victim was 5-foot-7 and weighed about 160 pounds.
Police charged the three seniors, all 17 at the time, as juveniles with assault, unlawful restraint, making terroristic threats, and related offenses.
Hogan said the three were not charged with a sexual offense because "from our perspective, it's a physical assault and not a sex crime." He added that the decision was made after consulting with the victim and his family.
"No Gay Thursdays" was a tradition started by the football team at least three or four years ago, in which behavior the team normally considered to be "gay" was considered "not gay" on Thursdays, Hogan said.
Older players would come up behind younger players and put their genitals atop the younger players' heads, among other sexually explicit or suggestive acts, the prosecutor said.
He said the players also had a tradition of what they called "blessing each other," in which a student, with his hand spread wide, would hit another player on the backside or back with such force it would leave a five-fingered mark.
Some players would avoid the locker room on Thursdays, and some quit altogether because of the hazing, Hogan said.
Hazing is a crime in Pennsylvania but only in college, not high school, so that charge was not available to Hogan. The three students are being charged as juveniles after consultation with the victim's family.
Hazing is a disturbing form of violence, power and status in close-knit groups like sports teams, the miltary and fraternities. Homophobia is also a contributing factor since many rituals involve something of a same-sex sexual nature considered to be taboo. "No Gay Thursdays" is homophobia of the worst kind.