\When St. Peter High School basketball player Alex Bosacker came out as gay earlier this winter, he was met with hugs, love and acceptance from his teammates and coaches — the kind that numerous other LGBTQ athletes have received.
But when the southern Minnesota school played its rival New Ulm in the weeks that followed, things took a darker turn. In three separate games, New Ulm players and fans attacked Bosacker with a fusillade of homophobic words and actions that ranged from demeaning to disturbing.
As Bosacker recounted to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, during their match-up in January, fans in the New Ulm student section heckled that he “was going to touch players’ groins.” Judging by this level of discourse, New Ulm appears to be a vocational school for movie villains from 1985.
Then a month later, the abuse spread to the court itself. When Bosacker took his position at the beginning of a game in February, the New Ulm player he was matched up against taunted, “I’ve got the gay kid guarding me!”
That player continued hurling homophobic trash talk at Bosacker throughout the game and then things took a physical turn. Bizarrely, the player began repeatedly pinching Bosacker hard enough that his body was covered in bruises at the game’s conclusion.
The incident left both physical and mental trauma. Bosacker recalled, “The experience was awful. I wanted to leave the court, to just leave my body at some points.”
All of this just a few weeks after he had the courage to share his true self with everyone in his school and his community. As a way to fight back, when the two teams met yet again last week in the state playoffs, St. Peter students traveled to New Ulm wearing rainbow shirts to stand behind Bosacker.
While New Ulm insisted that Bosacker’s antagonist was punished after the February game, Bosacker asserted that he continued getting pinched during the playoff. Then after St. Peter eventually lost, the attacks escalated even further on their bus ride home.
During the trek, the team bus slammed on its breaks when a car cut it off on a two-lane road. Acting in coordination, another car pulled up alongside and a passenger shot at the side of the bus with a SplatRBall fully automatic water gel ball gun.
Thankfully, no one on the St. Peter bus was hurt but it was the kind of experience that will be hard for the players inside to shake.
Last week, four New Ulm students were cited for disorderly conduct in the water gun incident and face up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, according to the Mankato Free-Press.
New Ulm Superintendent Jeff Bertrang promised there would be “conversations” with his students and head coach Matt Dennis hung up on a Star-Tribune reporter.
Bertrang told the Free-Press he did not think the bus incident was related to the harassment of Bosacker. “It was four individuals making a really poor decision,” Bertrang said. “But perception matters ... One incident can reflect poorly on all of us.” Thus far at New Ulm, homophobic taunts and attacks have led to fewer consequences than wearing a hat to class.
Bosacker will be continuing his athletic career next year with a track scholarship to college. But these attacks have understandably left painful final memories of his high school basketball experience.
“I hate it so much,” he lamented, “I just wanted to have fun this year, have one last hurrah with all my friends.”
A gay athlete having fun was apparently too much for some students at New Ulm.