On Saturday, players at Division III Wheaton College made the ill-advised decision to honor teammates facing felony charges from a hazing incident in 2016.
Five members of the team are charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint after allegedly hazing a then-member of the team in March of 2016. The alleged victim said he suffered serious shoulder injuries from the incident that required surgeries and that he was left half-naked on a field after his teammates tried to shove an object up his rectum.
According to The Leader from Elmhurst College, multiple players — including a team captain — had the jersey numbers of James Cooksey, Kyler Kregel, Benjamin Pettway, Noah Spielman and Samuel TeBos displayed during Saturday’s game at Elmhurst.
Senior All-American tight end Zach Lindquist, one of Wheaton’s captains, wore the numbers 5, 37, 63, 77, and 96 (the uniform numbers of the five accused players) on his arm throughout the game and was seen raising five fingers towards the sky after scoring a touchdown.
There’s also this horrifying quote from a father of a member of the Wheaton team inside the story too.
“What these guys did, what we understand they did, is something that’s been a tradition for the football team. I have two sons who have played football here and they’ve both gone through essentially the same thing,” said [Jeff] Peterson before adding that he has “no reservation whatsoever about having [his] current son continue in the program and if [he has] another one, having him go through it too.”
To repeat: the five players are charged with felonies. While the allegations are merely allegations at the moment, prosecutors clearly felt there was enough evidence to bring felony charges from a supposed hazing incident. To defend potential felonies as “a tradition” is mind-boggling.
It’s insane that the football team’s leadership would have allowed players to speak out in this manner. It’s understandable why they want to stand by their friends and teammates in a time like this, but it’s also imperative to understand the seriousness of the situation.
Less than a year ago, then-Baylor assistant Kendal Briles had his dad’s initials on his hand during a game following Art Briles’ firing from the school. A lot of people on the outside of the program knew what a bad idea that was at the time and Briles hasn’t been charged with any crimes.
The players were charged with the felonies on Sept. 19, more than 16 months after the alleged incident took place. At the time of the charges, the school said it “took swift action to initiate a thorough investigation” after finding out about the allegations.
It also said that “our internal investigation into the incident, and our engagement with an independent, third-party investigator retained by the College, resulted in a range of corrective actions,” though the school declined to share what that discipline was because of federal privacy laws.
Three of the players charged played in the team’s game on Sept. 16. All five were suspended after the charges were announced.
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