High school football players forced teammates to suck each other off in an abusive hazing ritual, a lawsuit has alleged.
Members of Lake Zurich High School, in Chicago, are accused of routinely sexually assaulting and degrading the two alleged victims who have filed the lawsuit.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci, representing the two former members of the 2016 football team, said they were ‘brutally mocked, teased, humiliated, embarrassed and emotionally harmed, all in the name of team bonding.’
Both the authorities and the lawsuit have redacted passages and many details from the report.
However, the lawsuit largely alleges some players urinated on other members of the team, slapped them in the face with their genitals and forced teammates to perform oral sex on each other.
The name of the target became known as ‘[homophobic slur] of the week’, written on a mounted locker room whiteboard, the lawsuit claims.
‘[Homophobic Slur] Of The Week’
‘[Social] pressure and bullying at such events is so severe that even unwilling participants are forced to take part in acts that are assaultive, illegal and often sexual in nature,’ according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims other acts, going back as far as 1997, included players being stripped naked, punched in the genitals or sodomized with broomsticks. Other teams had similar alleged traditions, with cross-country runners being duct-taped naked to a post and wrestlers punching and kicking their teammates as a ‘birthday beatdown’.
Before a playoff game in November, the lawsuit notes two football coaches had been placed on leave for unstated reasons. They then resigned earlier this month.
The school district also revealed it was looking into ‘inappropriate activity’ in a locker room after a football team dinner in late October.
Police and the state attorney office investigated this incident but declined to bring charges. A probe by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is ongoing.
District 95 administrators declined to comment directly, but said hazing prevention programs have since been enacted since November.
Hazing programs have been enacted or outlined since November
The lawsuit names the school district as defendant, as well as former head coach David Proffitt, former assistant coach Chad Beaver. Others include volunteer coach William Stutzman, Athletic Director Rolando Vazquez, Superintendent Kaine Osburn and several unnamed school coaches.
It seeks to require anti-hazing training for district coaches, teachers and staff, educational assemblies for students, the establishment of a database to track hazing and bullying complaints. It also seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
In a text to the Chicago Tribune, Proffitt said: ‘We have always tried to do the right thing in preparing [players] for life’s challenges, while keeping them and the program’s best interest at heart.”
He later added: “In the 11 years I have been at LZ, anytime we felt that a player was being humiliated in any way what so ever, we stopped it & made sure those involved understood the wrong in what they were doing.’
Regarding claims that alleged hazing included forced oral sex, Proffitt said: ‘Never did I know of anything like that taking place. … I am amazed that because of one or two individuals’ claims, the whole program & coaches are given a black eye.’