Saturday marked Wheaton College’s first football game since the arrest of five senior football players for a hazing incident that left a freshman football player bound, sodomized, partially naked and injured more than a year ago. In slew of these events, we were rather shocked to witness the blaring presence of family and friends vocalizing their unwavering support of these players.
The words “Don’t Flinch,” “Never Forget” and“We [heart] Wheaton Football” were visibly written in the cacophony of homemade posters defiantly held by family and friends, one of which was Jeff Peterson, a father of two members of the program who said,
“Never forget is the theme for this year for the football program. Never forget who you are, never forget who you represent. And ‘don’t flinch’ was based on an email that our head coach just received from a former player who encouraged him to ... not flinch in the face of this current situation.”
Did someone die?
This rather deceiving scenefilled with symbolic gestures in support of the five players paints these athletes as “victims.” There is no obstacle in which they must triumph over. Rather, it is the acknowledgment of these players’ wrongdoingsthat is necessary to set a stronger and more mature statement in light of these events.
These are the very players that have openly admitted to violating their fellow teammate, not a group of unassuming athletes that have suddenly been targeted for taking part in a so-called “tradition.”
To deem the actions of these college players “horseplay” is simply bad parenting and a slap in the face to hazing victims in colleges throughout the nation. Providing “support” for whatever reason does not mitigate the pain and turmoil that resulted in these five football players’ callous and childish actions.
As a college that emphasizes strong Christian ethics at the core of its values, it’s ridiculous that less stringent consequences were placed upon members of their football team.
Quite frankly, 50 hours of community service and writing an eight-page essay is not a sufficient punishment for actions that have terrorized the life of a freshman football player. Ultimately, it should not be a surprise that these adults are facing criminal charges for actions that they consciously and actively decided to take part in.
The scene that unfurled on Saturday was merely a projection of denial. Yes, those football players are someone’s sons, brothers, nephews and friends but that does not warrant special treatment. They are just as liable for the same actions as any other offender of hazing. As adults, they are subject to the same expectations of basic human decency and common sense.
None of these five players are victims of any sort. Somewhere along the line, these athletes hazed an individual under the assumption that they weren’t going to get caught. In the end, they are experiencing exactly what they deserve and exactly what any other offender of abuse and battery would receive from the law. Thus, facing criminal charges should come as no surprise.
There is no room for self-pity and playing victim under circumstances that call for deeper self-evaluation. No community is perfect, and we acknowledge that each institution of learning has its own skeletons. Yet, expressing displeasure towards consequences that rightfully fit the actions will not solve anything. Take responsibility for your wrongdoings and be more mindful of the true victims of this shocking incident.