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I was told to get a Mohawk my junior year. Everyone on the Golden Knights, Nanuet High School’s varsity baseball team, was supposed to.
Senior year I told juniors to get one. We all met at a teammate’s house. He provided the buzzer. The team sat around and watched as one after the other had their hair fall to the floor. Come Opening Day, we all had the same haircut.
We were one.
Hazing is a part of team culture at all levels. At its best, it builds comradery while initiating participants into a select group. At its worst, it can be an outlet for bullying and a cause of suffering.
That type of “hazing” should never happen.
With that said, the allegations out of Sayreville War Memorial High School are horrifying.
For some time now underclassmen of the football team have been sexually abused by upperclassmen. What went on in that locker room is graphic.
It was ceremonious. Someone would make a “wolf call” and the lights would go out. When they went back on, a freshman would be pinned down. Doors were guarded. Others were forced to watch.
So far four victims have come forward, while police have charged seven players with sexual assault crimes.
This situation has constantly been referred to as a hazing scandal.
I have been through hazing. This was not hazing.
Hazing is carrying a pink backpack to the bullpen or dressing up in costume or getting team Mohawks. Even in its ugliest forms, hazing is meant to initiate.
What they did in the Sayreville locker room was anything but that kind of initiation.
What happened at Sayreville is criminal. If any of that had happened outside of a locker room there would be no mention of hazing, nor should there be. Not for such odious acts.
By calling sexual abuse hazing, society grants those perpetrators a free pass and downplays the brutality of their actions. What is actually a very serious crime is passed off as a “rite of passage” ritual that went too far.
That thinking is hard to digest. What those kids did was villainous and they deserve to be severely punished. Their coach, George Najjar, and athletic director, John Kohutanycz, need to go.
Plain and simple.
No one made me get a Mohawk those last two seasons of baseball at Nanuet. It was something most everyone did, not because anyone was afraid of the seniors, but because a silly haircut gave us all a sense of unity. It strengthened our bond as a team. That was the intention and it worked.
It did what hazing is supposed to do.
What happened at Sayreville… well I have no explanation for that, but it certainly was not hazing.
Gary Phillips is a sophomore journalism student. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @GPhillips2727.