Faced with reports that members of his team were cyber-bullying a fellow student, a Roosevelt, Utah high school football coach suspended the entire squad, not letting them reform until they agreed to an extensive set of conditions.
KSL-TV reported on Wednesday that Union High coach Matt Labrum disbanded his team on Sept. 20, citing both the bullying and academic and attitude problems plaguing other members. Labrum also chose to tell the 80 students to turn their jerseys and gear in following a Union loss, but denied that was a factor in the decision.
“It just felt like everything was going in a direction that we didn’t want our young men going,” Labrum told KSL. “We felt like we needed to make a stand.”
The Deseret News reported on Tuesday that Labrum also met with the student who was targeted by the online harassment to apologize. Because the bullying took place on the chat website ask.fm, which allows for anonymous usernames, the offending team members had not been identified at the time.
“We don’t want that represented in our program,” Labrum told the News. “Whoever it is (doing the bullying), we want to help get them back on the right path.”
The day after issuing the mass suspension, Labrum allowed the team to reform, but has not returned their equipment. Instead, he made each player sign a contract stipulating that they will attend counseling sessions on character development, study hall sessions, and perform two days of community service instead of team practice. The squad was also ordered to hold new elections for their team captains. The players were expected to learn on Wednesday whether they would get its jerseys back.
“I think it’s going to bring our team closer,” Labrum told KSL. “I think we’re going to be more accountable, not only for ourselves, but for our buddy next to us.”
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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