A high school in Illinois is facing backlash after a video showed a Black football player sitting down in a locker room littered with banana peels and a teammate threatening to break the teen's knees if he doesn't comply.
The disturbing incident, seen in a video on social media, happened at Moline High School on Thursday. According to ABC News, one of the football players in the video, whose face can't be seen, threatens the Black player to sit in the locker with a banana hanging above his head.
“Or I'll break both your knees,” the football player said to his teammate.
Other students can be heard cheering as the teen sat down, saying "Yeah!"
Moline Police Chief Darren Gault described the incident as a “disturbing racist scene.” The chief added that the people involved were teammates “of both different and similar races to the victim.”
All of the players involved have been identified, according to investigators.
“We are aware that the victim knows the individuals who filmed the incidents. We are aware they are teammates and may be friends. Regardless of these facts, the incident is disturbing,” Gault said in a statement, according to KWQC.
The football players, who had an away game on a Friday night, came back to the school shortly before midnight and met detectives who were there to speak to them about the incident. Detectives also interviewed coaches and staff members over the weekend and handed their findings over to prosecutors, Gault said.
The Moline-Coal Valley School District, which is conducting its own investigation, said “the vile behavior depicted in the video does not represent our core values."
“Clearly, we have work to do. Decisive action will be taken upon the conclusion of both the law enforcement and the school district’s internal investigation,” school district spokeswoman Candace Sountris said in a statement.
Moline Mayor-elect Sangeetha Rayapati, who is also the school board chair, said adults have “a responsibility to hold individuals involved in this incident accountable.”
“I speak from the heart when I say we have a responsibility to teach them a better way," the mayor said in a statement. "It’s awful to know a child was treated that way. It’s awful to know that that child will be marked forever by the incident and the disrespect they received. And it’s awful to know other children would see this as a joke.”
Tracy Singleton, the founder of Well Suited, a mentorship program for Black boys, said there's no question that the incident is racist.
"We should just be able to just be and be who we are and not have added stress on dealing with racist people," Singleton told KWQC. "And at the end of the day, you can say ‘oh they were just kids. Oh, this was just, you know, they were just playing around.’ It was racist. It was racist. And it was, I would go so far as to say a hate crime."
In recent years, several incidents of hazing have caused heartbreaking tragedies for families. As Blavity previously reported, a Black student died in 2018 after he was hazed at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Sanda Dia, a 20-year-old son of Senegalese immigrants, was bullied at the school after he joined Reuzegom, a fraternity that includes children of the country's wealthiest Dutch elite.
The student died after he was forced to drink alcohol until he passed out, gulp down fish oil until he vomited, swallow a live goldfish and stand in an icy ditch.
In 2019, a grieving mother filed a lawsuit against the historically Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., saying that hazing led to her daughter’s death at Northwestern University, as Blavity previously reported. According to the lawsuit, 20-year-old Jordan Hankins hanged herself in her dorm room after she was forced to “agree to a post-initiation pledge process" to maintain her membership.
Hankins was allegedly "subjected to physical abuse including paddling, verbal abuse, mental abuse, financial exploitation, sleep deprivation, items being thrown and dumped on her and other forms of hazing intended to humiliate and demean her."