The shame of Ooltewah High School

Foul Play revised header

He was a 15-year-old kid playing in a holiday basketball tournament. Now he’s international news, not for his feats on the court but for what three of his teammates did to him off it.

In a rented cabin where the team was staying in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, it’s alleged three of his Ooltewah High School teammates held him down, beat him and sodomised him with a pool cue.

He was two and a half hours from home. He must have felt a world away.

He thought he would die. And he could have.

He’s had emergency surgery for a ruptured colon and bladder. He’ll have to use a catheter and colostomy bag for at least two weeks after his release from hospital. It will take him up to three months to recover physically from his wounds.

Shame by frankieleon
Image by Frankie Leon

Psychologically, how to you ever heal from such an attack? The sheer incomprehensibility of it.

So many aspects of this story defy belief. The actions of the alleged perpetrators, for a start. What possessed them?

Where were the adults charged with the boys’ care, who had apparently been told that kids were being bullied on the trip?

Why do some media reports keep calling this a hazing, essentially an initiation practice? It suggests a prank that got out of hand.

What happened here was a crime. This boy was sexually assaulted. His accused have been charged with aggravated rape. So let’s cut the hazing crap.

Why was this basketball team allowed to take to the court the very next day and several times since? It astounds me that any parent would allow their child to keep playing with this team, both in terms of their duty of care and the message it sends to the victim.

And why has it taken two weeks for the Hamilton County School board to meet to discuss this incident? Where’s the urgency?

Gatlinburg police statement

Since I started this blog two years ago, I’ve been astounded at the number of stories in my sports news feed that relate to sports-related assaults.

In response to the sickening regularity of these stories, I started a semi-regular section called Foul Play. 

It was intended to document alleged sports-related assaults on women and girls, because they bear the brunt of these attacks. But there are assaults on men and boys and they need documenting as well.

In December:

  • Bangladeshi international cricketer Shahadat Hossain and his wife were charged with physically torturing an 11-year-old girl who worked for them as a domestic servant.
  • Olympian Oscar Pistorius was convicted of murder over the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013.
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  • Police began investigating an alleged sex offence involving Canadian professional ice hockey player Evander Kane in a hotel room in Buffalo.
  • Former basketball coach Bill Kenneally pleaded guilty to changes of indecently assaulting ten boys during the 1980s at various locations in Waterford in Ireland.
  • The New York Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman, who is under investigation for domestic violence and firearms use after allegedly choking and shoving his girlfriend and firing eight shots into his garage wall.
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  • The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed the Queensland Academy of Sport still doesn’t have a child protection policy regarding sexual abuse of young athletes, nearly 14 years after coach Scott Volkers was accused of indecent assault.
  • Australian rules player Dustin Martin was placed under investigation after threatening to stab a woman in the eye with a chopstick at a Melbourne restaurant.
  • Former Australian Rules player Paul Dimattina was charged with assault after allegedly punching a whiskey distillery manager over a bill dispute.


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