"The criminal charges add another troubling incident for Wheaton College's football team, which consistently is ranked among the top Division III programs in the country under longtime head coach Mike Swider. The team made national headlines nearly three years ago after players dressed up in Ku Klux Klan robes as part of so-called team-building activity in a campus gym."
What in the world is going on at Wheaton College?
Five Wheaton football players have been accused of carrying out a horrific hazing act involving a freshman teammate. Here is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune that describes what is alleged to have occurred:
The student told investigators that he was watching the NCAA basketball tournament in a dorm room on March 19, 2016, when several teammates entered the room and tackled him, according to the documents. The freshman kicked his legs and yelled at them to stop, only to be punched and have his bare legs and wrists wrapped in duct tape, the victim said.
The players put a pillow case over the 19-year-old freshman's head and took him from the residence hall. Though there was a "root beer kegger" taking place in the dorm that night, no students or college employees intervened as the freshman was carried out of the building, according to the records.
The freshman told investigators that he was placed in the back seat of a teammate's vehicle and held down by at least two players while others piled into the vehicle. After the vehicle began moving, the players played Middle Eastern music and made offensive comments about Muslims, according to the victim's account.
At one point, the players suggested to the freshman that he had been kidnapped by Muslims who wanted to fornicate with goats, the teen told investigators. They patted his foot and suggested he would be their "goat" for the evening, the records said.
The freshman told investigators that his teammates restrained him with more duct tape during the drive, pulled down his shorts and underwear, then repeatedly tried to insert an object into his rectum. After the freshman yelled at them to stop, he was beaten, he said.
The players drove to a park located off campus and carried the freshman onto a baseball diamond, according to his account. The players threw dirt on the teen, took his cell phone and left him half-naked on the field, he said.
The freshman, who had just transferred to the college, did not know where he was or how to get back to campus. The temperature that night was about 45 degrees, according to National Weather Service records.
About 10 minutes later, a second player was dumped on the field, he told investigators. The two were eventually driven back to campus by classmates who came looking for the second player.
The freshman returned to his dorm room, called his mother and then drove himself to the hospital. He suffered muscle tears in both shoulders, in addition to various bruises and scratches, the records said.
Late Monday afternoon a DuPage County judge signed arrest warrants for the five football players at Wheaton College who were charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint, according to the Tribune.
The student reportedly suffered muscle tears in both shoulders and has undergone multiple surgeries for his injuries. The Tribune indicated that the student is now attending a college in Indiana.
News outlets far and wide have been covering this shocking story. Here is one of the early reports by a Chicago news station.
The following segment aired after two of the football players turned themselves in to authorities.
The Washington Post covered this story and provided the following information:
College administrators learned about the incident shortly after it happened from coaches and other team members, according to a statement the school sent to The Post. It declined to share details of the investigation, citing federal student privacy protections. The statement said college leaders immediately launched an internal investigation and its trustees have launched a campuswide review of its current anti-hazing policy.
The five players who were charged were ordered to perform community service, and write an eight-page essay reflecting on their behavior [emphasis mine], the Tribune reported, and all are still listed on the football team’s roster.
The students being sought on arrest warrants are 21-year-old Kyler Kregal of Grand Rapids, Mich.; 22-year-old James Cooksey, of Jacksonville, Fla.; 21-year-old Benjamin Pettway, of Lookout Mountain, Ga.; 22-year-old Samuel TeBos, of Allendale, Mich.; and 21-year-old Noah Spielman, of Columbus, Ohio. Spielman is the son a former son of former NFL player Chris Spielman, who is a football analyst for Fox Sports.
The Chicago Tribune article included this shocking information (see screen shot below)
We were stunned when we read the following excerpt from The Washington Post article:
Christian Simpson, a black student who played one season of football, left the team this year partially because of negative comments the football players made about “affirmative action and race relations.” He said that while the extent of the physical aggression he witnessed was “locker room talk,” he wasn’t surprised that this allegedly happened.
It was shocking to read about Christian Simpson's football experience at Wheaton. You see, Dr. Philip Ryken has been serving as president of Wheaton College since 2010, and he is also a Council Member of The Gospel Coalition, which has been publishing a number of articles that denounce segregation in churches, among other related topics. And let's not forget that Wheaton's current president is a Calvinist.
There has already been some speculation that this alleged hazing act by these five football players may have been in response to Wheaton's former political science professor Larycia Hawkins, who garnered national attention when she wore a hijab in support of Muslims. Hawkins has since left Wheaton College to become a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.
In response to these allegations, Wheaton College issued the following statement.
Full Statement by Wheaton College (link)
Wheaton College aspires to provide an educational environment that is not only free of hazing, but practices our values as a Christian community. As such, we are deeply troubled by the allegations brought by law enforcement against five members of our football team. When this incident was brought to our attention by other members of the football team and coaching staff in March 2016, the College took swift action to initiate a thorough investigation. Our internal investigation into the incident, and our engagement with an independent, third-party investigator retained by the College, resulted in a range of corrective actions. We are unable to share details on these disciplinary measures due to federal student privacy protections.
The College has fully cooperated with law enforcement in their investigation. To not impede the law enforcement investigation, the College was bound by confidentiality and unable to share more information until now.
The conduct we discovered as a result of our investigation into this incident was entirely unacceptable and inconsistent with the values we share as human beings and as members of an academic community that espouses to live according to our Community Covenant. We are profoundly saddened that any member of our community could be mistreated in any way. This incident has prompted our Board of Trustees to engage outside experts to lead a campus-wide review of the level of effectiveness of our anti-hazing policy and of the culture around how students treat one another in our campus communities, athletic teams, and organizations. Wheaton remains committed to providing Christ-centered development programs and training to all our students.
In 2014, we revised our anti-hazing policy and improved our training protocols to include a formal review of our anti-hazing policy with all student athletes every year, with required student signatures; we also require annual training for residence assistants who are responsible for residence hall activities. Despite these deeply troubling charges, we have experienced positive changes on campus, including rapid responses from campus leaders to reports of hazing or other inappropriate behavior and effective disciplinary review.
We will continue to follow this story closely.