In 2019, seven Black student football players at Warren De La Salle High School in Warren, Michigan, were charged with misdemeanors in 2020 over a hazing scandal involving other student-athletes. The former students of the all-boys Catholic high school were accused of holding down younger football players on the locker room floor and striking their bare hind parts and legs with broomsticks, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The charges led to several of the athletes losing their football scholarships and it brought the team’s 2019 season to an abrupt end the day before the playoffs.
Now, regardless of how you land on the subject of hazing, bullying or whether the punishment fit the crime in this case, there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on: Either none of the students involved should be held accountable, or all of them should be.
But, according to the Grio, one of the Black former students has filed a lawsuit alleging that equal-opportunity consequences for one’s actions didn’t happen in this case.
20-year-old Cleveland Harville alleges in his suit that only Black athletes were targeted by Warren police and hit with criminal charges while investigators went out of their way to protect an elite white varsity player who was “the main one” who took part in the hazing of other players.
While Black players lost their scholarships behind the scandal, this white player was protected so he wouldn’t lose his athletic scholarship at a Big Ten university, the lawsuit claims, adding that he was never investigated or charged with a crime and he went on to play football at Ohio State University.
The charges against the Black players were dropped in 2020, but only after they agreed to participate in an anti-bullying program and wrote apology letters to the victims.
Suffice it to say, the white athlete had to do none of the above if what the lawsuit states is true.
“The more I research this, the more I’m appalled at the blatant and overt abuse of power to hurt Black children,” attorney Todd Perkins told the Free Press. “And it is specifically pointed at Black children because they are the only ones charged. It continues to hurt. It continues to pain. And it continues to anger me.”
The lawsuit also alleges that an independent investigation into the case was done and the findings didn’t match up with that of the police investigation.
“An independent, third-party investigation found no player at-fault and suggested the actions taken against the Black and brown players had racial implications and undertones,” the lawsuit states. “(The police) only investigated and charged Black and brown players, not similarly situated white players … Had (Cleveland) been white, he would not have been investigated, charged with a crime, arrested, or detained.”
Of course, Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer denies that racism played a part in the investigation.
“I adamantly deny that we were racist in this investigation,” he said. “Everyone was treated fairly. We conducted a very thorough investigation. We looked at anyone we had information on. We presented our findings to the St. Clair (County) prosecutor. And that was it.”