In the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth.
This disturbing hazing within the storied Sayreville football program, as told to NJ Advance Media on Wednesday by the parent of a player in the program, happened almost every day in the locker room this fall, he said.
The allegations — revealed for the first time — provide details to the events that sparked a criminal investigation by local and county police, and prompted the cancellation of the remainder of the Sayreville football season this week by Superintendent of Schools Richard Labbe.
The parent, informed by his son and other parents close to the investigation, is the first to come forward to reveal the hazing practices Labbe has characterized as “incidences of harassment, intimidation and bullying as constituted by the definition within the anti-bullying statute that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level, and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated, and in general accepted.”
According to the parent, whose identity is being protected because the parent feared retribution against the family and the player, the routine was initiated when an upperclassman would enter the locker room and make a wolf call or howling noise.
WATCH: Superintendent shuts down Sayreville's football program
“[For] 10 seconds, the lights would go off and they would grab a freshman and they would go on,” the parent said. “Right on the floor. … It was happening every day. They would get the freshmen.” He added: “Kids would just sit around and witness [stuff] like this.”
Detectives from the Middlesex County Prosecutors Office and the Sayreville Police Department are investigating the allegations, but officials have refused to reveal any specifics about the case. The parent said his son and several other Sayreville players have been questioned by police. No charges have been filed. The parent also said he is in the process of retaining an attorney.
“These parents here, they’re in shock,” the parent said. “We never expected anything like this to happen. Your kid, he’s going to school, school’s got to be a place where you think the kid is the safest.”
When told of the specific allegations over the phone Wednesday, Labbe declined to comment. He referred to his previous comments calling the allegations “very serious.”
The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office declined comment on the allegations detailed by the Sayreville parent. Also, David Abromaitis, a detective in the office, declined comment Wednesday when reached by phone.
The parent said the “ringleaders” involved in the hazing are seniors.
MORE: Coaches should be fired if hazing allegations are true | Politi
Madeline Thillet, speaking at Tuesday night’s board of education meeting, said her son was one of the members of the team interviewed by investigators. She downplayed the hazing while protesting the cancellation of the season.
“I was at the police station with him when they were questioning him,” she said. “They were talking about a butt being grabbed. That’s about it. No one was hurt. No one died. I don’t understand why they’re being punished. I think that the forfeited game was punishment enough.”
The parent said he could not “understand how none of the coaches were aware of it. As a coach, you know what’s going on in your clubhouse. You know what’s going on in the locker room.”
On Oct. 1, Labbe said he was alerted to an anonymous allegation made to Sayreville police about a serious incident of inappropriate conduct —possibly more — by members of the football team. The next day, the matter was turned over to the Middlesex County prosecutor and Labbe canceled Sayreville’s football games — varsity, junior varsity and freshman contests — last weekend against rival South Brunswick.
Then, on Friday, in a separate incident, an attorney for assistant coach Charles Garcia said his client had resigned after details of his arrest for steroids possession surfaced.
On Monday, Labbe announced he was canceling the rest of the season.
The hazing allegations have turned Sayreville’s no frills, blue-collar community upside-down, as both local and national news vans and media reporters have descended on the town, scouring the streets and interviewing people in parking lots and strip malls.
Many Sayreville residents have expressed outrage over the cancellation of the football season. The varsity team, nicknamed the Bombers, has made the playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons, and Sayreville has captured three state championships over the past four years, feeding nearby Rutgers University with a host of elite players.
Sayreville longtime football coach George Najjar declined comment when reached by phone Wednesday.
MORE: Just the beginning of a legal firestorm for Sayreville?
More than a hundred Sayreville residents attended Tuesday night’s previously scheduled board of education meeting to urge the members to reconsider the decision to cancel the season. The crowd, at times, grew heated and animated, but the board affirmed the decision to end the football season.
Afterward, about a hundred people gathered under the lights on the football field, lingering for about 15 minutes, gazing across the impressive stadium, until it was time to go home.
Vernal Coleman and Sue Epstein of NJ Advance Media contributed to this report.
Matthew Stanmyre may be reached at email@example.com.
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