'Gay Tuesday.' 'Hard-R Friday.' A high school hockey team is overrun by alleged bigotry — and adults in power don't seem to care

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5-min read

Danvers, Massachusetts, has a problem. A problem with alleged racism. A problem with alleged anti-semitism. A problem with alleged anti-gay sentiment.

But as best we can tell, the adults who are supposed to be in charge in Danvers don't want to do anything about it. Not anything substantive.

They want to hide behind empty statements. They want to keep the results of investigations they've paid an outside law firm to conduct buried, not just from media, but from the very taxpayers whose money funded those probes, some of whom have children who are victims of the alleged hatred and bullying.

They want to pretend that the alleged vile behavior displayed by members of the boys ice hockey team at the town's high school can just be swept under the rug. 

That the so-called authority figures who are accused of knowing and turning a blind eye did nothing wrong.

That the graffiti discovered in one of its middle schools just this week is a mere unfortunate event and not a sign of a far deeper issue.

Because as everyone knows, when you simply ignore a malignant tumor, it disappears like magic. 

Last weekend, the Boston Globe published its first story on the problem in Danvers, shining a light on the alleged toxicity within the hockey team and the continued malpractice of the town's educational leaders.

Members of the all-white team allegedly bonded through weekly events called "Gay Tuesday" and "Hard-R Friday." 

"Gay Tuesday" allegedly called for players to strip naked in the locker room, and with the lights out, some team members would touch others inappropriately. If you didn't want to take your clothes off, teammates would hold you down and forcibly strip you.

In Danvers, nothing strengthens a team's power play like this kind of alleged molestation.

On "Hard-R Fridays," the tradition was to allegedly shout the n-word on command, with the hard-r sound at the end. If a player refused, he was held down and smacked in the face with a sex toy until he had a welt on his cheek.

In Danvers, playoff-worthy seasons are allegedly built on racism and abuse.

A group text chat involving more than half of the members of the team allegedly included deeply offensive words and images, mocking the Holocaust and suggesting one of their few Black classmates to be lynched.

In Danvers, you can't spell team without H-A-T-E.

The hockey program at Danvers High in Massachusetts is a hive of racism and homophobia. Will the adults in power do anything about it? (Getty)
The hockey program at Danvers High in Massachusetts is a hive of racism and homophobia. Will the adults in power do anything about it? (Getty)

One of the players reported to school officials in June 2020 that during the previous season, two teammates restrained him while a third repeatedly struck his face with a plastic sex toy nicknamed "the Pink Dragon" because he would not take part in shouting the n-word; the same player reported that he'd been touched inappropriately by a teammate.

He has told school officials, police and the special investigator what happened, and his allegations have been corroborated by others. The Globe obtained at least a partial transcript of the text thread numerous team members were allegedly part of. 

As further evidence, three seniors on the team for the 2019-2020 season said "G Tuesday" and "R Friday" were among their interests and activities in their yearbook blurbs, and in that year's senior class will, one bequeathed the "Pink Dragon" to a younger teammate to keep the tradition going.

Officials in Danvers, a middle-class town of fewer than 30,000 people about 20 miles north of Boston that is 92 percent white, have already commissioned two investigations, with a third upcoming. Danvers refused to release even a redacted copy of the first investigation's results for months, only doing so after state officials demanded they do.

The first copy the Globe received was almost entirely blacked out; a Globe appeal to the state led to a second copy, which was somewhat less redacted. 

It's unclear what Danvers officials believe multiple investigations will yield or how many it will take before real action is taken. It's galling that they've not only tried to keep reporters from knowing the findings, but the residents of the town too.

Outside of not renewing the contract of the hockey team's head coach, which only happened after the Globe began its investigation — he was allowed to coach last year, after the victim stepped initially stepped forward — none of the adults involved have faced any punishment. The superintendent of schools has ignored calls from parents for her to resign and at least one member of the school committee said she should be placed on leave. The now-chief of police who led the police investigation chalked it up as "immature behavior."

Endicott College in neighboring Beverly, where the Danvers team practiced and hosted home games and where the alleged incidents took place, has banned them from campus, writing that "both the allegations and lack of transparency are in direct conflict with Endicott's values."

Stephen Baldassare is the head coach of the hockey team and is also a cop in Danvers. He and his assistants have said they had no idea what was going on, a sentiment on which the brave young man who was first to step forward casts strong doubt. On Fridays, the victim told the Globe, players were "screaming" the n-word, and on one Tuesday an assistant walked into the dark locker room, turned on the lights, saw one boy dancing naked in front of his naked classmates and allegedly turned off the lights, said "I don't want to know," and walked back out. 

Max Leete, a state champion wrestler who graduated from Danvers in June and had served as student representative to the school committee (also one of the school's few Black students), knew about the culture on the hockey team. He blamed the grown-ups for allowing the toxicity to continue.

"Kids are kids, and kids can change," he told the Globe. "But adults in power must be held accountable."

It doesn't say much for the so-called adults in power in Danvers that a college freshman understands all of this far better than they do.

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