Last week members of a Phillipsburg, NJ high school wrestling team came under fire after a photo surfaced of them posing with a practice dummy that was hanging from the ceiling.
The eight members of the Phillipsburg High School wrestling team are now claiming that the photos was depicting a suicide, not a lynching, reports NJ.com. All of the wrestler who were involved, who are white, apologized for the racial undertones and said that their punishment was too harsh.
According to Scott Wilhelm, the attorney for the teens and their families, the boys dressed a wrestling dummy in the team colors of their most bitter rivals and included a handwritten suicide note scrawled in orange marker.
The eight boys were suspended three days and banned from wrestling in the postseason, starting with today’s District 1 tournament at Phillipsburg.
“It’s a case of youthful exuberance,” Wilhelm said. “They were the best team Phillipsburg’s had in 40 years, and they were celebrating themselves.”
The suicide note, according to Wilhelm, read, “To Whom It May Concern. The Kittatinny singlet was enough. The (Paulsboro) T-shirt pushed me over the edge.”
Wilhelm said at the time the teens did not understand the inappropriateness of the image they created.
If they were 25, 26, that criticism would be justifiable,” Wilhelm said. “But they’re 15 or 16. Face it — kids at that age do stupid stuff.”
On top of the suspension the Warren County Prosecutor Richard T. Burke is working with the Phillipsburg police department to investigate the possibility of criminal activity involved in the incident.
“We’re in the process now of gathering information about it to determine if there was any criminality involved in the process,” Burke said. “We opened up a file and started our investigation.”
As of now, Burke said they’re not working with a time frame to decide if charges will be filed.
“If there is any kind of criminal activity here we will certainly prosecute it if it warrants it under the law,” Burke said. “But we don’t know that yet until we gather all the facts on it.”