At least two football players who were reportedly beaten during a high school team initiation ritual while attending a school-sponsored camp in Orangeburg last week will be withdrawing from Allendale-Fairfax High School and awaiting the outcome of an investigation, their attorney said Wednesday.
One of the students, a major college football prospect, has reported that he escaped being beaten by as many as 20 teammates long enough to run away and then knock so hard that he damaged the door of a room where a coach was staying. He states that the coach just yelled for him to go back to bed, so he went and hid until the group of teammates caught up with him and took him off to continue the hazing ritual with more severe beatings.
Bamberg County state Rep. Justin Bamberg -- the attorney for Shakur Chisolm, a rising senior, and Dimetrius Drayton, a rising sophomore -- said there should be an independent investigation into the incident that occurred at the A-F team’s undisclosed lodging location away from the football camp being held at South Carolina State University.
Along with that, he is voicing the opinions of the families involved and calling for the immediate resignation of Allendale-Fairfax head football coach Eddie Ford, who he claims did nothing to protect the students or report the incident.
According to reports, Chisolm – a top prospect at running back, being recruited by South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, among others -- was injured so severely that he had to be taken to the Regional Medical Center, while Drayton’s injuries required other immediate medical attention.
“It’s our understanding that this hazing/initiation ritual for transfer students and newcomers to the varsity team has been a tradition that has gone on for several years,” Bamberg said. “It involves everything from kids being beaten with boxing gloves, fists, belts and being cussed at and intimidated and belittled.
“What went on is so similar to a gang-like initiation, it’s scary. Just when these guys got into sports to become better men and away from the streets and into the organized environment of football, the violence of the streets was brought into the sports realm, where they should be safe from that.”
Reports from the Allendale County School District and Bamberg’s office indicate Allendale County School District Superintendent Leila Williams and Allendale-Fairfax Principal Seneca Baines began an investigation several days ago but have made no comments on their findings and have turned to legal counsel.
Bamberg said Wednesday evening the parents of both of his clients involved went to the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office during the day to file formal complaints.
Chisolm transferred to A-F from Barnwell High School during the summer, while Drayton has been in the Tigers program but was just moving to the varsity level.
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“In the beginning of the week of camp, we have information that a freshman (A-F) student ran away from camp because he didn’t want to get beaten,” Bamberg said. “The coaches had to go find this student and brought him back to the location. A prudent adult in charge of other people’s kids would have sat these boys down and said this has to stop.
“Not having done so clearly seems to indicate this hazing and initiation ritual is something that the coaches and adults involved with the football program not only allow and condone, but they encourage. No one, as of yet, has given information that leads me to believe this tradition existed before coach Ford became the head coach.”
Bamberg points out that there is no information available at this time to suggest that other students have been injured in past preseason hazing incidents with the A-F football team.
South Carolina law makes hazing a crime, especially if it includes physical harm. However, according to the South Carolina Code Of Laws, for an alleged crime to be considered hazing, the “student” involved must be a person enrolled in a state university, college or other public institution of higher learning.
Bamberg claims that he, his clients and their parents had a meeting scheduled with Allendale-Fairfax school officials earlier this week. After waiting for more than an hour for school officials to meet with them, the families were told school officials would not be speaking with them because the families had their lawyer present.
“This is sad for those involved, for this school and for this community,” Bamberg said. “Here we are talking about teenagers, each of them someone’s child, being injured. What went on last week, at Allendale’s football camp is something that the coaches knew about, condoned, let happen and pushed these students to participate in.
“This whole situation could have been avoided if the team had gone to camp and just worked on getting better as a football team.”
While awaiting any investigative report from the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, or a report from the Allendale County School District, the families of Chisolm and Drayton must find out where their sons are allowed to transfer to attend school, and if they will be allowed (by South Carolina High School League regulations) to play football anywhere this season.
Allendale-Fairfax is scheduled to start the 2015 football season hosting Baptist Hill on Friday, Aug. 21.