PHILLIPSBURGH, NJ (PIX11) — The eight New Jersey high school wrestlers at the center of a photo that caused widespread outrage and a school investigation for its racist depiction, are speaking out.
The picture in question shows the athletes posing with a black wrestling dummy hanging by a noose. The dummy is dressed in a rival wrestling team’s shirt, and two of the wrestlers are wearing peaked hoods.
The students held a news conference Thursday night, where their attorney, Scott Wilhelm, explained the reason for the photo.
He claimed their “sole purpose was to promote school spirit.” He said the photo was taken innocently, and that the dummy was a standard training tool that happened to come in dark-toned leather, but that it wasn’t chosen with any thought to its color.
Wilhelm offered an apology on the part on the behalf of the wrestlers in question, saying, “As teenage boys transitioning into adulthood, we are constantly facing challenges to become more reponsible and productive young men. In that transition, we have made mistakes, and understandably will have further transgressions. Yet from this photograph, we have learned a valuable lesson, that all actions have consequences.
The boys have been suspended from their school, and there is a possibility of opening a police investigation.