SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. – A high school football team’s ritual of sophomore players doing exercise drills naked while upper-class teammates gather in a circle shouting has jolted this quiet Boston suburb.

School officials said they were unaware of the tradition, considered it improper and forfeited Friday night’s big game with a rival school.

Police uncovered the nude rite when responding to a complaint of a bonfire at Swampscott High School’s football field the night of Sept. 25.

School officials said five sophomore players were found unclad at the 50-yard line doing exercises, with older teammates shouting comments ranging from encouragement to obscenities.

An investigation determined the incident was a tradition called “Sophomore 50” aimed at bonding team newcomers with veteran players. The disrobed players told authorities they did not feel harassed, belittled, endangered or upset.

Nevertheless, Supt. Pamela Angelakis ordered a forfeit of this week’s game with neighboring Saugus High School and said the team and all students participating in athletics at the school will undergo anti-hazing education.

The superintendent said it is up to the police to determine if the tradition amounted to hazing but the behavior is “not what we expect of our students and student-athletes. Participating in an event that includes students getting naked and being yelled at – out in a public park – is not an example of treating members of the school community with dignity and respect.”

Hazing is illegal under state law. Organizers and participants can be sent to jail for a year and face a $3,000 fine if convicted.

The district attorney’s office said it will review the police department’s report of the incident before deciding if anyone should be prosecuted.

Details of this story were provided by the Salem News (Massachusetts).

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