Laurier bans baseball team four games after hazing incident

September 20, 2012

Search the Internet and you'll come across a picture of Brett Lawrie, the Toronto Blue Jays' rugged third baseman, looking more than just a bit ridiculous in a pink tutu in the team's clubhouse.

The photo is from last year when Lawrie was part of the baseball team's annual hazing routine in which rookies are required to dress up in silly outfits that they must then wear in public for their final road trip of the season.

If Lawrie were a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., such a practice wouldn't be tolerated.

So says Peter Baxter, the school's athletic director who on Thursday said the baseball program has been suspended for a minimum of four games - with the possibility of the penalty being stretched for the entire season - after a hazing incident involving team members came to light.

Baxter would not divulge the details of the incident, which occurred this past weekend, only to say alcohol was involved, nobody was injured, and the police were not involved.

"One of the players brought up how they saw Brett Lawrie in a tutu when I was talking with them," Baxter said in a telephone interview. "I told them that's just not the example we want our students to be setting when they are held to a higher standard as a student athlete of the university."

While hazing has been outlawed at many universities throughout Canada and the United States - including Wilfrid Laurier - the practice of abuse or humiliation as a way of welcoming a new team member remains widespread.

Baxter said he passed out copies of a story to members of his baseball team from two years ago when a volleyball player at St. Thomas University in Fredericton died in the aftermath of an on-campus hazing party.

It was determined that Andrew Bartlett, 21, died after he fell down the stairs at his residence after being dropped off.

"Something like that is not going to happen on my watch," Baxter vowed.

Just last week, officials at State University of New York at Geneseo cancelled the remainder of its women's volleyball season amid allegations of hazing.

This came after several first-year players came forward to say they were handcuffed, blindfolded and forced to drink vodka during an initiation party. One of the woman was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

At Laurier, the school has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to hazing, one that student athletes are required to agree to when starting the school year.

Baxter said in this case the baseball team will be given the opportunity to plead its case to the school administration and, if convincing enough, the Golden Hawks may be able to salvage the remainder of the season after the four-game forfeiture.

"I want them to come up with answers," Baxter said. "They're going to need to tell us why is baseball important to them, what are the values that they have to uphold - not only for themselves as individuals but as a team. And how are they committed to those values."

Baxter said the players have been asked to explain the detriments of hazing and try to come up with team bonding activities that aren't necessarily humiliating or degrading.

"They players were already meeting together after I'd left the room," Baxter said.

The team will get the opportunity to state its case to the administration on Sunday. In the meantime the team's season is hanging in the balance.

The team will forfeit the four games it was scheduled to play Sept. 22 and 23 against the Western University Mustangs and University of Waterloo Warriors.

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