Minnesota high school athlete Alex Bosacker was met with support when he came out as gay to his peers and coaches at Saint Peter High School earlier this winter. But as the news made its way to rival Minnesota New Ulm school, Bosacker began to be harassed on the basketball court.
It started with the rowdiness of the bleachers. Students from the New Ulm section shouted that he was going to ‘hit players’ groins’ during a January game, Bosacker told the Minneapolis Tribune of Stars. Later in the season, the harassment spread from the stands to the pitch.
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“I have the gay kid guarding me!” Bosacker recalled a New Ulm player saying.
During the game, he said, the other player continued his anti-gay taunts while pinching him hard enough to leave bruises.
“The experience was horrible,” Bosacker said. “I wanted to leave the pitch, just leave my body at times.”
As a show of support, Saint Peter fans showed up to the next game against New Ulm decked out in rainbow gear. And although Bosacker didn’t notice any anti-gay taunts this time, the hard pinching continued.
As the team was heading home after the game, students from New Ulm pulled up next to the bus and shot it with a gel water gun. New Ulm Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said he does not believe the traffic incident was related to homophobic harassment.
“It was four people making a really bad decision,” Bertrang said. “But perception matters. … An incident can have a bad image of all of us.
The student who assaulted Bosacker would have been punished, although the nature of the consequences is unclear. In connection with the bus incident, four New Ulm students were cited for disorderly conduct, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
More and more high school and college athletes are coming out as LGBTQ, but the numbers remain particularly low among male professional athletes. The only active NBA player to come out so far was Jason Collins, who retired in 2014.
Bosacker is not the first athlete to suffer abuse. In 2016, three high school basketball players were charged with sexually assaulting a gay teammate. And reports of homophobic slurs are not uncommon.