High school football team’s ‘toxic’ bullying forces Michigan district to cancel season

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Incidents of bullying and harassment from a Michigan high school football team has forced its school district to put an abrupt end to its season.

Pine River Area Schools Superintendent Matt Lukshaitis announced Thursday its varsity football team will cancel its last two games. The action was a result of an investigation into the program, with the superintendent deeming the team has “developed a toxic culture.”

Lukshaitis did not go into the specifics of the incidents, but said players on the team were involved in hazing, bullying and harassment.

“We are canceling football for the remainder of the season because integrity means more to us than winning or losing,” the superintendent said. “Our pride is on the line. We cannot allow young men to bully other young men through an abuse of position or power. Hazing and bullying have no place on a football team or in a school district.”

Pine River ends its season with a 1-6 record, according to MaxPreps. They were scheduled to play games Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 before the cancellation.

About 350 students are enrolled in the school, which is about 80 miles north of Grand Rapids.

Lukshaitis said the cancellation was needed to “preserve a future where varsity football can safely return with honor.”

“This sort of hazing that has gone on here this football season has to come to an end,” the superintendent added. “Sadly, if we want to remove all those who acted badly or stood silent and did nothing to speak up for others, then we would be left with not enough players to even dress out a team.”

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