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Outside the Lines

Rites and Wrongs

Athlete hazing on the rise

Athletes call it leadership

A victim calls it abuse

Problems in youth hockey

States creating hazing laws


Judge dismisses hazing lawsuit against Oklahoma

Sports hazing incidents since 1980

Message board: What do you think about athlete hazing?


 Outside the Lines
Kathleen Peay tearfully discusses her hazing experience.
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 Outside the Lines
Peay talks of the consequences she faced after exposing the Sooner soccer program.
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This online series is a companion to the ESPN Outside the Lines television show that re-airs Saturday, April 22, at noon ET.

Tuesday, June 3
It's not all fun and games
By Greg Garber
Special to

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Kathleen Peay steps on the soccer field -- an obligatory walk-and-talk for the television camera -- and, despite her attempt to control her emotions, an involuntary shudder passes through her body.

Kathleen Peay talks with ESPN's Greg Garber about the University of Oklahoma hazing ritual she went through in 1997.

"It's weird," she says. "It kind of gives me the chills."

It has been 18 months since she last was on a soccer field, and she is wearing not cleats but a black dress and chunky heels. The famous federal building bombing site is a few blocks away, not an inappropriate symbol of Peay's fractured psyche.

Peay played forward and defense for the University of Oklahoma women's soccer team in 1997 and 1998, but her dream of playing big-time soccer was short-lived. Today, she lives with her parents in Richardson, Texas, attends a junior college and is trying to get into dental hygiene school.

Her last connection to Oklahoma these days is a U.S. District Court lawsuit against the university, former head coach Bettina Fletcher and two assistants that was dismissed April 11. Peay's attorney said he will file an amended suit within the 10-day window set by U.S. District Judge David L. Russell.

Peay, now 21, was a hazing victim as a freshman, and to this day she can't talk about the incident without breaking into sobs.

It happened on a roadtrip to New Mexico in October 1997, her freshman year. After a kick-around at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, the coaches drove the team to a deserted grade school. Peay, who had heard plans for an initiation being discussed the night before, locked herself in one of the school vans. Fletcher, Peay says, screamed at her with profane language to get out. Peay refused. Eventually, an assistant coach unlocked the door and Peay was forced to participate in the ceremony.

Peay and two other freshmen were required to wear an adult diaper and were blinfolded. According to Peay, Fletcher led an exercise in which a banana was forced into her mouth as a simulated act of oral sex. When Peay bit off and spit out the banana, another was placed in her mouth then whipped cream, honey and syrup were sprayed on her hair and in her face, simulating ejaculation. There was a relay race involving pickles and condoms, among other things.

It's difficult to deny the incidents took place; there were pictures taken.

Incidents by sport

Soccer is the third-most common sport cited in reported hazing incidents in the U.S. since 1980, according to research:


"I was just forced to do things that shouldn't have happened," Peay says through the tears. "I felt embarrassed, belittled and humiliated."

Peay did not report the incident. She had a four-year scholarship, and soccer was her life. Still, it gnawed at her. When the pictures, which were in wide circulation, came into hands of the father of one of her teammates, she came forward -- a year after the incident.

"He was outraged," Peay says. "He wanted to talk to me about it and see what happened. So I discussed the occurrence with him. I already knew it wasn't right, but I wouldn't have come forward if it weren't for him. He gave me the strength to do it."

The other girls were not as deeply affected as Peay. In fact no one, including the man's daughter, was willing to bring the issue to the athletic department. Peay agreed to make a statement, and it was brought, along with the pictures, to the attention of athletic director Joe Castiglione. Fletcher, who began the Oklahoma program and compiled an 11-36 record over three seasons, resigned on Nov. 12, 1998, citing "personal and family reasons."

Was there satisfaction when Fletcher, who wouldn't speak with ESPN, left the program?

"Yes," Peay says. "Because she didn't deserve to be in that position with that much power. If left in that position, no telling what future players would have to go through."

Peay finished out her sophomore year, then left Oklahoma and returned home. A year later, she filed her lawsuit.

It has been 2½ years since the incident, but Peay still is hurting. Several psychologists have made a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"She struggles with depression, feelings of guilt, anxiety, hopelessness," one of her doctors wrote in a statement. "As is sometimes the case with post-traumatic stress disorder, Ms. Peay has developed fears about leaving her home and her family and feelings of insecurity and loss."

Peay misses her friends at Oklahoma, particularly two roomates who joined the team when she did. She hasn't talked to them since she left. The entire episode took 30, maybe 40 minutes, and it has changed her life, very clearly, for the worse. Some friends in Texas recently invited her to play in a recreational league, but she declined.

"I just don't really have the desire to play any more," she says. "I work and go to school, and I just don't want to make any time for it any more."

One of the common justifications for hazing behavior is that group initiations foster camaraderie and chemistry. How does simulating oral sex build team chemistry?

"It doesn't. It doesn't at all," Peay says. "I think it just tears the team apart.

"I'm doing fine," she says, sounding anything but. "And I'm getting treatment. I just wish things could have been different."

Greg Garber is a regular contributor to and Outside the Lines.

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