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Male cheerleader assaulted: Hate crime or just a sore loser?

By Walter Armstrong

High-school football games between the Melrose Red Raiders and the Maldon Lions are typically high-spirited events, given that their Massachusetts' rivalry dates back to 1889. But this year the nation's second-oldest high-school gridiron competition took on an ugly new twist when a male cheerleader from the Malden squad was the victim of an anti-gay attack by Medford students.

Following a nail biter won by Malden, 19-16, on Friday evening, September 15, two Melrose students assaulted the 17-year-old Malden cheerleader as he made his way through the crowd to the team bus. The first assailant, a female, harassed him with anti-gay slurs. When he ignored the taunts, her companion—"a white male with a lip piercing and wearing a black hat," according to the Malden Observer— punched him repeatedly in the face and chest.

Members of the Malden football team intervened to stop the attack, and the assailants fled from the scene. The victim was taken to a local hospital, along with a second Malden student, who began hyperventilating while witnessing the assault, and was treated for "a bloody lip."

The police filed no charges in the incident, despite the many eye-witnesses to a clear-cut case of anti-gay violence. Officials from both schools teamed up to conduct an "investigation"—interviewing a handful of students—and then announced a "diversity rally," to be held simultaneously at both schools Friday, September 28. "It was mutually decided," the rivals' press release read, "that this is an opportunity for a teachable moment."

"Neither school feels this rises to the level of being a hate crime," the Melrose superintendent told the Malden Observer. "I think what took place was a lot of bad judgment, with a scuffle that followed."

The male cheerleader, a minor, could not be reached for comment.