Seven US teens charged with sex crimes in football hazing case

NEW YORK (AFP) - Seven teenaged high school football players in New Jersey have been charged with sex crimes in connection with an apparent team hazing ritual, US media reported.

Six of the members of the Sayreville War Memorial High School team charged were arrested on Friday night, and a seventh surrendered on Saturday, local media reported, citing prosecutors in Middlesex County.

Three of the teens were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the juvenile victims.

One defendant and four others were charged with various other counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot in connection with four separate incidents that took place at the school in September.

None of those charged were named, since all are under the age of 18.

Days before the charges were brought, schools superintendent Richard Labbe announced that he was cancelling the rest of the team's season.

The Sayreville team is a powerhouse in New Jersey football, with three state titles in the past four years.

The case is another black eye for a game beloved by fans as quintessentially American, in which communities bond around teams ranging from youth squads to the elite of the National Football League.

The high school scandal comes as the NFL continues its bid to regain credibility in the wake of its admittedly inadequate handling of high-profile domestic violence cases involving players.