By Jordan Freisleben
Several students wore T-shirts that depicted the silhouette of two boys holding hands and bore writing saying “Beat Boyola” to a boys’ basketball game at Loyola on Friday Feb. 4, Head Fanatic Ethan Neale ’11, said.
Neither the administration nor the athletic department said they had any knowledge of the shirts’ existence.
However, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts, Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra and several deans were present at the game, Neale said.
“I’m disappointed that somebody would take the time, energy and money to do something like that,” Salamandra said. “I wish we weren’t having this conversation. That’s very unfortunate.”
Huybrechts sent an e-mail to all parents on Jan. 26 applauding students’ behavior saying they “embraced this year’s school motto, ‘Act Like Champions’” at the first Loyola game in Taper gym.
“Early this school year, students, teachers and school staff collectively committed to improving fan behavior at Harvard-Westlake competitions,” Huybrechts said in the e-mail. “Our Harvard Westlake students were wonderfully self-disciplined, monitoring and checking their own behavior. They were passionate and creative in the ways they framed their animated support for the team — but at no time were they anything but respectful.”
Neale had heard a rumor days before the game from a student that the shirts existed and that students were planning to wear them to the Loyola game.
“This is definitely not a Fanatic thing and we don’t approve of it at all,” Neale said. “We can’t do everything to stop what people do, but we’d definitely like them to be inside our bounds.”
While the new fan behavior rules have banned all previous Fanatic cheers with homophobic undertones, they are still allowed to chant “Boyola.”
“We, the five head Fanatics, had discussed with the administration that it’s not homophobic, but it’s more of an immaturity thing — that they’re boys, not men,” Neale said.
“My hope is that it was an isolated, albeit ignorant, cowardly and inappropriate incident and that a batch of these was not produced,” Fan Behavior committee member and English teacher Adam Howard ’93 said.
“It only takes one person to taint or negatively affect a big group of people,” Salamandra said. “I’m just disappointed. I don’t know how many of these shirts are out there, but if there’s one, that’s one too many.”
A junior that requested to remain anonymous said that he did not think wearing the shirt violated any fan behavior rules.
“We do the ‘Beat Boyola’ chant at the game,” he said. “I think the shirt just shows Harvard-Westlake pride.”
He said he acknowledged how the shirt could be seen as offensive or homophobic.
“I think the picture on it is definitely a stretch, but I think it’s inside the boundaries,” he said.
The student said he ran into Salamandra at the game at Loyola but didn’t think he noticed the T-shirt.
“If a teacher or someone came up to me and told me it was inappropriate, I’d take it off, no problem,” he said.
“Unless anyone approached me, I’d be comfortable wearing it in the future. It shows school spirit,” he said.