Rodney Kim Jr’s Parents Expose Davidson High School’s Hazing Culture

On the morning of April 27, 2018, Davidson High School (DHS) freshman quarterback Rodney Kim Jr woke up the same jovial teenager hes always been, fresh off a Spring Break trip with his parents and three siblings to San Francisco, California. By the end of the school day, Kim Jrs characteristic charisma was gone as he sat outside his school with a broken arm as a result of allegedly 20 football teammates assaulting him in the locker room as part of a sort of hazing ritual

Kim Jrs parents, Rodney Kim Sr and Mary Kim, were understandably confounded about how their child could be this severely injured while under the care of school administrators and coaches. A week after a gruesome video of the assault went viral, the parents filed a $12 million lawsuit against the Mobile County Public School System. Besides an eight-figure financial compensation, the parents are asking for:

-Davidson to forfeit all football games for the 2018 season

-All 20 players involved in the assault be charged

-Each of the schools football coaches is fired

-Hazing to be banned from all high schools, nationwide

Kim Jrs parents want their lawsuit and sons tragedy to inspire change at an institutional level. If you have a hazing law in the state, but you don’t even have a protocol in the school system for the teachers and administrators to handle it, what’s the point of the law, Rodney Kim Sr told The Shadow League.

Days after news of the parents lawsuit surfaced, people such as the area director of the Southern Alabama Fellowship of Christian Athletes Dennis Hayford have come out in support of the football teams 14-year head coach Fred Riley. Hayford, who spent four years as the DHS chaplain, put out a press release claiming what happened to Kim Jr was just an isolated incident that doesn’t reflect the overall quality of the Davidson High School Football Program.”  

Kim Jrs parents have told The Shadow League a different story. A story that involves an insidious hazing culture at the school hidden in plain sight by complicit silence from students and school administrators. I literally watched a mother break down in front of me. She had no idea this happened to her son, as well, Mary Kim told The Shadow League. 

The Shadow League spoke with Mary Kim and Rodney Kim Sr about supposed brainwashing of football players by head coach Riley, the effect the assault has had on their entire family, and what they want to see changed. 

Parents Of High School Football Hazing Victim Speak Out | NBC Nightly News

Rodney Kim Junior was beaten during a hazing caught on camera. Now his parents have filed a $12 million lawsuit and a warning to parents about the dangerous practice. ” Subscribe to NBC News: ” Watch more NBC video: NBC News is a leading source of global news and information.

The Shadow League:
Since the attack on April 27th, how have the family’s day-to-day lives changed?

Mr. Kim Sr: To be honest with you, our world’s been turned upside down with all the media attention. Just dealing with the situation with Rodney and what he’s dealing with. Dealing with the emotions of our other children.

Mrs. Kim: It’s still raw emotions in all of us. We’re getting through it with prayer and the support each other as well as our community.

Do you know how Rodney’s siblings are feeling about their brother going through this ordeal?

Mr. Kim Sr: It’s been really tough on our daughter. They benched her during her last senior game of softball.

Mrs. Kim: We had to talk to her pertaining to that. We told her ‘keep your head up. Let’s look forward to the future of you entering college and let’s focus on the positive things, and she understood.

Mr. Kim Sr: It’s just rough, though. You can tell, different times where we’re to ourselves and I notice she might close herself off in her room. Everyone’s been different. Their emotions haven’t been the same since this happened.

I’m really sorry to hear that. Mr. Kim Sr, we had a text conversation yesterday about Rodney having a CAT scan done. How has his recovery been?

Mrs. Kim: His pain level is getting better, we’ve noticed. But, I’m more concerned about his mental state, now. We’re seeing some things that we’ve never witnessed before. We are in the process of getting him some psychological counseling. Of course, we’re constantly praying over our son and praying with him.

Mr. Kim: It’s kind of a roller coaster. One minute, we’re all together and he’s kind of fine, and then the next minute he wants to go to his room and he doesn’t want to come out. He doesn’t want to talk to us.

I read that the school informed you that your son had been injured on that day. Did they inform you that he had been assaulted by teammates, or did you find out another way?

Mr. Kim Sr: Well it took a minute. [The DHS athletic trainer] called me and said he’d been injured. My question was, “how did he get injured in just a helmet and shorts?” She said “I don’t know. I think it was an accident. I just know it looks like his arm has been broken.” I said “whoa, wait a minute. If they’re not even in contact, and he’s just taking snaps and throwing the ball, how did his arm break?” That’s when she said, “I think he may have been hazed. And my question was “What do you mean hazed? Honestly, in my mind, I’ve heard of hazing, but I’ve never experienced it, my impression of hazing is throwing the mouthpiece into the toilet or hiding somebody’s jersey so they’re late to practice. That type of stuff. I said “I’m still not understanding. How did he break his arm being hazed?”

That’s when she said, “I think a couple of guys jumped on him.” So, I proceed to the school where I found my child with no teacher, no coach, no principal, no administration. My brother pulled up maybe two minutes before I did, and he was sitting with my son with his arm broken. You could look at it and tell it was broken.

Supporting Davidson teen Rodney Kim Jr.

Supporting Davidson teen Rodney Kim Jr.

What was your first reaction when you when you saw him like that?

Mr. Kim Sr: Oh, I was pissed. I was angry. To find your child laying there hurt like that. Then it just only grew from there. Might I add, this was Friday. We take him to the hospital. We focused on his arm. We understand he was jumped, but the video never surfaced ’till Tuesday (May 1st), so we’re not even understanding the magnitude. I saw the bruises on his back and I could tell he was hurt pretty bad. Still, I couldn’t fathom it being how the video showed.

Mrs. Kim: I still haven’t seen the video and I will not watch the video, because it’s different being a mother. I carried this child. I felt his wounds in the womb. I think I know it would send me into a rage and me causing other problems, that’s just not my personality. I want to be the solution to the problem. That’s why I have asked God to comfort us.

Mr. Kim Sr: I don’t know why we’re in this position, but now that we’re in this position, we honestly want to get this message out. Since this has happened, so many parents, so many different people reached out to us. Their kids were scared, and they wouldn’t say anything. Now they’re coming out talking about it. So we weren’t aware how deep this problem was.

Parents from Davidson High School have told you that their children have gone through these sorts of violent hazing?

Mrs. Kim: Correct.

Mr. Kim: They won’t give their names, but we’ve even had some people in the administration that are scared to come out, approach us. They have spoken with us to tell us this has been going on for quite some time and we should keep doing what we’re doing.

That sounds like this violent hazing is part of the culture and people are afraid to come out against the football program. That seems similar to cases such as Penn State’s football program which hid sexual assault accusations against Jerry Sandusky. Why do you think these sports divisions are so protected?

Mrs. Kim: I don’t understand why. We’ve been trying to figure this out as well. I do see some brainwashing going on with this particular coach. We’ve had to get some information out of our son. I told him, “you didn’t ask to be put in this situation. This is not your fault. We need to know everything. We need you to come clean and tell us everything.” To hear other boys from the same school come forward and say this happened to me. Some of the moms and dads had no idea this happened to their son, as well. I literally watched a mother break down in front of me. She had no idea this happened to her son, as well.

Mr. Kim Sr: She thought that he’s a great track athlete so he just stopped playing football and focused on track. She didn’t realize, because he didn’t tell her then that he stopped playing football because he was attacked by six boys and he was just tired of them ragging on him every day. So he just focused on track.

Mrs. Kim: I think that the violence going on in the locker room, not every sport, not every coach, condones this behavior. But, I do see that they’re taking it into the workforce, as they age. If you look at the stats, most of these kids that go into the workforce or into the schools with guns to shoot up everyone, they’re under the age of 25. And if you look at their past, they’ve played some type of sport. This behavior has to stop.

Has Davidson football head coach Fred Riley contacted you at all since the April 27th attack?

Mrs. Kim: No, sir. Not at all.

Would you want him to?

Mrs. Kim: We’ve been crying out to. We’ve been asking him to reach out to us.

Mr. Kim Sr: But, at this point, it’s too late.

Mrs. Kim: Because then we feel you’re being forced to call us. He never called.

Mr. Kim Sr: He calls now, he’s just trying to do damage control.

At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival screening for HBO’s Sandra Bland documentary, Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, Blands mother said she didn’t expect to become a celebrity because of her daughter’s tragedy. Now with all the media coverage have y’all discussed how it’s going to be, being almost celebrities, in a sense?

Mrs. Kim: We explained to all four of our children that there’s a lot of attention on this on this matter. We explained to them that we want to stop it right here, so no one else’s child gets hurt. So your children and our grandchildren will not have to face what our son had to face. We don’t look at it as a celebrity status, but by all means whatever it takes to get to get the word out. So this will not happen again and we just thank God, again, for saving our son’s life and so that he wasn’t killed or paralyzed.

Does Rodney still want to play sports when he gets better?

Mrs. Kim: He does, and we are behind him 100 percent. It all depends on what the surgeon said next week when we take him back for a follow-up visit.

How do you feel like social media has played a part in spreading this message and affecting this case?

Mrs. Kim: Social media plays a big part in this and it can hurt you, and it can help you. But in this situation, I think it’s going to be more of a help than hurt because we’re not the only ones in this country that have children. There are millions of upset parents out there that feel our pain and they don’t want it to happen to their child. So, we can get that message out, and we’re asking all parents to please talk to your children, girls, and boys. A lot of parents right here in Mobile, Alabama, and we were one, had no idea that this type of behavior was going on behind our backs. We send our kids to school and those that administrators and coaches are supposed to protect our children and that’s not the case with some of these coaches.

Mr. Kim Sr: A lot of states have the hazing law, but most schools don’t have the protocol to handle hazing situations. That’s one of the reasons it gets pushed under the rug because the schools don’t know how to handle it. If there’s a hazing situation, they might just throw it in the category as a fight or messing around and send them to detention or something. There needs to be guidelines that explain: what is hazing? What do you do with a first offense or second offense? If you have a hazing law in the state, but you don’t even have a protocol in the school system for the teachers and administrators to handle it, what’s the point of the law? 

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