A California cheerleading squad has rallied for a gay teammate after football players threw antigay slurs at him.
A 14-year-old freshman at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, Calif., was repeatedly taunted with chants that included terms like "gay" and "fag" at a pep rally for the Chargers football team, reports The Mercury News, a local outlet based in San Jose, Calif.
The verbal harassment continued into halftime of the Friday football game, at which point the cheer team took a stand. Members refused to hold the banners for the players to run through back onto the field.
The boy, since he is a minor, was not identified by name. However, his father praised the bravery of his son, who even after hearing the slurs at the rally decided to cheer for his school at the game.
"Even after everything that happened, he went back and faced it," the father said. "He's so courageous. He has a responsibility to his team and to the school. He's out there to cheer the football team, and this is what they do."
After the antigay taunts continued at halftime -- which allegedly included physical threats to the male cheerleader and a female teammate -- the boy's older sister, reportedly a former captain of the cheer team who graduated last year, drove him home.
The boy attended school on Monday, but did not on Tuesday. His family will enroll him elsewhere if the school's investigation is not conducted "satisfactorily."
"We are fearful for his safety -- now more than ever," his father said.
"We are aware of an allegation about a bullying incident that happened during a school rally on Friday," said Jennifer Dericco, a spokeswoman for Santa Clara Unified School District. "Our goal is to make sure that all parties are offered a fair investigation. Depending on the outcome, there could potentially be consequences, and we'll follow our board policy for that."
A source told The Mercury News that the boy and the cheer team may have misheard chants of "hey, hey, hey" as "gay, gay gay." However, the dad shot down this possibility.
"This is far from a misunderstanding," he said.
The older sister was more pointed in her address to her brother's harassers. Outsports reported she took to Twitter to issue a warning: "Watch ur fucking back my family doesn't play about this shit y'all just watch."
In another tweet, which was unsourced and uncredited to protect the identity of the boy, the sister posted a photograph of a cake, bearing a supportive message, the family gave him after his harassment. Its lettering read, "We love that you are gay!"
In response, the Santa Clara Police Department is now investigating "reports of inappropriate conduct and determining if it rises to a criminal matter," Capt. Wahid Kazem told The Mercury News.
Meanwhile, a Change.org petition demanding an investigation and "consequences" for football players who committed antigay actions has accrued over 5,000 signatures at the time of this article's publishing. "This sickening incident requires consequences, so it never happens to someone again," the petition reads.