Making its way around the web, a photo showing members of a high school wrestling team apparently simulating the lynching of a black tackling dummy wearing a rival school's gear has sparked an investigation.
A civil rights agency has been asked to look into the photo, which surfaced online recently and shows seven white teens wearing Phillipsburg High School wrestling attire posed with a black tackling dummy in a Paulsboro High School wrestling shirt and hanging from a noose.
Two of the boys have the hoods on their sweatshirts fixed into points, in a possible reference to headpieces worn by white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan. One of the boys is holding a paddle.
Phillipsburg, in northwest New Jersey, is a community of 15,000 where about 85 percent of the population is white. Paulsboro, south of Philadelphia, has about 6,000 residents, more than a third of whom are black.
The two cities' high school teams are longtime wrestling powerhouses and rivals.
According to online photos, it appears all or nearly all Phillipsburg's wrestlers are white, while some members of the Paulsboro team are black.
The photo was forwarded Tuesday to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights under an anti-bullying policy, according to Larry White, assistant director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Division spokesman Leland Moore said in a statement that it is "monitoring the respective responses of the school and the NJSIAA'' and will review whether it needs to investigate further.
White said the athletic association is also awaiting a response from Phillipsburg High School on how the situation will be handled.
In a statement released Tuesday, Phillipsburg schools Superintendent George Chandro called the photo "a student matter dealing with minors'' and said it was investigated and "actions were taken.'' He did not elaborate.
Phillipsburg won the teams' meet on Feb. 1 and last week won the state championship for its class. Paulsboro finished second in its group.