Eight members of a New Jersey high school wrestling team have apologized for a photo showing one of them simulating a lynching.
"For our actions that we have harmed others, we apologize," said Scott Wilhelm, the attorney for the eight Phillipsburg high school wrestlers, reading from a prepared statement at a news conference Thursday. "We did not intend to disparage anyone. We are truly sorry for any harm we may have caused."
The teens were suspended from school for three days and scratched from a state tournament after the photo surfaced.
The picture posted online showed seven boys in Phillipsburg wrestling attire surrounding a black wrestling dummy wearing a rival Paulsboro High School T-shirt and hanging from a noose.
Wilhelm said it was the team's understanding that the dummies are manufactured only in dark leather.
"In outfitting the dummy, we did not give any thought to the physical appearance of the dummy," he said.
Wilhelm added that the wrestlers' actions were spontaneous and meant to promote team spirit after beating a rival school.
"Our success may have clouded our thinking on how our actions, however innocently intended, may be perceived as harmful to others," he said.
The students did not speak at the news conference and appeared stoic.
Phillipsburg officials have not disclosed why the wrestlers were pulled from competition, saying they cannot comment on any "student issues."
The state Division on Civil Rights is looking at the case.