PHOENIX - The governing body of Arizona’s high school sports has banned two media members, following accusations that they sent inappropriate messages to student athletes, many of which were sexually suggestive.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, informed Athletic Directors Tuesday that twin brothers Jeff and Zach Edgington are banned from all AIA events. In a statement Wednesday, the AIA would only say that the ban was due to “inappropriate contact” with student athletes.
However, 12 News spoke to high school athletes in multiple schools and sports across the Valley, many of whom described uncomfortable messages sent to them by the Edgingtons. The student athletes attend schools in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Gilbert, and Mesa.
“They just kept asking for pictures of me, and they kept complimenting my body. And it was just like really uncomfortable,” said a Mesa High School girl's basketball player, who asked that her identity not be revealed.
The Mesa student athlete told 12 News that the requests grew increasingly inappropriate, including one request for a photo of the girl in a bra.
“It started in 2016. I first got a message from one of the Edge twins … but a couple months ago, probably the beginning of this year, it turned into something else ... One of them asked me to send them a picture of me in a bikini and that he would send me a picture back of him,” she said.
12 News also spoke with two additional athletes, who play different sports, and attend schools in different cities.
Abby Lamoreaux, a senior volleyball player at Higley High in Gilbert, claims in a Twitter exchange that Zach told her she was cute and asked if she had a boyfriend.
A senior baseball player from Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, who asked that his name not be used, provided 12 News with text messages in which he claims that Jeff asks him to streak through his house and perform naked push-ups.
Ralph Amsden, a high school sports reporter who runs ArizonaVarsity.com, tweeted out a warning to parents Tuesday regarding the Edgingtons alleged misbehavior.
“Based on what was sent to me, one brother was almost exclusively girls. And another one was, not exclusively, but there were a lot of underage boys,” Amsden said.
He says his inbox was quickly flooded with messages alleging the men regularly solicited graphic content from teenage athletes.
“By the end of the day I had at least 30 people reaching out to me saying that something had happened to them or their friends that had made them uncomfortable as well,” Amsden said.
He said the allegations included requests to, “Send me a picture of you running around you house naked. Doing naked push-ups. Can you send me pictures of yourself in a bra? Can you send me pictures of yourself in a swimsuit? I won’t tell anyone. We’ll keep it quiet.”
12 News attempted to contact both brothers and was able to reach Zach via phone. He denied any improper conversations – claiming he’s “never inappropriately talked to anybody under 18.”
“I do not think that my twin brother or I have done anything inappropriate … My response is that there’s nothing with anybody underage,” said Zach, who went on to criticize the AIA for failing to inform him or his brother about the ban.
“I don’t have any negative thoughts or idea in my head ever. This has blown up where it’s actually causing my brother and I self-harm,” he said.
12 News contacted police departments across the Valley, and none could provide any information on any complaints, or charges, against the Edgingtons.
However, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, which oversees Notre Dame Prep, says they notified law enforcement about an incident involving one of the Edgingtons in September 2017.
“The school had prohibited the two men from attending any future athletic events and warned them not to contact students,” said diocese spokesman Robert DeFrancesco.
Multiple local journalists tell 12 News that the brothers worked as freelance reporters for local papers and websites. Their AIA media credential was issued through the website ScoreStream. In an email, the company’s CEO Derrick Oien told 12 News he’s “mortified” and that men were never paid employees. The company says the twins offered to provide scores and photos and “essentially scammed us into getting the credentials.”
Amsden told 12 News he believes the AIA should strengthen their credentialing procedures.
“It is tough to figure out who’s going to be on the sideline and when. There needs to be some kind of process to try to make sure that the people who need to be around your kids are the right people.”
The AIA said the brothers’ credentials were cleared by superiors at ScoreStream as part of their standard procedure.
“After evaluating this information, the association felt it was necessary to immediately revoke their credentials to cover AIA events and to pass along that information to the member schools,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said in a statement.
Meantime, the Mesa High basketball player says she’s speaking out, in the hopes that others will also have the courage to come forward.
“I know that there’s a lot of kids in Arizona that have been affected by this, and I think that they are afraid to come forward because they are grown adults, and who knows what they can do, and we’re just high school kids,” she said.
After being informed of the allegation, Mesa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Cowan told 12 News the district will report the matter to Mesa Police.