A Salt Lake teenager on his way home from football practice was attacked for wearing his team's color Tuesday, police said.

The 14-year-old was walking near 700 North and 1200 West just before 9 p.m. when he was beaten by men who questioned the boy's gang affiliation, said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Fred Ross.

He was not in a gang, he said. His shorts were red for West High School.

While gang activity is a reality on Salt Lake's west side, football and other youth activities have helped keep kids out of trouble, said Lori Takenaka, the treasurer of the Ute youth football conference's West District.

The boy should be able to wear his team's color with pride — not in fear, she said.

"Even if kids don't have a strong support system at home, they have one here in their teammates and coaches," Takenaka said. "We try to build a community that builds that pride. I think a lot of these kids that get in trouble are kids that are sometimes missing that element in their lives."

Still, police said the attack was not the first time someone has been targeted for simply wearing a rival gang's colors.

"It's a very unfortunate situation," Ross said.

Tuesday night, four men in a blue sedan pulled up next to the teen dressed in his red shorts. A man stepped out of the car and asked the boy about his gang affiliation.

The boy explained that he was not a gang member, but the man punched the teen in the face, police said. When the boy fought back, the other three men joined in the rumble.

Eventually, the attackers were scared off by a passerby. As they left, they stole the boy's football helmet and cleats, police said.

The boy suffered bumps and bruises but was not taken to the hospital.

"He could have been from East or Bountiful," Takenaka said. "Red shorts could be anything."

Anyone with information on the attack can call police at 799-INFO.

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