NBC News [New York NY]
July 19, 2023
By David K. Li
Four more former Northwestern University football players came forward Wednesday to claim they were also subjected to “extreme ritualized sexual” hazing at the prestigious Big Ten school.
They spoke out one day after the first lawsuit was filed by an anonymous former Wildcats player, whose civil complaint went into excruciating detail about hazing he alleged was carried out within Northwestern’s football program.
“The university and the football program has let us down. That’s why we’re here today,” former player Lloyd Yates told reporters in Chicago, standing alongside fellow Wildcats football alums Warren Miles-Long, Simba Short and Tom Carnifax.
“We were thrown into a culture where physical, emotional and sexual abuse was normalized,” he said.
The players haven’t sued the school, but their attorneys said that they’re conducting more interviews with them and that civil action is pending.
The players and the attorneys described many of the same acts alleged in the John Doe lawsuit filed Tuesday in Chicago by attorneys Patrick Salvi and Parker Stinar, including rituals involving a naked human “carwash” and a punishment called “Shrek claps,” in which upperclassmen on the team would run around players who made mistakes in practice while clapping their hands above the teammates’ heads.
“The stories are eerily similar to one another, whether they were there in 2013 or they were there in 2019,” said Ben Crump, who is representing the four named players.
Crump and his partner, Steve Levin, said they hope the scandal, which has rocked Northwestern, will have a greater impact throughout college sports.
“No student-athlete should be enrolled in an athletic department [and be] conditioned [to accept] forced participation in extreme ritualized sexual behavior,” Levin said. “That’s what happened here.”
Crump and Levin said they’re representing 15 former Northwestern student-athletes, including onetime football, baseball and softball players.
“It was a toxic culture that was rampant in the athletic department at Northwestern University,” Crump said.
A Northwestern representative declined to comment Wednesday beyond a previous statement that insisted that the school is taking new action against hazing.
“These steps, while necessary and appropriate, are just the start, and we will be augmenting them in the coming weeks,” the school said.
Longtime football coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired last week amid allegations that he didn’t prevent the hazing.
Fitzgerald was head coach for 17 seasons, turning the Wildcats into a consistently competitive program — a major accomplishment at the academically prestigious school, playing in the hyper-competitive Big Ten.
Fitzgerald, a 48-year-old Northwestern alum, was 110-101 leading a program known for a 34-game losing streak from 1979 into 1982.
Northwestern initially suspended Fitzgerald for two weeks before the school’s student newspaper detailed the hazing allegations. The Daily Northwestern’s report prompted administrators to consider a harsher penalty for Fitzgerald, leading to his removal.