Attorneys claim Northwestern hazing scandal involved various sports, both genders

By James Wilson July 20, 2023

The report investigates the escalating hazing allegations within Northwestern's athletic programs, underscoring not only the vast reach of such misconduct but its devastatingly profound impact, particularly on the institution's football team.

Allegations of rampant hazing within Northwestern's athletic programs have cast an ominous shadow over the institution. The incidents are not confined to a single sport, instead, they appear to be endemic, encompassing male and female athletes across several sports. Notably, attorneys now suggest that the level of sexual abuse and racial discrimination within the football program infer complicity or at the very least awareness of the misconduct by the coaching staff.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and his legal team have been receiving a steady influx of horrifying testimonials from former baseball and softball athletes at Northwestern. This comes in addition to a torrent of complaints revolving around the alleged abusive culture within the football program. Consequently, Crump insists these cases ought to be viewed through the lens of civil rights, underlining the importance of an athlete's right to not suffer hazing, intimidation, or retaliation and be accorded respect.

The accusations paint a bleak picture, suggesting that Black football players were subjected to an added layer of abuse. At a press conference, Crump shared details about a lawsuit accusing Pat Fitzgerald, the recently sacked football coach, of fostering a culture of racial discrimination, inclusive of coercion for athletes of color to alter their appearance and behavior to reflect the "Wildcat Way".

Echoing these sentiments, former Northwestern quarterback and receiver, Lloyd Yates, who is of Black ethnicity, conveys the despair and devastation wrought upon the players of color. Rather disappointingly no lawsuits on behalf of the athletes have been filed by the attorneys, despite representing 15 victims, Yates included.

Adding further depth to the allegations, Warren Miles Long, a running back who joined Northwestern's football team in 2013, poignantly described an environment ripe for sexual violence and hazing, that left new recruits oblivious to the standard norms outside of Northwestern.

As the allegation-laden clouds hang heavy over the institution, Northwestern finds itself in uncomfortable company with a string of American universities having faced similar athletic scandals. These allegations, if substantiated, could result in considerable financial settlements, a trend that has emerged in past such encounters.

University President Michael Schill has promised to employ an external firm to evaluate the university's ability to detect threats to the welfare of its student-athletes and probe the athletic culture at Northwestern. In response to the allegations, Fitzgerald, the coach of 17 years, was dismissed after a preliminary university investigation vouched for hazing allegations by 11 current or former players. Rejecting the charges, Fitzgerald has enlisted legal counsel to defend his name.

The lawsuits from two former student-athletes notably accuse school leadership members, including Fitzgerald, of enabling and hiding incidents of racial discrimination and sexual misconduct. As Northwestern finds itself in the legal and media glare, the hope is that truth will emerge, rectifying wrongs and realigning university athletics with respect and fairness.