EVANSTON, Ill. — A group of athletes from Northwestern University have retained a prominent civil rights and personal injury attorney in the midst of the hazing scandal within the football program.
On Monday morning, Ben Crump along with co-counsel Steven M. Levin of Chicago-based Levin & Perconti announced that they’ve been retained by eight former student-athletes at the school.
In a news release, the lawyers say they were subject to the hazing and are also in conversations with others as well.
Crump and Levin say that the players were forced to participate in “humiliating acts and racial bias to punishments that inflicted severe physical discomfort and psychological trauma.”
“Whether the coaches at Northwestern approved or participated in the harassment of these players or not, they are responsible for allowing and enabling a toxic, disgusting, and damaging culture in their programs,” said Crump in a statement. “Sadly, our research suggests that this kind of abuse of student-athletes may be far more common on college campuses than we know, because there is tremendous pressure to keep quiet. It’s time for a reckoning to protect young athletes.”
This is the latest news in a hazing scandal that began with the announcement of the findings of an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower that was conducted by former Illinois inspector general Maggie Hickey.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald was initially suspended for two weeks without pay in July by Northwestern president Michael Schill. But further revelations of the seriousness of the hazing, including a report by The Daily Northwestern, led to Schill saying he may have “erred’ in the coach’s punishment.
On Monday afternoon, Fitzgerald was fired after 17 seasons as the head coach of the program which he was a two-time All-American as a player in the mid-1990s.
“These former Northwestern football players are participating in this legal action because they want to support and validate the allegations of abuse made by the two players who spoke to the Daily Northwestern about the true nature of the so-called hazing. They believe that more stringent oversight and accountability are required in college athletics to prevent such abuses from happening to other players in the future,” said Levin in a statement. “The physical, emotional and sexual abuse not only violated Northwestern’s own policies, but also numerous laws, and worse, has led to irreparable harm, with some players even experiencing suicidal thoughts.”
Fitzgerald is being represented by prominent Chicago attorney Dan Webb of Winston and Strawn LLP “to take the necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law.”
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