Northwestern University Football Hazing Lawsuit
Levin & Perconti has partnered with renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump to handle Northwestern Football hazing lawsuits. The firm has consulted with dozens of victims of Northwestern Football hazing, several of whom have retained us to hold the university accountable. If you are or were a member of the Northwestern Football team and experienced sexual, physical, or psychological hazing, contact Levin & Perconti for a confidential consultation to discuss the matters of your potential claim.
The world of collegiate football was recently shaken by the shocking revelation of a hazing scandal within the Northwestern University football program. The scandal resulted in the termination of Pat Fitzgerald, the revered head coach who served his alma mater for an impressive tenure of 17 seasons. At Levin & Perconti, we understand that situations such as these not only affect the individuals directly involved but also send shockwaves through the community. The impacts of hazing extend far beyond the football field’s boundaries, harming the existence of a safe and respectful learning environment.
Coach Fitzgerald’s sudden dismissal was precipitated by the revelation of systemic, ongoing hazing within the Northwestern football program. Reports emerged that 11 current or former football players acknowledged their involvement in acts of forced participation, nudity, and sexualized activities of a degrading nature, known colloquially as “running.” The allegations came to light after two former players spoke to the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, leading to an independent investigation by former Illinois inspector general Maggie Hickey.
Despite the ensuing turmoil, Fitzgerald maintained that he was unaware of the hazing. However, in light of these revelations, University President Michael Schill ultimately decided to part ways with Fitzgerald, stating, “The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team. The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program.”
The firing of Fitzgerald, a Northwestern University alumnus and one of the longest-tenured college football coaches, shocked the community. Despite leading the Wildcats to many successful seasons and two Big Ten Championship Game appearances, the recent accusations and the program’s dwindling on-field performance resulted in his dismissal.
Hazing Allegations Against Northwestern University Football
There are numerous different hazing allegations that have been made. At least fourteen current or former football players have acknowledged the alleged hazing has been ongoing within football program.
The July 8th article by The Daily Northwestern alleges a practice called “running” as the most prevalent form of hazing within the football program. “Running” was used as a punishment for players who made mistakes during games and practice. There is not much information as to the details of what would happen when someone was “ran” as the actual investigative report was kept confidential. However, an anonymous player described the process as a cohort of eight to ten upperclassmen wearing masks restraining the person being “ran” and proceeding to “dry-hump” them in front of the rest of the football team.
Forced Naked Acts
There are several different forced naked acts of hazing that have been alleged. It is alleged that players were forced to strip down and do bear-crawls, slingshot themselves across the floor with exercise bands, perform under-center snap, and participate in the “car-wash.”
Gatorade Shake Challenge
The Gatorade Shake challenge consisted of teammates, primarily freshman, being forced to drink as many Gatorade shakes as possible for ten minutes. This would frequently lead to the players throwing up and feeling sick for days.
At least three former players have come forward and described a “culture enabling racism.” An anonymous player alleged that he witnessed blatant racism from Coach Fitzgerald. Allegedly, Coach Fitzgerald would ask black coaches and players to cut off longer hairstyles, such as dreadlocks, so that they fit the “Wildcat Way.” Allegedly, Coach Fitzgerald would not make the same request to white members of the team with longer hair.
Holding Responsible Parties Accountable at Northwestern University
This situation has highlighted the importance of holding those in power accountable for the safety and well-being of all individuals under their jurisdiction. The university’s responsibility extends beyond providing education to ensuring an environment free from harassment and abuse.
Northwestern’s handling of the scandal raises concerns, especially given the decision to keep the full investigative report private. This lack of transparency may result in additional criticism and could potentially expose the university to further legal issues, particularly if it is discovered that the administration was negligent or complicit in any way.
At Levin & Perconti, we understand the far-reaching impacts such a scandal can have on a community, especially when a trusted figure is implicated in such activities. We stand with the victims and support the efforts of institutions to hold responsible parties accountable. We believe in fostering an environment of safety, respect, and dignity for all, and we will continue to advocate for justice in all such matters.
The Impact of Hazing on Mental Health
The toll of these hazing practices goes beyond immediate physical discomfort—it also includes deep mental and emotional distress. Some players have reportedly suffered to the extent of having suicidal thoughts. This level of mental anguish, brought about by such hazing activities, underlines the gravity of the situation.
These practices breach Northwestern’s hazing policy and potentially violate several laws. Northwestern’s policy defines hazing as any action taken to produce mental, physical, or emotional discomfort; servitude; degradation; embarrassment; harassment, or ridicule, regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate. The policy prohibits physical abuse, sexual violations, degrading or humiliating games, activities, stunts, buffoonery, and compelling the consumption of food, drinks, or other substances.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you or a loved one have been affected by hazing as a part of Northwestern University’s football program. Our team of experienced college sports hazing attorneys is here to help you navigate the legal aspects of such incidents, ensuring you receive the support and justice you deserve.
Not only were they so professional but also so caring and thoughtful. It was very difficult going over the facts in our mother's case but they were so compassionate and understanding and allowed us to be with them every step of the way. We were able to sit in on the depositions and we were really able to see how hard they worked on our behalf.