Prominent civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump, along with co-counsel Steven M. Levin of Levin & Perconti, announced on Monday their representation of a group of eight former Northwestern University student-athletes in the midst of a disturbing hazing scandal plaguing the university's football program.
According to a news release issued by Crump and Levin, the athletes endured a range of harrowing experiences, including participation in "humiliating acts and racial bias punishments" that caused severe physical discomfort and psychological trauma.
The attorneys revealed that they are in conversation with additional individuals who have been subjected to similar mistreatment. Expressing concern over the role of the coaching staff, Crump stated, "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.
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." Hazing Scandal Deepens: Coach's Suspension Questioned This recent development adds to an ongoing hazing scandal that came to light following an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower, led by former Illinois inspector general Maggie Hickey.
Initially, head coach Pat Fitzgerald faced a two-week suspension without pay from Northwestern president Michael Schill. However, further revelations, including a detailed report by The Daily Northwestern, prompted Schill to acknowledge the possibility of having "erred" in the initial punishment.
Consequently, on Monday afternoon, after 17 seasons as head coach and a remarkable playing career as a two-time All-American in the mid-1990s, Fitzgerald was fired from his position. Notably, Fitzgerald has sought legal representation from renowned Chicago attorney Dan Webb of Winston and Strawn LLP to safeguard his rights in accordance with the law.
The former Northwestern football players involved in this legal action have united to support and validate the abuse allegations made by two players who bravely shared their experiences with The Daily Northwestern. Their intention is to emphasize the need for more stringent oversight and accountability in college athletics, aiming to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future.
Levin emphasized, "The physical, emotional, and s*xual 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." With the scandal casting a shadow over Northwestern University, this legal action serves as a pivotal moment, highlighting the imperative for reform and the protection of student-athletes from such distressing incidents.