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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Lawsuit filed against Northwestern in football hazing case

File photo by Angeli Mittal
The football team. A former player filed a lawsuit Tuesday after hazing allegations emerged.

A former Northwestern football player filed a lawsuit in the Cook County Circuit Court Tuesday against former NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald, University President Michael Schill and Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Derrick Gragg.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were negligent in preventing and intervening in hazing within the football program. Many of the actions alleged by the plaintiff were “assaultive, illegal, and often sexual in nature,” according to a press release from the plaintiff’s lawyers.

The lawsuit also names the University’s board of trustees and former President Morton Schapiro as defendants. It was anonymously filed a week after Fitzgerald was fired following reports of hazing published in The Daily

The player, who played for the team from 2018 to 2022, alleges he was subjected to hazing, physical abuse and racial discrimination in his time at NU. He is represented by attorneys Patrick Salvi II, Parker Stinar and Adam Pulaski. 

“It is alleged that Fitzgerald knew, enabled, and encouraged this behavior and created a culture of abuse within the football program that carried over throughout the athletic department,” a statement released by Salvi, Stinar and Pulaski, read. “We intend to hold the defendants, including Fitzgerald, accountable for the alleged actions and seek justice for victims.” 

An investigation into hazing in the football program first opened in November 2022. Throughout the investigation, Fitzgerald maintained he had no knowledge that the hazing occurred. 

The former coach could not be immediately reached for comment.

The University declined to comment on the litigation, but said that they would take “additional actions” to eliminate hazing from the football program. The University fired Fitzgerald early last week.

“The administration is committed to working alongside the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the student body to ensure that hazing has no place at Northwestern,” University spokesperson Jon Yates said.

12 other former NU student athletes have retained attorneys Ben Crump and Steven Levin to represent them. Those players have not filed a lawsuit to date, but a source familiar with the situation said that will be determined in the coming weeks.

For an institution to be found legally liable in a lawsuit like the one filed Tuesday, civil rights attorney Antonio Romanucci said that the hazing must be proven to be “pervasive.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

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