Northwestern Ugly Hazing Culture Is Now On Full Display | Eight Ex-Football Players Hire Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump In Preparation for Lawsuit

The University of Northwestern brass will need to clear their schedules and have their suit game on point in the coming months. Eight former Northwestern football players have retained notable civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the Chicago-based law firm of Levin & Perconti to represent them in a lawsuit they are planning to file regarding their alleged abuse and racial discrimination claims during their time with the football program.

(Left) Ben Crump speaking in Chicago. (Right) Picture of Northwestern football jersey. (Photos: @attorneycrump & @nu_sports /Instagram screenshots)

Pat Fitzgerald was fired last week after the university conducted an investigation that revealed a toxic and harmful culture of hazing. He spent 17 years as head football coach and claimed he had no knowledge of the hazing.

The school also faces a separate lawsuit filed by a former player on Tuesday morning that made claims of the same allegations.

Crump to the Rescue

Crump has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the victims of the Flint water crisis, to name a few. He also represented students at Ohio State and Michigan State who were sexually abused.

“Whether the coaches at Northwestern approved or participated in the harassment of these players or not, they are responsible for enabling a toxic, disgusting and damaging culture in their programs,” Crump said in a statement. “Sadly, our research suggests 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.” 

The details of the university’s investigation was revealed after the Daily Northwestern, school’s newspaper, spoke with former players who confirmed the hazing allegations.

More Lawsuits, More Allegations

On Tuesday, an anonymous football player who was part of the football program from 2018 to 2022, filed a lawsuit that lists Fitzgerald, university President Michael Schill and athletics director Derrick Gragg as defendants. The lawsuit also lists the university, the board of trustees, and former President Morton Schapiro as defendants as well.

The lawsuit states the former athlete was subjected to hazing that included sexualized acts and racial discrimination. The player is seeking $50,000 in damages.

The former football player is being represented by Patrick Salvi and Parker Stinar. The attorneys told ESPN that they represent numerous football players they expect to join the lawsuit in the coming weeks. They also claimed to have interviewed with about a dozen of former Northwestern athletes from other sports who have competed at the school in the past 15 years.

“It seems like the athletic department as a whole was culturally tainted in a way that permitted hazing, sexual harassment, [and] racial discrimination,” Stinar said to ESPN.

The university also fired head baseball coach Jim Foster on last week amid allegations of bullying and abusive behavior towards his players.

Fitzgerald has retained Dan Webb from Winston and Strawn LLP for a possible wrongful termination lawsuit.

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