“We Had to Fit In By Being White” | Former Latino And Black Football Players Call Out Northwestern As Having Racist Culture Under Fired Coach Pat Fitzgerald

A culture of hazing uncovered at Northwestern led to the firing of head football coach Pat Fitzgerald, and now some former players .

The Daily Northwestern reported three former players spoke out about their experiences with the Northwestern football team while being a member of the team in the late 2000s. The initial investigation was brought to light on Nov. 30, 2022, when a Northwestern football player emailed Kristina Minor, the school’s senior associate athletic director for compliance, with the subject line: “NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL HAZING,” according to ESPN.

Pat Fitzgerald preparing for a Northwestern game. (Photo: @670TheScore/ Twitter screenshot)

Took It too Far

Ramon Diaz Jr. is a former offensive lineman and Latino who spoke candidly about some of things he experienced from players and coaches.

“I didn’t feel like I could be anything other than White,” said Diaz Jr. to the Daily Northwestern. “We never felt like we could be ourselves. We had to fit in by being White or acting White or laughing at our own people.”

Diaz told the student newspaper that he was forced to shave ‘Cinco De Mayo’ during a hazing tradition that required all freshmen to shave their heads. He also said that a player asked him why he didn’t play soccer instead of football.

The Daily Northwestern also reported that all three players confirmed a ‘running’ tradition, which a player would be restrained by upperclassmen who were dressed in ‘Purge-like’ masks and begin “dry-humping” victims in a dark locker room. Freshman players would be selected for this because of the mistakes they made at practice or during a game. They also alleged Fitzgerald knew of the hazing and would make a signal or gesture of ‘clapping’ to notify the upperclassmen a younger player made a mistake and would need to be punished.

The players also outlined another hazing tradition called “car-washing.” The three players told the Daily Northwestern a player “would stand naked at the entrance to the showers and spin around, forcing those entering the showers to ‘basically (rub) up against a bare-naked man.'” The player standing in the entrance would then be sprayed by hose that would be connected to the shower.

“The racist stuff … the stuff that refers to how Black players are treated, in my mind, that was a form of hazing,” said an anonymous Black player. The player didn’t go into specific details but said it was similar name calling and racist remarks to what Diaz experienced.

Diaz also said the things that he experienced have had a lasting effect. He was diagnosed with a post-traumatic stress disorder after he left school. He now works as a clinical therapist.

Blind Eye

Fitzgerald claimed that he knew nothing of the hazing culture happening under his nose. He was the head coach from 2006 until being fired this week. He had an overall record of 110-101 and was only able to put together eight winning seasons with just three double-digit win seasons.

Despite the players giving detailed accounts, an investigation conducted by a former Illinois inspector said that there was no credible evidence that Fitzgerald knew about the hazing.

He was initially suspended on Friday by the university for two weeks without pay but was then fired on Tuesday.

“I take great pride in the achievements we accomplished during my tenure, both on and off the field,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to nurturing our players, not only as athletes but also as exemplary students and members of the community.”

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