Northwestern University’s hazing scandal widened Monday to include the fourth lawsuit filed by a former football player who alleged a culture of hazing and sexual abuse.
The lawsuit is the first to name the plaintiff. The three lawsuits filed last week were all filed as John Does.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump wants the lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of former student football player Lloyd Yates to be known as the “college sports Me Too movement.”
“It’s a big deal when these young people have the courage to take a stand and refuse to be victims anymore, refuse to have their voices silenced and to take a stand,” Crump said.
The 52-page complaint filed in Cook County court alleges Yates suffered frequent locker room harassment and unwanted physical and sexual contact. The lawsuit quotes other players on the extent of the abuse and alleges two assistant coaches were also hazed in a ritual known as “running.”
A “run” consisted of players forcibly holding down a teammate and rubbing their genital areas against the teammate’s genitals, face and buttocks while rocking back and forth without consent from the teammate, the lawsuit states.
Crump says he plans to file more than 30 lawsuits on behalf of former players.
The lawsuit describes examples of the homoerotic and violent nature of the sexual hazing in the Northwestern football program. The alleged ritualized hazing had colorful names including “Carwash,” “Kenosha Rap Battle” “Belly Flop Contest,” “Runsgiving/Runsmas,” “Shrek Squad,” “Trading Block,” The Dredge,” and “Bus 2 Stories.”
Former NU quarterback Lloyd Yates starred at Oak Park-River Forest High School. His grandfather, father and older brother all attended NU.
Yates said he wants justice for victims of the hazing and closure for himself and for players who “suffered in silence.”
“Too often many of us have blamed ourselves for things that were beyond our control,” Yates told reporters Monday.
He also said he wants protection for future players.
“We were conditioned to believe that this behavior was normal, which was sickening and unacceptable,” Yates said. “To all the young athletes out there, I urge you to stand up, stand up for yourself, even when the odds are against you.”
Yates’ father, William Yates, said he hopes the lawsuit puts other universities on notice.
“College years are supposed to be magical. And a lot of us, as we sit around and talk to our college buddies, we always reminisce. But yet it seems this is not the case for Lloyd,” William Yates said. “Him and his comrades, despite their best efforts have been exploited and sexually harassed in a way that it’s hard for me to even describe this culture appears to be so commonplace.”
Asked to respond to the new lawsuit, a spokesperson for Northwestern said the university has implemented locker room monitoring, anti-hazing training and an online tool for reporting complaints.
Crump said Northwestern has had a zero-tolerance policy on hazing for years and it didn’t stop the alleged culture of abuse.
Three lawsuits were filed last week by anonymous former NU football players who alleged similar abuse on the team. Those lawsuits were filed in Cook County by the Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard law firm.
Lawyers have said the culture of hazing and abuse extended beyond the football team and included the volleyball, softball, cheerleading and men’s soccer teams. Attorneys allege the hazing was so rampant that coaches knew about it.
The allegations of Northwestern University’s hazing scandal became public July 7 when the school suspended head football Coach Pat Fitzgerald after a school-funded investigation into hazing allegations.
The next day, the school’s student paper, The Daily Northwestern, published an article detailing the alleged abuse by two unnamed former football players. The school fired Fitzgerald two days later.