Former Northwestern University football players are opening up about previously undisclosed racism and hazing experiences, marking the first time these stories have come to light for the public, according to their attorneys.
The troubling allegations were unveiled to the public on Friday during a press conference. Players gathered in Chicago ahead of Northwestern’s game at Wrigley Field scheduled for Saturday, along with lawyers hired to present their case.
The accusations include allegations of retaliation, hazing, and racism, as confirmed by their attorneys.
Former Northwestern players Noah Herron and Rico Lamitte spoke about their experiences at the Friday conference.
Herron, who played at Northwestern from 2000-2004, discussed Northwestern's policy of forcing Black players to cut their hair short or style it in ways that White players were not similarly required to observe.
"Northwestern not only treated players of color differently than our White teammates, but they tried to conform us in our appearance to resemble our White teammates, or what Northwestern would consider 'the Wildcat way,'" Herron said. "Northwestern recruited me as a football player, but refused to see me and accept me as a man — a Black man who was and is proud of my race and culture."
Herron recounted physical punishments carried out by coaching staff, some of which were so severe that players had to be carried off the field.
"I stand here as a man — a Black man — condemning the actions of Northwestern University, their coaches, trainers and staff who enabled and tolerated a racist culture" Herron said. "I demand that Northwestern University be held accountable for decades of abuse of young individuals."
"For me this is about accountability, "said Rico Lamitte, who played football at Northwestern University from 2001 to 2005. "I, like too many young Black high school, collegiate and professional athletes, experienced racism from my coaches and the program. For far too long, and even today Black athletes have been encouraged to conform to White culture."
"At Northwestern, I was never seen as a Black man first and an athlete second," Lamitte said. "From the moment I stepped foot on campus as an incoming freshman, that was made apparent, when a Black man, a teammate and brother, Rashidi Wheeler, died a few feet away from me during a conditioning drill. The way the whole incident was mishandled and the team was never given closure or space to properly heal — that set the tone for what I would experience over the next four-and-a-half years of my life."
Lawyers said the stories they heard were from a “brave group of men" who are “coming forward to shed more light on the disturbing misconduct that took place within Northwestern’s athletic department.”
“Each athlete we represent has a unique story to share and experienced racism, hazing, or retaliation in different ways. It’s heartbreaking to hear what they went through during their time at Northwestern and to know they were at such a vulnerable age when the misconduct occurred. We hope these stories will prevent future student-athletes from enduring the same abuse they were subjected to,’” attorney Patrick A. Salvi II said in a press release.
In July, reports surfaced of multiple lawsuits against Northwestern alleging various incidents, including one account of a young player being restrained and sexually abused during a hazing ritual.
In a previously announced lawsuit involving the school, a female athlete said hazing performed against her caused physical harm sufficient to require medical attention in 2021.
Another previously announced suit against the school by former Northwestern quarterback Lloyd Yates alleges hazing and abuse within the football program, including sexual abuse and racially charged comments directed at players of color.
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