Former Black football players at Northwestern University have alleged racial hazing, including being forced into watermelon-eating contests in lawsuits.
According to reports, the two former players filed lawsuits against the university in Cook County Circuit Court, adding to the growing hazing scandal that has engulfed the Chicago-area college over the past few weeks. The lawsuits claim that Black players on the team were forced to compete in racist watermelon-eating contests. “‘This is a clear promotion of the indisputably racist watermelon stereotype and anti-black racist trope,’ the litigation documents state.
The two players, who remain anonymous, were on the team during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Their lawsuits note that at that time, former head coach Pat Fitzgerald was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator and “knew and encouraged this behavior to happen to these very young and impressionable men.”
Further details from the lawsuits echo allegations from previously filed lawsuits, claiming that players were singled out for hazing. “Underclassmen, specifically freshmen on the football team, were forced to engage in horrific, despicable, and sexually explicit forms of hazing,” the documents state. There are more allegations of physical and sexual abuse and claims that the coaches not only knew about it but did nothing to stop it.
Fitzgerald, who maintains that he was unaware of the abuses, was fired by Northwestern last month after independent reporting from The Daily Northwestern exposed further details of the allegations. The university announced on Tuesday that former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be leading an independent review of the athletic department. “Hazing has absolutely no place at Northwestern. Period,” Northwestern president Michael Schill said in a statement announcing the move. “I am determined that with the help of Attorney General Lynch, we will become a leader in combating the practice of hazing in intercollegiate athletics and a model for other universities.”
Attorney Ben Crump has also been retained by some of the players who have come forward alleging abuse. “This is the opportunity to eradicate hazing and abuse in college athletic programs from coast to coast,” he said in a statement. “That’s exactly what we intend to do, as this will undoubtedly be the MeToo movement of college athletics.”
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