Saints Sued For Hazing Incident
The New Orleans Saints are being sued by a former player who contends he and other rookies were injured during training-camp hazing.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Jeff Danish in U.S. District Court in Madison and names the team, six players and an assistant coach as defendants.
The suit says the Saints knew hazing was planned by veterans for rookies because a player posted a notice on a bulletin board about a meeting attended by defensive line coach Walt Corey.
Five rookies with pillow cases over their heads ran a gantlet between lines of veterans Aug. 20, the final day of training by the Saints at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Rookies said they were hit with a bag of coins. Tight end Cam Cleeland was left with blurred vision in one eye and McCullough with a bloody nose.
Danish, a 23-year-old defensive tackle from Richmond, N.Y., broke his hand in a dormitory window and required 14 stitchs to his left arm and hand, the lawsuit says. He said he was hit with a bag of coins and was punched, kicked and elbowed.
The Saints said in September they were unable to identify the 20 to 25 players who formed the gantlet and had not been able to fine or punish them.
Saints general manager Bill Kuharich said at the time that "while everyone understands this incident was dangerous and in violation of club policy, we see no further action that can be taken by the club based on the investigation."
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Sept. 19 the league found "no basis for the commissioner to take league disciplinary action."
Tagliabue said NFL teams should place "greater emphasis on programs and policies to avoid incidents of this nature, which are disruptive, potentially dangerous and unacceptable."
Danish said the hazing violated NFL regulations against physical abuse of players. His lawsuit also alleges violations of federal, state and local laws.
La Crosse County District Attorney Scott Horne said Tuesday no charges were filed.
James Haney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said he knew of no state statute that applies to sports hazing of adults.
Team officials did not immediately return a telephone message left early Wednesday.
The Danish lawsuit seeks $650,000 in damages for lost wages, impaired future earnings capacity, pain and suffering, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life.
Damage to training camp facilities at the college in 1997 should have alerted Saints management that veteran players haze rookies, the lawsuit says. The suit adds Saints players annually haze players, an action condoned by management "either explicitly or implicitly."
Despite injuries from the hazing, it says, Danish was required to continue practices, then was waived before his injuries could heal.
"My worst street fight when I was a little kid wasn't this bad," Danish had said in August.
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