Watch CBS News

Two former Northwestern football players claim hazing included watermelon-eating contests for Black players

CBS News Live
CBS News Chicago Live

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two more Northwestern University football players filed lawsuits against the school over the growing hazing scandal, including new allegations that Black players 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 lawsuits both state.

The two lawsuits, filed in Cook County Circuit Court by two anonymous players who were on the team during the 2004 and 2005 seasons, note that former head coach Pat Fitzgerald was the team's recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach at the time, and "knew and encouraged this behavior to happen to these very young and impressionable men."

"This behavior is especially despicable coming from a coach who recruited kids and teenagers out of their homes and living rooms, promising parents that their children, many of whom would be leaving home for the first time, were going to be taken care of while at Northwestern," the lawsuits both state.

Fitzgerald, who was fired as the head football coach last month, has denied any knowledge of the hazing allegations.

In addition to African American players being forced to compete in watermelon-eating contests, the lawsuits also echo allegations made in several previous lawsuits; that players were physically and sexually abused, and that coaches knew about it, did nothing to stop it, and even singled out players for hazing.

Specifically, the lawsuits claim the players were forced to engage in acts of hazing dubbed "running," in which upperclassmen would hold down freshmen players in the locker room, and take turns "dry-humping" them. Freshmen were also forced to take part in a hazing ritual known as the "car wash," in which a group of naked upperclassmen would force underclassmen to rub against them on their way into the showers.

"Underclassmen, specifically freshmen on the football team, were forced to engage in horrific, despicable, and sexually explicit forms of hazing," the lawsuits state.

These two lawsuits are also the first to name former Northwestern athletic director Mark Murphy as a defendant, accusing him of negligence for failing to prevent the hazing. Murphy is now president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.