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Northwestern players speak out about hazing, abuse in athletics programs

More former athletes speak out about hazing at Northwestern
More former athletes speak out about hazing at Northwestern 04:02

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More former Northwestern University football players are saying they were victims of hazing and abuse while playing for the Wildcats as attorneys prepare additional lawsuits against the school.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he's working with at least 15 young men and women who were athletes at Northwestern and have said they dealt with abuse at the school.

"This is shocking, deplorable, appalling, but it is not surprising," Crump said.

Crump and Chicago attorney Steven Levin have not yet filed any lawsuits on behalf of those former students, but they are representing them and interviewing others who have accused the school of hazing and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

The former Northwestern student-athletes claim there was a fear of retaliation within the university, and they feared they'd lose their scholarships if they spoke up, so they suffered in silence.

"I spent the last four years hating myself and what I went through here and this is the opportunity to make a difference and I'm going to take it," said Tommy Carnifax, who played football at Northwestern from 2016 to 2019.

Former Northwestern football players detail years of hazing, abuse in program 02:52

Simba Short, who played for Northwestern from 2015 to 2016, said the former athletes "lived in fear."

As to why they are coming forward now, the former students said they don't want current students to suffer the same way they did.

"The university and the football program has let us down. That's why we're here today. Upon arrival to campus, we were thrown into a culture where physical, emotional, and sexual abuse was normalized. No teammate I knew liked hazing. We were all victims, no matter what our role was at the time, but the culture was so strong that we felt we had to go with it to survive, to be respected, and to earn the trust within the football program," former Northwestern quarterback Lloyd Yates said.

Earlier on Tuesday, separate lawyers representing an anonymous Northwestern student spoke about the first lawsuit filed against Northwestern over the hazing scandal that cost football coach Pat Fitzgerald his job.

That player, identified in the lawsuit only as John Doe, was with the Wildcats from 2018 up until last year.

Also on Tuesday, his lawyers said they filed a second lawsuit on behalf of another player, identified as John Doe 2, who also played on Northwestern's football team from 2018 to 2022. The attorneys said the toxic culture in the football department also exists in the baseball, softball, and volleyball programs.

"Despite what happened to these people, a lot of them – outside of their experiences in the athletics – love Northwestern and want to see this stop," attorney Patrick Salvi Jr. said.

"These are students, these are young individuals, these are athletes that were subjected to abuse by an athletic program in a university, and we intend to hold everyone involved accountable," attorney Parker Stinar said.

Both Crump's team and Salvi's team of attorneys are asking former Northwestern students who've had similar experiences come forward.

Former Northwestern football players describe culture of hazing in program 02:24

Fitzgerald's attorneys responded to the first lawsuit, saying the complaint does not cite any specific facts or evidence regarding his conduct, and they said the lawsuit has no validity.

"It bears repeating that while we now know of a lengthy independent investigation by Ms. Hickey, several newspaper articles, one filed complaint, two press conferences, and apparently significant continued investigations by numerous plaintiffs' law firms, no one has alleged any facts or evidence to show that Coach Fitzgerald had any knowledge whatsoever of hazing within the Northwestern Football Program," Fitzgerald's law firm said in a statement.

In a statement, Northwestern said it does not comment on pending litigation.

The school added that after its independent investigation into football hazing, new steps were being taken, including monitoring of the football locker room, anti-hazing training, and the establishment of an online reporting tool for complaints. Northwestern said it's working with an outside firm to evaluate the sufficiency of accountability mechanisms.

The lawsuit from these players is expected to be filed soon.

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