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Jonathan Rosenfeld

July 28, 2023

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Northwestern University faces a massive hazing scandal after a former Northwestern football player filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse and racial discrimination against ex-head-coach Pat Fitzgerald and other school leaders.

According to the suit, football players were forced to undergo various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual, which were allegedly normalized within the athletic department.

After the scandal broke, more current and former athletes filed Northwestern football hazing lawsuits against NU and its leadership.

If you are one of the victims, our personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, can help you obtain the justice you deserve.

Contact our sexual abuse lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.

Northwestern Football Hazing Lawsuit

The First Lawsuit Against Northwestern University and Its Football Program

On July 18, “John Doe,” a former Northwestern football player, filed the first lawsuit against former football coach Pat Fitzgerald and other members of the university leadership at the Cook County Court.

The suit alleges that Fitzgerald, Northwestern University President Michael Schill, athletic director Derrick Gragg, and the university’s board of trustees enabled and concealed sexual misconduct, physical abuse, and racial discrimination of student-athletes.

“It wasn’t just confined to one bad actor,” said attorney Parker Stinar in an interview with the Associated Press.

“It wasn’t just confined to one team, like the football team. It also included a culture that was accepted, tolerated, and encouraged on the baseball team and other sports teams, as well as with men’s and women’s sports.”

Stinar represented 200 of the 1,050 plaintiffs who shared a $490 million settlement with the University of Michigan after allegations of sexual assault by late sports doctor Robert Anderson.

Coach Fitzgerald, who led Northwestern for 17 seasons, was fired after a university investigation found allegations by eleven former or current Northwestern football players.

The ex-coach maintained that he was unaware of the hazing.

However, after the school initially suspended Fitzgerald, another former player came forward and described instances of abuse that suggested Fitzgerald may have been aware.

“He knew what was going on, and he permitted it for years upon years upon years,” Stinar told the Associated Press.

Hazing Allegations Against the Northwestern Football Program

The initial lawsuit described multiple alleged hazing and abuse in the university’s athletic department, including concealed sexual misconduct and racism.

Since the hazing scandal upended the world of college football, at least thirteen more athletes came forward to describe the hazing they experienced, including:


On July 8th, the NU student newspaper The Daily Northwestern alleged “running” as the most common form of hazing in the football team.

“Running” punishes players who make mistakes during training or games.

According to an anonymous player, the process involved eight to ten upper-level students wearing masks, restraining the player being punished, and “dry-humping” them in front of the team.

Forced Nudity

The allegations include forced participation in naked hazing traditions, including forcing players to strip down and exercise, naked players in locker rooms forcing freshmen to strip, and participating in the “car wash” (running a naked gantlet in the showers). 


The lawsuit filed against former Pat Fitzgerald alleges that he also enabled a culture of racism within the football team, including forcing black players to cut off longer hairstyles to fit the “Wildcat Way.”

Gatorade Shake Challenge

The Gatorade Shake Challenge involved players, usually first-year students, forced to drink as many Gatorade shakes as possible for ten minutes.

This “challenge” often led to vomiting and players feeling sick for multiple days.

More Northwestern Football Hazing Lawsuits Filed After Northwestern Football Team
Hazing Scandal

As of this writing, at least five student-athletes have filed lawsuits against former coach Pat Fitzgerald, University President Michael Schill, former President Morton Schapiro, and other university leaders after the recent hazing allegations that led to Fitzgerald’s firing. 

Lloyd Yates, a former player who chose not to remain anonymous, filed a suit to “finally hold Northwestern accountable” for the degrading and humiliating hazing he and his teammates suffered.

Northwestern declined to comment on pending litigation but stated they would take “additional actions” to eliminate hazing at Northwestern. 

“The administration is committed to working alongside the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the student body to ensure that hazing has no place at Northwestern,” said Northwestern spokesperson Jon Yates.

At least 12 former athletes have sought legal services from civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Stevin Levin.

Crump has represented George Floyd and other victims’ families in high-profile civil lawsuits.  

Legal representatives scheduled a news conference with former student-athletes in Chicago on Wednesday morning (July 19).

However, Crump states that it is “too early to tell” if the complaints will be combined into a class-action lawsuit

Our Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help You Pursue Justice

The NU football program is one of the worst cases of systematic abuse normalized as “tradition.”

Victims are often left with physical and psychological damage after experiencing such mistreatment and exploitation, even if they carry out hazing themselves. 

You could file a personal injury lawsuit against Northwestern if you have suffered abuse as a current or former player in any athletic program.

Our compassionate attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, are here to defend your civil rights and ensure that at-fault parties are held accountable for their actions.

Contact our law firm at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.

All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship. 

Our lawyers handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis.

This agreement ensures you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.


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