Former Northwestern players allege hazing, racist abuse predates Pat Fitzgerald

Former Northwestern players allege hazing, racist abuse predates Pat Fitzgerald

More allegations of hazing and racist treatment against the Northwestern football program came to light Friday as two former Wildcat players, Noah Herron, and Rico Lamitte, alleged they and fellow Black teammates were mistreated as far back as the early 2000s. During a press conference in Chicago ahead of Northwestern’s football game at Wrigley Field Saturday, Herron and Lemitte, who went by Rico Tarver while in school, said the toxic and racist culture was a mainstay during their time in Evanston at the turn of the century.

Herron, an All-Big Ten Conference second-team running back, said in the run-up to the 2005 Alamo Bowl, the punishment for a couple of Black teammates was so severe that it made one player defecate himself, and members of the team referred to it as the “Christmas Massacre.” Herron said the coaches who carried out the punishment were told that if the players were able to walk off the field after it, the coaches would themselves be fired. (The player who soiled himself required assistance leaving the field, according to Herron.)

Lamitte and Herron said Black players were told to cut their hair if it hung out of their helmets despite their white counterparts not being held to the same standard. They alleged that coaches used the “Wildcat Way” as a catchall to force Black players to adopt white norms.

“NU did not see me or my teammates as humans, students or student-athletes. We were not celebrated or appreciated for our color or culture. We were forced and threatened to conform to the ‘Wildcat Way,’” said Lamitte, who played receiver and safety at NU.

“For me, today, this is about accountability. Northwestern placed profits over people and used us for our athletic talents. All athletes — whether at Northwestern or any other college university or in professional sports — should always feel comfortable, safe and confident in their own skin regardless of color.”

The Wildcat Way also allegedly extended to Camp Kenosha, where Lamitte said the team held an annual watermelon-eating contest, and if you didn’t select a Black player to represent your position group, losing was assumed. The casual racism wasn’t limited to Black players either.

Lamitte said after a loss to TCU to open the 2004 season, and a particularly rough game by the placekicker, who was Asian, then-head coach Randy Walker told him, “We have a ch—k in our armor.”

Attorney Patrick Salvi Jr. said more than 20 lawsuits have been filed against Northwestern regarding its culture and that his firm, which represents Lamitte and Herron, also represents more than 50 former NU athletes, most of them football players, with similar grievances.

In August, Ramon Diaz, a former offensive lineman, was the ninth former NU football player to sue the University.

“My experience playing football at Northwestern University haunts me to this day. I will never forget the mistreatment I experienced in those four years,” Diaz said. “The abuse I suffered emotionally is impossible to measure.”

Although Lamitte and Herron played in the early 2000s, Salvi alluded to players from the ’90s and said the statute of limitations will likely come into play in a few of the civil cases. Lamitte and Herron haven’t filed a formal suit yet.

While Pat Fitzgerald — who was fired after allegations of hazing earlier this year — wasn’t the head coach at the time of these latest accusations, he joined the staff as a position coach in 2001. Neither former Wildcat mentioned Fitzgerald, nor ex-head coach Walker, by name.

Deadspin reached out to Northwestern for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

The Wildcats under Pat Fitzgerald

An outside investigation conducted in December 2022 “did not discover evidence that coaching staff knew about ongoing hazing.” However, the investigators said, “there had been opportunities for them to discover and report the hazing conduct.”

“Hazing in any form is unacceptable and goes against our core values at Northwestern, where we strive to make the University a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students,” Northwestern President Michael Schill said afterward.

Fitzgerald, who was suspended before being terminated, claimed he “was not aware of the alleged incidents” that were reported by The Daily Northwestern in July, which reportedly included “coerced sexual acts.”

That same day, a statement signed by “The ENTIRE Northwestern Football team” claimed that the coach was not involved in any of the alleged incidents.

Original source here

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Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.