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The sports hazing lawsuits against Northwestern University

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

More student athletes are filing lawsuits against Northwestern University. They're related to a growing number of complaints about hazing and abuse in the school's sports programs. Attorneys and a former student gave a more detailed account of what they say occurred, and they charge the university failed to prevent hazing. Lisa Philips of member station WBEZ has been watching what's happening and joins us now. Hi, Lisa.

LISA PHILIP, BYLINE: Hey there.

SUMMERS: So Lisa, Northwestern is already facing at least three other lawsuits. Another was filed today. Tell us what's different here.

PHILIP: Yeah. This is the first lawsuit that has a named player, and it also has new information about alleged hazing within the football team. It has claims that members of the coaching staff were actually aware of hazing and even subjected to hazing. And details about the hazing have previously come out and includes a tradition known as running, where a group of upperclassmen would hold down an individual - so this might have been an underclassman or, I guess, even a member of a coaching staff - while they're - the whole party is nude. And the upperclassmen would actually dry hump the younger player. So some of these allegations, you know, were pretty graphic...

SUMMERS: Yeah.

PHILIP: ...In detail. Ben Crump is one of the attorneys representing the former players. Here's what he had to say about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN CRUMP: It's a real big deal when these young people have the courage to take a stand and refuse to be victims anymore, refuse to have their voices silenced but to take a stand.

SUMMERS: And, Lisa, I understand that a former player came forward today, was named as a plaintiff, named Lloyd Yates. Lloyd Yates used to be a Northwestern quarterback. What did he have to say?

PHILIP: Yeah. Yates talked about how difficult it was to come forward and how he and his other teammates were, you know, basically sworn to this, like, code of silence, right? Like, they were expected to put up with these things, or they thought this was normal because they thought this was just part of being on the team and that they had to kind of undergo these traditions in order to stay and be members of the team. But Yates said he was coming forward in order to both find justice and closure for himself and other athletes and in order so that future student athletes wouldn't have to undergo the trauma that he underwent. So here's what Yates had to say to reporters today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LLOYD YATES: No young teenager should have to bear what we did as freshman students. We were conditioned to believe that this behavior was normal, which was sickening and unacceptable. To all the young athletes out there, I urge you to stand up. Stand up for yourself, even when the odds are against you, for I've come to realize that no one else will.

SUMMERS: And, Lisa, how has Northwestern University reacted to all of this?

PHILIP: Yeah, they've - so the president actually sent out a letter today during one of the players' press conferences. And he talked - went on to talk about all of the accomplishments of the athletics department but also to kind of acknowledge all of the disappointment that the Northwestern community has had in light of these allegations. So he talked about needing to implement accountability measures in order to protect student athletes in the future but also that there are players and coaches that he says weren't participating in this kind of culture of hazing.

SUMMERS: WBEZ's Lisa Philip. Thank you.

PHILIP: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF KANYE WEST AND JAY-Z SONG, "NO CHURCH IN THE WILD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lisa Philip

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