Lloyd Yates: ‘By bringing this to light, we can make real change,’ says former Northwestern player on alleged hazing culture

Editor’s Note: This report contains graphic detail of alleged sexual abuse and violence.

The suit alleges, in part, that the sexual abuse was directed at male players because of their sex “in an effort to ‘break’ them, punish them, control them or ‘get them in line,’” in violation of the Illinois Gender Violence Act.

He noted that players were forced to do acts in the nude, and as punishment and initiation rituals they were “physically dry humped” while adding that this all occurred while he and other players – aged just 17 and 18 – were “just trying to fit in” and make their mark in college sports.”

There are also allegations in the lawsuit that upperclassmen would “run” freshman players and sexually assault them. In one particular event described in the suit, a player was also “run” while held upside down with his head underwater in a used ice bath.

“I think that one of the things that was really apparent was the subtle trauma effects in the moment. Obviously, because it was very violent, graphic and dehumanizing, these different acts that we had to do. Realizing how that impacted myself eight or nine years later after college, it is just a really a devastating experience,” Yates continued.

After being asked about former football head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who was fired as a result of the allegations made by former players, Yates cited the longstanding culture at the school and said he believed it was “nearly impossible for the coaching staff to not know what took place,” adding “this was very widespread within the organization.”

Fitzgerald has previously said he was not aware of the alleged hazing. However, the former head coach is being sued by a former player.

“This is an institutional issue, it is bigger than one individual, it was embedded in the culture of every athletic program at Northwestern University, and we want to see them stop it. It’s that simple, you have to have the courage to say if anyone is hazing, you let us know and that individual will be expelled immediately not to condone it, we have to condemn it,” said Yates’ attorney Ben Crump.

Yates added: “What we’re learning is that this is much, much bigger than my individual story and that we want to eradicate this within sports altogether. These sorts of behavior, these sorts of cultures that exist, that have persisted. They’re just not acceptable and we think that by bringing this to light, we can make real change.”

“These steps, while necessary and appropriate, are just the start, and we will be augmenting them in the coming weeks.”

A former Illinois inspector general began conducting the independent investigation in December after an anonymous email address sent a complaint at the end of the 2022 season, according to an executive summary of the investigation made public by the university.

The investigation revealed 11 players, past and present, said hazing was ongoing in the program, said university president Michael Schill.

Previously Fitzgerald’s attorney, Dan K. Webb, pointed to the findings of the investigation.

“As far as we can determine, neither the filed complaint nor the press conference presentations set forth any facts or evidence to support any legal claims against Coach Fitzgerald,” Webb said in a statement.

“As we have stated previously, we will aggressively defend against these and any other allegations with facts and evidence. Further, we intend to move to dismiss the civil suits filed against Coach Fitzgerald and, as appropriate, for sanctions for frivolous filings.”

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