Former Northwestern Volleyball Player Sues University Amid Hazing Incident

FILE - Standing with former Northwestern athletes, attorney Ben Crump speaks during a press conference addressing widespread hazing accusations at Northwestern University Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Chicago. Crump was set Monday, July 24, 2023, to announce another lawsuit against Northwestern University over hazing allegations in its athletic programs, with the latest suit touted as containing “damning new details” of sexual hazing and abuse in its football program. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File)
(AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File)

OAN’s Abril Elfi
6:05 PM – Monday, July 24, 2023

A former Northwestern University volleyball player recently filed a complaint claiming that she was hazed on the women’s volleyball team back in 2021. This accusation has prompted even more former athletes of the school to level their own allegations of misbehavior.


The former Northwestern University player filed the complaint against the school on Monday.

The lawsuit alleges that an unnamed woman listed as “Jane Doe” was subjected to “hazing, harassment, bullying and retaliation” while she was a member of the team. She also claims to have suffered an injury while participating in outlandish “suicide runs,” which was allegedly punishment for violating the team’s COVID-19 protocols.

Suicide runs force athletes to run back-and-fourth to each line on the court as quickly as they can.

The lawsuit claims Jane Doe contracted COVID-19 in February of that year, and in spite of this, the Northwestern volleyball coach Shane Davis and his assistant coach told her that she would have to go through additional “punishment” for breaking the COVID-19 rules.

The volleyball team captains reportedly decided on the penalty a day later on March 2nd, 2021, when they forced her to run extra “suicides” in the gym while she dove to the floor every time she reached a line on the court.

The volleyball coaching staff, team members, and trainers all observed her punishment.

Jane Doe also claims that Davis ordered her to write a letter of apology to the trainers and that she was ostracized from the squad. The player met with the school’s athletic director, Derrick Gragg, to discuss the volleyball program’s culture, however, the lawsuit claims that he “did nothing in response” regarding her concerns.

The unnamed student submitted a hazing accusation in March 2021, according to a spokesperson for Northwestern, Jon Yates.

Two volleyball matches were postponed and a requirement for anti-hazing training was put in place, stated Yates, who had suspended the coaching staff after an investigation revealed hazing had occurred.

“This shows that it isn’t just men,” said Parker Stinar, one of Jane Doe’s attorneys. “It isn’t just football players.” 

Former Northwestern quarterback Lloyd Yates also recently filed a separate lawsuit.

Yates claimed in a 52-page lawsuit that was filed in Cook County Circuit Court from 2015 to 2018 that when he was a member of the team, he had experienced unwelcome sexual, physical, and emotional harassment.

The lawsuit maintains that during that time, Yates and his teammates were exposed to a hazing routine centered on “running,” which was done to punish the team’s younger players for any errors made on the field.

If a player was instructed to run then his teammates would physically restrain him and rub “their genital areas against the teammates’ genitals, face, and buttocks while rocking back and forth without the teammate’s consent,” according to the lawsuit.

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump stated at a news conference on Monday that Yates’ case is the first with a named plaintiff that includes statements from other named players as witnesses.

“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,” Crump said.

Michael Schill, the school’s president, responded to the charges of hazing made by roughly 11 current and former players by firing the coach responsible, Pat Fitzgerald.

These charges included “forced participation, nudity, and sexualized acts of a degrading nature.”

In a previous case, Fitzgerald was also charged with encouraging a racist environment by requiring people of color (POC) on the team to cut their hair and adopt “different behaviors” in order to fit in with what he referred to as the “Wildcat Way.”

Despite the lack of credible evidence proving that Fitzgerald was aware of the hazing, Schill said that the head coach is ultimately in charge of the team’s culture. Fitzgerald has since claimed that he was unaware of any hazing in the program.

Schill also stated that the university is dedicated to ensuring “students’ safety and well-being,” and that this “includes thoroughly investigating any instance or allegation of hazing or mistreatment.”

Schill’s email to the Northwestern community on Monday reaffirmed this commitment.

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