Ben Crump, the prominent civil rights attorney who represents several former Northwest Student-Athletes Following the recent revelation of a hazing scandal within the university’s football program, he announced plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of at least 15 people who claim they have been subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Crump, along with several former Northwestern athletes, spoke at a news conference Wednesday. He said he and co-advisor Steven M. Levin spoke to more than 50 student-athletes, including men and women who said they experienced hazing in college.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats before a game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. (Jeffrey Becker/USA Today Sports)

«It’s clear to us that this is a toxic culture that was running rampant in the athletic department at Northwestern University,» Crump said.


«And what they shared with us was clearly a pattern and a practice from a culture that was built on physical intimidation, harassment, discrimination, abuse, both mental and sexual, and it became normalized.»

Crump noted that some of the students involved in the alleged abuse were minors at the time. He also said that he and other lawyers have received disturbing details from former baseball and softball players at the university, as well as increasing allegations of abuse in the soccer program.

Jim Foster, Northwestern University head baseball coach

Northwestern University baseball head coach Jim Foster returns to the dugout for a game against Notre Dame at Wrigley Field in Chicago on May 16, 2023. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

«This is a civil rights issue, to me, because I believe these players had a right to be respected and valued and not be subject to hazing, intimidation and retaliation. [against]Crump added.


«So in the days and weeks ahead, I’m sure others will have the courage to tell their story. And I’m heartened by the phone calls we’ve been getting. These phone calls from young people first telling their story and asking, ‘If I present, what will happen to me?’ Well, I want them to know that you will be protected and you will not be alone.»

Crump said the lawsuit has yet to be filed, but a separate law firm filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing ousted football coach Pat Fitzgerald of allowing a culture of racism, including forcing players of color to cut their hair and behave differently to be more in line with the «Wildcat Way.»

Ben Crump speaks during a press conference

Standing with former Northwestern athletes, attorney Ben Crump speaks during a news conference about the widespread allegations of hazing at Northwestern University on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

More lawsuits, brought by various law firms, are expected to follow.


Northwestern president Michael Schill announced in an open letter on July 10 that the decision to fire Fitzgerald after 17 seasons with the Wildcats came as a result of an independent investigation that found him guilty of his «lack of knowledge and prevention of significant hazing in the football program». »

Fitzgerald was initially suspended two weeks after the confidential investigation, which found «sufficient» evidence that the coaching staff knew about the ongoing hazing. However, he also found that there were «significant opportunities» to find out, with nearly a dozen current or former players acknowledging hazing within the program.

But as new information emerged, including allegations of racial bias, the university decided to fire Fitzpatrick.

Associated Press contributed to this report.