Northwestern football players release statement on hazing following report with disturbing details, suspension of Pat Fitzgerald
Northwestern football players are speaking out after the Wildcats’ hazing scandal made headlines Friday and Saturday. After a recent investigation that resulted in a 2-week suspension for head coach Pat Fitzgerald and a new report from The Daily Northwestern offering disturbing details of alleged incidents, players have offered a public response.
The Daily Northwestern’s bombshell report is attributed to 4 student journalists. Anonymous former players are the sources for the report.
In addition to offering disturbing details of hazing, one former player also challenged the investigation’s conclusion that Fitzgerald was unaware of what was going on. The former player shared that he and some of his teammates believed Fitzgerald made coded gestures in practice to encourage certain hazing:
According to the player who spoke with The Daily, Fitzgerald repeatedly made the signal during practices when players, specifically freshmen, made a mistake.
The player believes some players interpreted Fitzgerald making these signals as knowingly “encouraging” the hazing to continue.
“Everyone would just be looking at each other and be like ‘bro, Fitz knows about this,’ because you wouldn’t take that action otherwise,” the player said. “Everyone joins in, because he’s the head coach.”
Saturday evening, ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg shared a lengthy statement attributed to “The ENTIRE Northwestern Football Team.” In the statement, players say that the reported hazing incidents have been “exaggerated and twisted.” The players maintain that Fitzgerald was not involved and had no knowledge of the incidents.
The full statement reads as follows:
“To the Northwestern Community,
“We, the members of the Northwestern University football team, are writing to address the recent hazing investigation that has been conducted, and the subsequent allegations that have been brought against our program. It is important to us that our perspective is accurately represented, and we would like to highlight four key points:
“Northwestern Football players DO NOT tolerate hazing. We want to reiterate that as representatives of the Northwestern Football program, we do not tolerate hazing in any form. Hazing goes against our values of respect, integrity, and personal growth. We are committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes the well-being and development of every individual on our team.
“The recent allegations brought forth are exaggerated and twisted. It is disheartening to see that the allegations brought forth against our team have been exaggerated and twisted into lies. These fabrications have been made with the intention of harming our program and tarnish the reputation of our dedicated players and coaching staff. We firmly deny the validity of these accusations and stand united in our assertion that they do not reflect the true character of our team.
Northwestern University hired an independent third-party to conduct its own private investigation into the allegations, which lasted for a rigorous six months. The University took the matter seriously and engaged in comprehensive interviews with current and former players and staff. Following this thorough examination, outside counsel in collaboration with the University reached its own conclusions, which we trust were based on a fair and unbiased evaluation of the facts.
“It is crucial to note that our Head Coach, Pat Fitzgerald, was not involved in any of the alleged incidents in any way, shape, or form. Coach Fitzgerald had no knowledge of these allegations until they were brought to his attention during the investigation. Throughout his tenure, Coach Fitzgerald has consistently prioritized the well-being and development of his players, and we stand behind him in his unwavering commitment to our team.
“We urge you to respect the privacy and well-being of the individuals involved, including both the accused and the accusers. Our team remains committed to our Head Coach and upholding the values of Northwestern University and fostering a positive, inclusive, and respectful environment for all.
“The ENTIRE Northwestern Football Team”