Hazing led former Northwestern football player to self-harm, lawsuit alleges

Simba Short, who played defense for Northwestern from 2015-2016, and another player filed suits with civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Chicago firm Levin & Perconti.

SHARE Hazing led former Northwestern football player to self-harm, lawsuit alleges
Standing with other former Northwestern athletes, former Northwestern football player Simba Short speaks during a press conference addressing widespread hazing accusations at Northwestern University Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Former Northwestern University football player Simba Short has filed suit against the school, alleging that he was a victim of hazing on the football team. He says the abuse led to a mental health crisis.

Erin Hooley, Associated Press

A former Northwestern University football player was hazed so badly that he harmed himself and was hospitalized, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Simba Short, who played defense for Northwestern from 2015-2016, filed with suit with civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Chicago firm Levin & Perconti.

Another former player filed a suit on Thursday with Crump. John Doe alleges he was first sexually abused during a hazing incident as a 17-year-old freshman. The complaint also says he was forced to play after suffering concussions and injuries.

At least four other lawsuits have been filed against the university over alleged abusive behavior in its sports program. Lawyers have said the culture of abuse and hazing extended to other sports at the university, including volleyball.

Short’s lawsuit describes how he was allegedly bullied by coaches and other players after he underwent surgery to repair an injured shoulder as a freshman.

Short was a standout football player when he was recruited in 2015 from De La Salle High School in Concord, California. But the injury kept him from playing as a freshman, making him a target of abuse, the lawsuit states.

Players and coaches sometimes called him an “eater and sh-tter” because “his value to the team was nothing but consuming food and toilet space until he was healthy,” the lawsuit states.

When he recovered enough to practice with the team in the spring of 2016, players threatened him with a hazing ritual known as “running,” saying he was “healthy enough to be ran,” the lawsuit states.

Short tried to avoid the upperclassmen who had threatened him, but he was finally confronted in a locker room by four or five players who held him down on a bench as a teammate rubbed his genitals against him, the suit states.

He was also subjected to “dredging,” where freshmen were forced to drink alcohol until they threw up, the lawsuit states. Coaches also made racist comments to Short and other players who are Black, the suit states.

The abuse led Short to a “mental health crisis that culminated in his attempting self-harm in the spring [of] 2016 and an emergency hospitalization,” the lawsuit states.

After that, head coach Pat Fitzgerald sat down with Short and suggested he could medically retire from the football program, which he did shortly thereafter, the suit states.

John Doe joined the team as a freshman in 2015. He alleges that after he refused to participate in the “running” hazing ritual he was targeted by upperclassmen during a summer training camp in Kenosha.

John Doe was held to the ground while another player rubbed his genitals against him in front of his teammates at the training camp, according to the lawsuit. He was also assaulted later on in the season.

In 2018 and 2019, John Doe suffered concussions during two games and was later forced to return to the field and play, the lawsuit alleges.

These are the second and third lawsuits filed by Crump. Last week, he filed a suit on behalf of Lloyd Yates, a former quarterback, who was also subjected to alleged abuse.

Northwestern’s hazing scandal broke July 7 when the university published the summary of an internal investigation into allegations of hazing on the football team.

The school suspended Fitzgerald, then fired him after the student newspaper published accounts of hazing from two players. The school has said it is implementing reporting tools, locker room monitoring and anti-hazing training.

The Latest
The 23-year-old Shannon was accused of committing sexual assault last September while visiting Kansas for a football game between the Illini and the Jayhawks.
The Cubs sunk to a 13-15 record in an MLB-leading 28 one-run games.
After three tumultuous years as AD, Gragg’s primary responsibilities will lie in the expansive, ever-evolving realm of NIL, with a focus on fundraising.
Lee catches Garrett Crochet in his third game of Mariners series behind the plate.