Former Oak Park and River Forest High School quarterback Lloyd Yates makes a move during a 2014 game. Yates, a three-year varsity starter from 2012-2014, announced last week that he was a victim of a hazing scandal on the football team at Northwestern University. He is among eight former players planning to file a lawsuit against Northwestern. | File

Oak Park and River Forest High School football alumnus Lloyd Yates, a 2015 graduate, is among eight former Northwestern University football players who are planning a lawsuit against the school after recent revelations of hazing and racism resulted in the firing of head football coach Pat Fitzgerald on July 10.

The players are being represented by national civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, along with the Chicago law firm of Levin and Perconti.

“The university and football program have let us down,” said Yates, 26, at a press conference July 19. “Upon our arrival to campus, we were thrown into a culture where physical, emotional, and sexual abuse were normalized. We were all victims, no matter what our role was at the time. The culture was so strong, we had to go with it to survive.”

Crump said he has heard from at least 50 former and current Northwestern student-athletes since the scandal broke and suggested that the alleged hazing goes back at least 10 years. While most are football players, there are also a few baseball and softball players who have come forward with their own abusive experiences. Baseball coach Jim Foster was also fired by the university, three days after Fitzgerald.

Lloyd Yates (Northwestern University Athletics)

Yates, whose grandfather, father, and older brother attended Northwestern, said there was a code of silence that accompanied the hazing. He added that any players who went to the coaches or staff to complain were threatened with losing playing time and possibly even their scholarships.

“The code of silence seemed insurmountable to overcome,” Yates said. “All of it was humiliating. We’re physically and emotionally beaten down, and some of my teammates have been contemplating suicide as a result.”

Among other acts, Yates said he and other young players would be subject to “dry humping.” Older players would hold down him down on the ground naked while others took turns simulating sex acts from behind.

“It’s just a very degrading, dehumanizing, embarrassing act,” Yates told the Chicago Tribune July 18.

In the Tribune story, Yates added that another way he was hazed was that players forced him to make a quarterback-center exchange while naked in the locker room.

When asked at the press conference if Fitzgerald or any other coach or staff member knew about the hazing, Yates implied that they likely did.

“It was so explicit and loud and took place in close proximity to where the trainers and staff would be located,” he said. “I find it hard to believe that (the coaches) were not aware of what was taking place.”

“If the coaches didn’t know, it would have to be malfeasance,” added Crump. “It would have to be they were asleep at the wheel. … you can’t have these many players saying we experienced the same things over these numbers of years, and coaches who’ve been there for years saying we don’t know anything about it.”

Because of the trauma he’s suffered, Yates, a three-year starting varsity quarterback with OPRF from 2012-2014, told the Tribune he can’t bring himself to watch football games anymore. He feels the abuse he took while at Northwestern took a toll on him mentally, leaving him with persistent nightmares and anxiety.

But he also hopes that by coming forth to tell his story, it will encourage other players who have had similar experiences to step forward. Yates feels changes will happen as more stories come out.

“I know there are hundreds of guys who, I hope, have the courage to tell and speak their truth,” he told the Tribune. “I know it’s uncomfortable; it’s embarrassing; it’s awkward. But I think that’s the first step to acknowledge and address that this exists.”

Steven Levin, a managing partner at Levin and Perconti who’s working with Crump, wants to see the hazing culture taken out of sports altogether.

“We want to send a message that this type of behavior cannot be tolerated anywhere, let alone in collegiate or high school sports,” he told the Tribune. “And it needs to be stopped now.”

Join the discussion on social media!