Pushing back on the narrative of hazing and harassment at Northwestern, more than 1,000 former athletes at the university signed a letter defending the culture of the sports programs.
With more than 10 lawsuits alleging multiple forms of hazing and harassment, athletes from all varsity sports were included in a formal letter sent to the school.
In addition to the Wildcats' football program, lawsuits against the Big Ten college include one volleyball player and also three former baseball staffers who claim they were let go as retaliation for reporting misconduct.
Northwestern president Michael Schill categorized the football team culture as "broken" when he amended a suspension for head coach Pat Fitzgerald and fired the longtime coach in July.
The letter, signed by 277 former football players and at least 10 ex-players from all varsity sports, includes hundreds of student-athletes who weren't part of the football program or at the university during Fitzgerald's tenure. The athletes "condemn hazing in any form" while underscoring they felt the positive influences of the athletics culture.
Graduates dating to the 1950s and as recent as 2022 were included, and claimed to experience a "culture that fosters excellence in sports, academics and community development."
Interim football coach David Braun took over the team a month ago. He said he's being cautious with off-field activities but has also allowed current players to express their opinions about the events that led to the coaching change.
"We've had an opportunity to go through extensive education when it comes to hazing, as a team and as a staff. That education will continue," Braun said. "We're being very mindful of making sure that we find ways to allow this team to build and become cohesive and have fun in team meetings with music, making sure that this isn't an environment where it's just business. This team needs to come together."
ESPN shared an excerpt of the letter that reads: "The allegations being made are troubling and we support the University's efforts to fully investigate these claims. However, these allegations do not represent or define the overall athletics culture at Northwestern."
The letter offers support for athletes who experienced hazing while attempting to make clear such behavior wasn't considered commonplace on the Evanston, Ill., campus.
"We strongly affirm the positive experiences we had at Northwestern and, if offered, would do it all over again," the letter reads.
—Field Level Media