(CNN) — The student newspaper for Northwestern University said at least three former students of its football program detailed what it described as a pattern of racism from coaches and players.
The Monday report by The Daily Northwestern cited allegations from two former anonymous players and a former Latino offensive lineman who all played for the team in the late 2000s.
“I didn’t feel like I could be anything other than White,” former player Ramon Diaz Jr. said, according to the paper. “We never felt like we could be ourselves. We had to fit in by being White or acting White or laughing at our own people.”
The other anonymous player said, “The racist stuff… the stuff that refers to how Black players are treated, in my mind, that was a form of hazing.”
“All three players also confirmed a hazing tradition called the ‘car wash’ existed and was part of a larger system of hazing on the team,” The Daily Northwestern’s reporting said.
Northwestern University announced Monday it had fired longtime head football coach Pat Fitzgerald. The move came after allegations of hazing within the Wildcats football program.
In a statement on Tuesday, Fitzgerald reiterated that he was unaware of any hazing going on in the football program, that he is proud of his time leading the team and that he would take “necessary steps to protect [his] rights in accordance with the law.”
“I take great pride in the achievements we accomplished during my tenure, both on and off the field,” Fitzgerald said. “I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to nurturing our players, not only as athletes but also as exemplary students and members of the community.”
An independent investigation conducted by a former Illinois inspector general didn’t find “any credible evidence” that Fitzgerald knew about any hazing but did reveal 11 players, past and present, said hazing was ongoing in the program, according to an executive summary of the investigation made public by the university.
In Tuesday’s statement, Fitzgerald, who was initially suspended Friday for two weeks without pay, pointed to the investigation’s findings about his knowledge, and said he was “surprised” when he learned Schill “unilaterally revoked our agreement without any prior notification” and fired him.
“Given this unexpected turn of events, I have entrusted my agent, Bryan Harlan, and legal counsel, Dan Webb from Winston & Strawn LLP, to take the necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law,” Fitzgerald said in his statement.
Fitzgerald’s attorney, Dan Webb, said: “I am now evaluating the facts and issues to advise him on what short term and long term course of action he should take to protect and promote his legal rights in light of these events.”
Diaz, the former Latino offensive lineman, said the impact of dealing with the culture of Northwestern’s football program has had a long lasting effect on him – he said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he left the school and now works as a clinical therapist according to The Daily Northwestern.
“Diaz described several racist remarks players and coaches said to him. One teammate asked him why he didn’t play soccer instead of football,” The Daily Northwestern’s reporting said.
“He said he was also forced to shave ‘Cinco de Mayo’ into his hair during a tradition where freshmen would shave messages on their heads.”
CNN reached out to Northwestern University for a response to the racism allegations reported in the school’s paper.
A spokesperson for the University, Jon Yates, told the student paper said such behavior “would be entirely unacceptable.”
“The alleged ‘racist commentary and behavior toward non-White players’ by Coach Fitzgerald and members of his staff would be entirely unacceptable and inconsistent with our culture and values, if true,” Yates told the school paper.
“As we do with any allegation, we will immediately address the accusations and any findings will be considered.”
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