A former NU football player who’s suing the university for what he says was sexual and physical abuse and racial discrimination says hazing problems are widespread in sports.
“The NCAA has to get involved, governing bodies need to be held accountable,” Raymond Diaz, who played at NU from 2005 to 2008, said at a Wednesday morning news conference.
Diaz, now a licensed clinical therapist who’s working on a PhD in neuropsychology, says he was recruited to Northwestern and promised he would “receive an excellent education and be treated as the human being I am.”
But instead, he says, he was sexually abused, “forced to rub against other nude bodies in the shower,” and had his head shaved with the words “Cinco de Mayo” cut into the stubble that remained.
Diaz, the son of immigrants from Mexico, said, “Football was a game I loved and had trained for for thousands and thousands of hours.”
But at Northwestern, he added, it “became a center of bigotry and racism” that led him to attempt to commit suicide via painkillers in 2007.
“An institution that allows a coach to destroy the self worth of an athlete has to be held accountable,” Diaz argued, saying that the school “hired perpetrators disguised as coaches.”
He said that now as a therapist he often sees in his office players abused at the high school level “and no one wants to take responsibility.”
“College athletes, not only at Northwestern, but across the country, need to seek out their own legal representation to file lawsuits in their home states,” he added.
Attorney Patrick Salvi said coaches at NU were making racial comments and slurs to Diaz and other players.
“This was not just player-on-player,” Salvi added. “This is an athletic department that has enabled and promoted this behavior and a culture that has harmed so many individuals.”
Salvi said he’s cautiously optimistic that the investigation the university announced Tuesday by former attorney general Loretta Lynch will have a positive impact.
“This is a showing that there is a recognition that this problem went beyond the football program,” Salvi said. “Having the independent investigation that will make the findings public” will help.
Diaz is from Morris, Illinois, southwest of Chicago.
In 2010, after graduating from Northwestern, Diaz told Shaw Local that he had become clinically depressed while playing at NU, but never mentioned hazing as a trigger for that depression.
He told the paper he had recovered from his depression by becoming active in Christian youth ministry groups and after graduation was working at an inner city youth ministry.
Last year, in a video interview with Uncut Northwestern, a student athlete group at the school, Diaz spoke extensively about the pressure to perform young athletes face — from youth sports through college — but again did not address the issue of hazing.