Northwestern football will not have any players present at Big Ten Media Days this week in the wake of the program’s hazing scandal.
In a joint statement, Bryce Gallagher, Rod Heard II and Bryce Kirtz confirmed they will skip the two-day event in Indianapolis. The athletes said they spoke with their family, teammates and interim coach David Braun before reaching their decision.
“This was very difficult since we were excited about the opportunity to participate in this great Big Ten tradition, and to talk about the game we love and the season ahead,” Gallagher, Heard and Kirtz said Tuesday.
The players also said their attendance had the potential to bring unwanted attention.
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“But given the recent events involving the Northwestern football program, we did not want our participation to be dominated by the hazing issue and steal the focus away from football and the upcoming season. We are proud members of the NU football program and want our on-field performance and off-field conduct to always reflect the values of the university and our fans.”
EX-NORTHWESTERN VOLLEYBALL PLAYER BECOMES FIRST FEMALE ATHLETE TO JOIN HAZING SCANDAL LAWSUITS
The scandal resulted in the firing of head coach Pat Fitzgerald on July 10 and the silence of Northwestern players over the past couple of weeks.
Braun backed the players’ decision to sit out of this week’s event.
“The decision from our players to forgo Big Ten Media Day was entirely theirs, and they approached it with a great deal of maturity and thoughtfulness,” Braun said in a statement. “I’m fully supportive of both their reasoning and the decision itself, and I look forward to attending the event.”
Northwestern football is facing multiple lawsuits from former players alleging hazing and abusive behavior in the program.
Lloyd Yates is one of the former football players who filed suit against the school. Yates said he declined to identify players who led hazing incidents because he views them as “victims” of the program’s culture.
None of the lawsuits filed identify players by name.
The school has committed to conducting investigations into all allegations as they are brought to their attention. A July 8 statement that was attributed to the Northwestern team as a whole said the program has a zero tolerance for hazing.
The statement also claimed the now-former coach Fitzgerald was not aware of the allegations until the university started its investigation into hazing late last year.
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Northwestern kicks off the regular season on the road against Rutgers on Sept. 3.