Former Virginia wide receiver Aidan Howard is suing the University of Virginia for what he claims to have been a “culture of bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination.” According to Howard’s lawsuit, he claims to have witnessed football players force teammates to imitate and mimic sexual acts and forced players to fight and wrestle while naked or partially naked.
Howard’s lawsuit was filed Friday in a district court in Pennsylvania, according to a report from ESPN. In addition to the university,Virginia wide receivers Doni Dowling and David Eldridge are named as defendants. Another defendant name din the lawsuit is Virginia wide receivers coach Marques Hagans. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall is not a defendant in the suit.
In the lawsuit, Howard claims coaches were aware of injuries suffered through such acts but did not step in to bring an end to the behavior within the Virginia program. Furthermore, the lawsuit argues the school, school officials and coaches as well as students may have been in violation of Title IX laws, in part stemming from verbal insults Howard claims were hurled at players. Hagan has also been diagnosed with a learning disability, which he believes led to some of the allegedly discriminatory insults directed at him.
Howard’s suit claims that coaches knew about his injuries and what caused them, but did nothing to reprimand the football players who he says verbally and physically assaulted him, nor did they enforce school and NCAA rules against hazing, bullying and discrimination. The suit alleges that the university, administrators, coaches and fellow students violated aspects of federal Title IX gender equity laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and negligence laws, among others.
“[They] would question Aidan’s ‘toughness’ and ‘manliness’ and would call him ‘stupid,’ ‘dumb,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘retarded,'” the lawsuit states.
“We want some accountability by the university and the student-athletes who were responsible for doing this to Aidan,” said Howard’s attorney, C. James Zeszutek. “Now these student-athletes are continuing to play their sport, continuing to attend classes, and there’s been no ramifications to them whatsoever. Our client is a victim who has been injured, damaged and he’s out of competition this year.”
Howard was granted a release from the Virginia program in August. He transferred to Robert Morris University.