NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A former Norfolk State University football player from Virginia Beach says he was sexually assaulted and hazed by his former teammates, and that the university knew about issues surrounding the program and has failed to act.
Shawn Fahey, an Ocean Lakes High grad who was a freshman lineman on NSU’s team during the 2021 fall season, shared the allegations in a press conference Thursday morning with the Toscano Law Group, who added that other NSU student-athletes have reported similar experiences.
“Instead of NSU handling these incidents with compassion for me after I reported them, I was baited by coaches to rejoin the next day as if nothing ever happened,” Fahey said. “I was told by coaches I was risking my career. Then NSU made my pain worse by sharing sensitive information about the situation to the whole team.”
Watch the press conference below
Fahey’s lawyer, Diane Toscano, said that players were allowed to grab other players’ genitals in front of coaches, and there is video of upperclassmen players “dry humping” younger players on beds, in addition to other alleged incidents.
“The list of shocking behavior goes on,” Toscano said.
Toscano added that Norfolk State has been aware of the issues for nearly a year.
“I have heard from other student-athletes who reported similar experiences at NSU during this same period,” Toscano said. “There are coaches on the current staff that knew of the problems because the incidents happened right under their nose … NSU leaders must be questioned about what they did to ensure the safety of student-athletes – and they must be held accountable – as evidence shows there were coaches on the current staff that were aware they inherited these problems from the previous staff.”
The current head coach at NSU is former Southern University head coach Dawson Odums, who took over the program in 2021 following the departure of former head coach Latrell Scott.
Toscano is requesting witnesses come forward in the case, and says that can be done confidentially by contacting the law firm. She also announced the founding of a nonprofit organization called “Goal-Line Stand Together” to gather reports of sexual assault nationwide and “begin a national dialogue about a taboo subject which is critical to the health of our nation’s boys and young men.”
“I believe we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual assault and hazing in U.S. football,” said Toscano. “National data reports the propensity for football players to commit sexual assault, but data and understanding is lacking when it comes to sexual assault and harassment experienced by football players at the hands of their teammates.”
“It’s OK, you’re not alone,” Fahey said in the press conference on Thursday.
For Fahey, he says his days on the field with the Spartans are over.
“Ever playing again for Norfolk State University is out of the question,” he said. “It is sad for me to admit this but what a terrible decision it ended up being for me to put my faith and safety in Norfolk State when I accepted that football scholarship over others.”
NSU football finished its spring football practices last month and is set to open the 2022 season on the road at Marshall on September 3.
On Thursday afternoon, Norfolk State provided 10 On Your Side with the following statement:
“Norfolk State University cares about the safety and well-being of every student, faculty, and staff member.
We have a “culture of care” at the institution, and we work diligently to address the needs of our community.
NSU is aware of allegations regarding the conduct of the NSU football program and immediately launched
an investigation when the matter was reported. Subsequently, NSU also acquired the services of an
external consulting firm, Rebecca Leitman Veidlinger, Esq., PLLC. This firm specializes in investigating and
adjudicating allegations of violations of Title IX including harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault.
The firm is currently investigating the allegations. The University is prohibited by federal law from disclosing
any information about any investigations involving students. We acknowledge that this can make it difficult
for members of the public wanting to know more information.
We encourage anyone with any information regarding sexual misconduct, harassment, or any form of
discrimination to please contact the Office of Institutional Equity at 757-278-4121.”