NORFOLK, Va. — A Hampton Roads football player said he encountered sexual assault and hazing as a freshman in Norfolk State University's football team.
Shawn Fahey shared his story during a news conference in Downtown Norfolk Thursday morning, alongside Diane Toscano, his lawyer who is based in Virginia Beach.
“The bottom line: I worried for my safety," said Fahey.
Toscano said the assault and harassment took place while Fahey was part of NSU's football program last fall, and she claimed the coaches were aware.
“Instead of prioritizing the safety of individual players and reporting these outrageous behaviors and disciplining the offenders, coaches simply and unconsciously warned one player, “It will catch up with you,'” she said.
Fahey played football at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, before attending Norfolk State as a student-athlete in 2021.
Toscano alleged that players were allowed to grab other players' genitals in front of football coaches, and she claimed there is video evidence showing upperclassmen sexually harassing freshmen players.
She also alleged that university officials have known about the allegations for 10 months and failed to act.
Fahey said he reported the complaints to his football coaches.
"Instead of NSU handling these incidents with compassion for me, I was baited by the coaches to rejoin the next day as if nothing ever happened," he said. "I was told by coaches I was risking my career and then Norfolk State made my pain worse by sharing sensitive information about this situation to the whole team."
A representative for Toscano Law Group confirmed Fahey is no longer enrolled at Norfolk State University, and Fahey told reporters Thursday he is now "anxious" about his future.
"It is sad for me to admit this but what a terrible decision it ended up being for me to put my fate and safety in Norfolk State when I accepted that football scholarship over others," said Fahey.
Toscano said she's heard from other student-athletes who reported similar experiences at Norfolk State during the same time period, and she does not believe Fahey's complaints are isolated events.
"NSU leaders must be questioned about what they did to ensure the safety for student-athletes," said Toscano. "And they must be held accountable as evidence shows there are coaches that were aware they inherited these problems from the previous staff."
Norfolk State University head football coach Dawson Odums joined the program in April 2021 after the departure of Latrell Scott. Odums previously coached at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Toscano asked for any other witnesses to come forward, which she said can be done confidentially by contacting her firm. She also mentioned the launch of a new nonprofit, Goal-Line Stand Together, "to raise awareness of the larger problem of sexual assault and hazing in college football."
“The reason I am here today: if you are a student-athlete and have been sexually abused, harassed or hazed, you are not alone,” Fahey said in the news conference.
A Norfolk State spokesman confirmed leaders are aware of the allegations and said they launched an investigation when they heard about the claims.
The university spokesperson also said leaders hired an outside firm that specializes in Title IX violations to investigate.
Read the entire Norfolk State University statement regarding the allegations below:
Norfolk State University cares about the safety and wellbeing 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.