Ex-NMSU basketball players file lawsuit over alleged sexual assaults
Two former New Mexico State men’s basketball players said they were subjected to hazing and sexual assault by older teammates.
During a press conference, the former players added that their alleged attackers were multiple members of the basketball team who coerced the victims into remaining silent.
“There were most definitely other players that got attacked the way that we got attacked,” Shakiru Odunewu said in an interview with ESPN earlier this week. “But … these other guys, I feel like they manipulated them to believe that if they came out, that they were snitching.”
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Some assistant coaches were also targeted, according to Odunewu and Deuce Benjamin. They added that players who committed the alleged acts of harassment also pulled down assistant coaches’ pants in public places.
“After the [game] at UTEP, when we lost, they pantsed one of the assistants,” Benjamin said. “One assistant coach had his pants pulled down while he slept on the bus,” he said, and another was targeted but yelled enough to dissuade the attackers.
“[Other coaches acted] like they didn’t see it.”
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Benjamin and Odunewu detailed their experiences for the first time publicly Wednesday. Their lawsuit was filed against the university in April for the alleged mishandling of the assaults.
The lawsuit states that Odunewu reported the abuse to coach Greg Heiar, but the coach failed to discipline the alleged attackers.
Odunewu then alerted the New Mexico State campus police department in February. The basketball season was canceled shortly after Odunewu’s report was filed and Heiar was fired.
A police investigation remains ongoing, but no charges had been filed against anyone as of Friday.
Odunewu identified Kim Aiken Jr., Doctor Bradley and Deshawndre Washington as the alleged attackers and mentioned that the three former players targeted “just about everyone.”
Anyone who attempted to resist or fight back was subjected to more extreme punishment, according to Odunewu.
Aiken, Bradley and Washington couldn’t be reached for comment. Representatives for Heiar did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
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Benjamin said that the act of pulling down a player’s pants was sometimes viewed as a part of the team’s pregame ritual. He said he did not speak out during his freshman year because he came to believe that the alleged abuse was a normal part of college basketball culture.
His father, William Benjamin, eventually noticed that his son was behaving differently. Deuce then had an open dialogue with his dad.
“At first, I just asked him, like, if he was experiencing the same things I was when he was in college,” Deuce Benjamin said. “And he wasn’t.”
William Benjamin said his son was put in an unthinkable situation.
“And as a father, I feel like I failed my son for putting him in this situation,” he said.
Odunewu said he initially feared speaking out.
“I was scared that if I did come out … I was going to mess with these people’s careers. But it just got to a point where I just couldn’t bear it anymore.
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Benjamin and Odunewu are in the NCAA transfer portal, and both plan to petition the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility.