Northwestern University cheerleader lawsuit, Hayden Richardson

Members of Northwestern University’s cheerleading team were forced to associate with drunk and belligerent fans without security, according to a lawsuit filed by a female former cheerleader against the university on Friday.

The 58-page complaint filed by former cheerleader Hayden Richardson in federal court and obtained by the Chicago Tribune alleged that members of the team were “presented as sex objects to titillate the men that funded the majority of Northwestern’s athletics programs.”

The suit says the team’s head coach, Pam Bonnevier, required them to “mingle” with the wealthy donors, who, Richardson said, touched her breasts and buttocks over her uniform and made “sexually charged comments”.

Richardson, who cheered for the school from 2018 to 2020, also said in the suit that Northwestern “forced its cheerleaders to behave in a degrading and demeaning manner intended to entice and captivate wealthy donors.”

Additionally, Richardson says men offered her alcoholic beverages even though she was underage in 2018-19, the time frame detailed in the suit.

According to the suit, which was filed in the Northern District of Illinois, Bonnevier stopped working for Northwestern in October, although the reasons for the departure are unclear. The university, which is located near Chicago in Illinois, confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that Bonnevier is no longer employed by Northwestern.

“This is not the highlight, by any means, of my life or time at Northwestern but it is certainly the most impactful,” the 22-year-old Richardson said.

“While there have been extreme detriments and times where I was very sad and hurt by the actions of the university, I am here, I am bringing the lawsuit forward and I’m going to do what is necessary to ensure other young women don’t experience the same thing that I did.”

When contacted by the paper, Northwestern said it could not comment on the suit, but “it is committed to fostering an environment in which all members of our community are safe, secure and free from discrimination or harassment of any form” and that “reports of discrimination or harassment are confidential in order to protect the individuals involved.”

Richardson had earlier in her Northwestern cheerleading career spoken glowingly of her involvement with the program before she left the school in 2020.

She alleges in the lawsuit that the inappropriate behaviour began in her first season of college.

The report states that the lawsuit names the university, Bonnevier and three other university employees as defendants and is seeking damages for emotional distress suffered by Richardson as well as lost career and learning opportunities.

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Mob attacks and sets ablaze a Hindu temple in northwestern Pakistan

Hindus are the largest non-Muslim religious group in Pakistan, which gained independence from British rule in 1947, when the subcontinent was partitioned into Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India.

Videos made by locals at the scene and shared with Reuters showed a crowd breaking apart blocks of the temple structure’s walls using stones and sledgehammers, as dark smoke from a large fire billowed into the sky.

Local Muslim clerics had organized what they told police would be a peaceful protest against the alleged expansion of the temple, located in a town in Karak district, in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Rahmatullah Wazir, a police officer in the town, told Reuters.

He added that clerics leading the protest started “provocative speeches,” following which the crowd attacked the temple.

“It was a mob and then nobody was there to stop them from damaging the temple,” Wazir said, adding that most of the structure had been damaged.

District police chief Irfanullah Khan told Reuters nine people had been arrested on suspicion of taking part in the attack.

The temple was first built in the early 1900s as a shrine, but the local Hindu community left in 1947 and by 1997 the site had been taken over by local Muslims.

In 2015, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered it be handed back to the Hindu community and the shrine rebuilt, on condition that it would not be expanded in the future.

The spokesman of the provincial government did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

“This is a barbaric way to deal with minorities. We are shocked and hurt … and (the incident has) sent a wave of insecurity in Hindu community,” Haroon Sarbdyal, a local leader of the Hindu community, said in an interview.

Sarbdyal said while local Hindus had relocated from the village, devotees still traveled there every Thursday to visit the shrine.

Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari condemned the incident on Twitter.

Earlier this year, rights watchdog Amnesty International called on Pakistani authorities to “protect the right to freedom of religion and belief for the country’s beleaguered Hindu community, including the construction of temples to exercise that right.”

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