A member of the Niagara University women's swimming team as well as two former members of the team are suing the school, claiming they were harassed by male swimmings at Niagara with the knowledge of the man who coaches both programs.
As reported by The Buffalo News, the plaintiffs are Nastassja Posso, a senior who remains on the swim team; Jaime Rolf, a senior who quit the team in February 2018, forfeiting her swimming scholarship; and an unidentified woman who competed as a diver for four years before graduating in 2018.
The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, says Posso and Rolf sought treatment for depression, while the former diver "suffered from anxiety and depression."
"We went from being strong, competitive women who were sectional swimming champs in high school, to feeling broken down, depressed and drained of confidence," Posso and Rolf said in a statement released by their attorneys. "This is not how any college athlete or woman on campus should be treated."
The female swimmers said they and their teammates were ranked in order of physical appearance by the male swimmers, ridiculed for their weight and called vulgar names denoting female genitalia.
One woman allegedly was called a "water buffalo," while another allegedly was referred to as "Princess Thigh Gap."
Aside from one of the women being bumped into a bush, they made no allegations of improper physical contact.
They said Ben Nigro, who coaches both the men's and women's teams, failed to intercede and told the women to "be a duck," by which he apparently meant the women should let the verbal abuse roll off them like water off a duck's back.
Nigro, according to the lawsuit, told the women that the men on the team were immature, saying, "90% is how you react and 10% is what they do." He also said, "Boys will be boys," according to the lawsuit.
The former diver alleged that she complained to the assistant athletic director in 2016 about Nigro's response to an incident in which a male swimmer had sex with a female recruit. Nigro's response, according to the lawsuit: "He must not have been very good since she (the recruit) is not coming to NU."
The suit claims the university slow-walked a formal complaint filed last December, dragging out the internal investigation until some of the accused male swimmers graduated and could no longer be punished. No action has been taken yet in regard to the internal investigation, which involved the questioning of 22 witnesses, the lawsuit says.
"We are aware of a lawsuit that was recently filed in federal court," the university said in a statement Tuesday, as reported by the News. "Niagara University's foremost priority is the well-being of every member of our campus community. We proceed with due diligence to examine any issue that is brought forward that may compromise our culture, while ensuring that we do not rush to judgment or reach conclusions before the completion of the process. Where it is necessary and appropriate, the university engages independent investigators. To ensure the integrity of the process, and out of respect for every individual involved, we do not comment on ongoing matters."