Content warning: This story contains depictions of alleged sexual assault.
Two former New Mexico State basketball players spoke out Wednesday about the lawsuit they filed against the university over the alleged sexual assault and abuse they were subject to last season.
The troubling allegations were among several incidents the program was faced with last season before the school fired coach Greg Heiar and canceled the season in early February.
Former Aggies players Deuce Benjamin and Shak Odunewu spoke out from campus Wednesday. They said that they were hazed and sexually assaulted during the season and that nobody, including Heiar and his staff, stopped what was happening.
“First it hurts, then it changes you,” Benjamin said via The Associated Press. “There’s a part of me that hasn’t been the same.”
In the lawsuit, Odunewu said three teammates pinned him down in the back of a bus on a road trip and pulled his pants down before they “slapped his bare buttocks, and he felt fingers inserted into his anus while his scrotum was simultaneously squeezed.” Benjamin detailed several similar allegations against those three players — Deshawndre Washington, Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr. — and said the “attacks” usually happened in the locker room. Benjamin said he was once demanded to “pull your ass out” in front of young women at a hotel on a road trip and told that if he didn't, someone would “grab your nuts.”
“It just got to a point where I just can’t bear anywhere,” Odunewu said of why he spoke out via The Associated Press. “And it’s just sad my college experience had to go like this … I hope me and Deuce will have the strength to move past this and become dominant in whatever path we choose.”
Benjamin filed a complaint with university police in February. He also claimed that Heiar knew in November of the abuse allegations but “did little, if anything,” to address them.
New Mexico State shut down the men’s basketball program the same day.
“My child has been failed. My family has been failed,” Benjamin’s father, William Benjamin, said via The Associated Press. “And as a father, I feel like I failed my son for putting him in this situation.”
That incident came after a fatal shooting at the University of New Mexico earlier in the season. Aggies player Mike Peake was allegedly “lured” to New Mexico’s campus the night before a game, and UNM students allegedly ambushed him. Peake was allegedly shot in the leg by a student, and he allegedly returned fire and killed the student.
After the shootings, police said Peake met up with teammates and put his gun and a tablet in the back of their car. The gun was then left with an assistant coach at the hotel while the rest of the team left town.
The two incidents are not related.