Utah State football player says he faced retaliation after he recorded coach and police chief talking about sex assault

Patrick Maddox is now suing Utah State University for how he says he was treated, including feeling like he was forced to quit the team.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Patrick Maddox, a former football player at Utah State, is photographed in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. Maddox is alleging in a new lawsuit that he was retaliated against after recording a video of a coach and the USU police chief making derogatory comments about sexual assault victims.

A Utah State University football player says he faced threats and retaliation — so intense that he felt forced to quit the team — after he shared recordings of the head coach and campus police chief making derogatory comments about sex assault victims.

Those recordings from Patrick Maddox drew widespread attention last year after they were described in a lawsuit filed by Kaytriauna Flint, a USU student and a friend of Maddox’s who alleged she was raped by another member of the football team in 2019.

Maddox, 23, hoped the audio would bolster Flint’s case and expose what he saw as troubling attitudes toward women and assault, which he said leaders of the team would often joke about. That behavior persisted, he said, even after the northern Utah school was investigated and chastised by the U.S. Department of Justice for mistreating victims — and Utah State University had agreed to improve its response.

He doesn’t regret releasing the recordings, which he calls “very much needed.” But few, Maddox said, are aware of the fallout he faced for doing so, including threats of violence from his teammates, having his gear stolen and destroyed and being made to apologize to the team by head coach Blake Anderson. Maddox also alleges that Anderson told the team that Maddox “made a mistake,” and the players could punish him however they “saw fit.”

When he tried to report the conduct, Maddox said, he was ignored or told he deserved it. And so he felt he had no other choice but to leave the team this spring out of fear of his safety.

Now, Maddox is speaking out for the first time about what happened. On Thursday, he filed suit in U.S. District Court against Utah State and Anderson for the retaliation and harassment he said he experienced.

“Utah State makes it look like they care,” Maddox told The Salt Lake Tribune. “In reality, it’s all a smoke screen.”

His lawsuit comes nearly one year after Flint filed her case against USU last December. It was settled earlier this month, with her agreeing to drop the claims that the school mishandled her rape report in exchange for a $500,000 payout.

A slew of legal claims have been made against USU over the past few years related to how it has responded to — or failed to respond to — sexual assaults, including the high-profile case against former football player Torrey Green, who has since been sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting six women while he was a student at the Logan school. He is now asking for a new trial.

[Read more: It’s been seven years since she says ex-USU football player Torrey Green raped her. She’s still waiting for justice.]

Maddox and Flint, though, are the first to challenge USU since its pledged reforms following the DOJ’s report in 2020. They say those promised changes didn’t happen.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kaytriauna Flint poses for a photograph in her attorney's office, Dec. 13, 2021. Flint was sexually assaulted in 2019 when she was a student at Utah State University.

Flint sat with Maddox as he talked about his case this week at his attorney’s office. The same attorneys who represented Flint, Michael Young and Lauren Hunt, have taken on his case.

“The school didn’t take her seriously at all,” Maddox said about Flint. “And then they used me to set an example and send a message that if you say something about this stuff, it’s not going to go well for you either.”

In a statement Thursday, USU’s spokesperson said the school is “limited in what we can say.”

The university added: “To be clear, USU does not tolerate sexual misconduct or retaliation for reporting it. We encourage any student who has experienced or has knowledge of either to report it to the Office of Equity so the behavior can be addressed appropriately, and the reporting party can receive supportive measures.”

Anderson, the coach, also put out a statement Friday on Twitter. He said he could not comment on the specific allegations but would defend himself “against false statements.” He also stated that “misconduct and violence” are not acceptable in the football program.

“I look forward to providing facts, context and clarification of the allegations against myself and the university,” Anderson wrote.

What was said in the recordings

When Maddox first released the two recordings, he did everything he could think of to keep his name away from them, fearing what would happen if people found out he created and disclosed them.

The files were stripped of the video, so listeners couldn’t see who was in the recordings — or identify where the person recording them was sitting. The audio was then shared by others and USU confirmed it was authentic.

The first recording was of then-USU Police Chief Earl Morris talking to the football team.

Morris told each young man to make sure that when he has sex that it’s consensual — especially if he’s with a Latter-day Saint woman. He warned the team that LDS women will often tell their bishop, when questioned about it, that sex was nonconsensual because that’s “easier.” They might be “feeling regret,” he continued, for having sex before marriage, which goes against the faith’s teachings of abstinence, so they’ll say it was assault.

Members of the team can be heard laughing and hollering in response to Morris’ comments.

(Utah State University) Pictured is former USU police Chief Earl Morris, who resigned Dec. 16, 2021.

The meeting took place in August 2021, the school later said, and other top law enforcement officials from Logan’s police department spoke, too.

In the second recording, made during a meeting the following day, Anderson, the football coach, told the team that it “has never been more glamorized to be a victim” and that the football players were a “target to some.”

“And so you don’t need to put yourself in a position that you can create a victim,” he said.

USU later said those meetings occurred a month after football team members participated in a required Title IX sexual misconduct prevention training.

Both recordings drew immediate backlash from the community, with many saying there were disgusted and concerned by the comments. Within days, Morris resigned from his position. Shortly after, Anderson apologized for his remarks.

“I regret the words I used, and I apologize to anyone who has bravely come forward with allegations of wrongdoing,” Anderson said in a comment released by the school.

Utah State also said originally the recorded statements were ”not consistent with the university’s trainings.”

The fallout

But the lawsuit from Maddox filed Thursday suggests those apologies — particularly the one from Anderson — were not sincere.

When the recordings were drawing attention, the USU football team was in Los Angeles for a bowl game.

During a morning team meeting there, the lawsuit said, Anderson stepped away to approve his apology statement. The coach allegedly told the players at the time that he “had to go address some bulls--- real quick,” according to the filing.

While USU didn’t specifically comment on these allegations, the school’s statement Thursday said: “Lawsuits may contain unsubstantiated statements, and the facts will ultimately guide the outcome of this matter.”

In a few group chats, the lawsuit said, members of the team threatened to beat up whatever player released the recordings. They said the team meetings were their “sanctuary” and anyone who disagreed with the coaches should leave.

Maddox, who was at the time a captain for the team and who played the striker position, said he tried to keep his head down. After returning from L.A., though, he said his teammates increasingly began to suspect he had been the one to record the meetings, based on comments he had made.

“People put it together,” Maddox said. “They were angry. They felt like it was an attack on the coaches. They just felt like what I was doing was wrong. But to me, this was the right thing to do.”

At the beginning of January, he added, “things really seemed to take a turn.”

A few of the players threatened to go to Maddox’s home and assault him if he didn’t apologize to Anderson, the lawsuit said. So Maddox arranged a meeting with the coach to “clear the air.”

Maddox said he started the conversation by trying to tell Anderson about Flint, his friend, who said she’d been raped by a football player; that player is still a member of the team. The lawsuit states that Anderson cut him off and told Maddox that the recordings had taken him out of context.

The filing said Anderson acknowledged what he said about “it being ‘glamorized to be a victim’ was true, but he wished he used the word ‘publicized’ instead of ‘glamorized.’ Anderson stated that he wasn’t just referring to sexual assault, but rather anything that makes its way to the media.”

He doesn’t allude to any other topic or general media coverage in the recording.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah State head coach Blake Anderson talks with his players on Oct. 1, 2021.

The coach then allegedly told Maddox that the audio had hurt his credibility, particularly in his religion. “You do realize that [this] severely harmed my reputation as a Christian, right?” Maddox recalls the coach saying.

Anderson ended the meeting by telling the player he was disappointed but would forgive him, according to the lawsuit. And he encouraged Maddox to apologize to the whole team because otherwise “it would get incredibly uncomfortable in the locker room.”

Maddox said the coach also warned him about what would happen if he didn’t. His teammates might try “to get answers out of him” in other ways. They might do whatever they “saw fit.” Anderson, Maddox said, didn’t say he’d try to prevent any violence. To him, it sounded like the coach was sanctioning it.

So two days later, Maddox apologized to the team “out of fear for his safety,” according to the lawsuit. Anderson, he said, set up the apology by telling the team that Maddox “had owned up to his mistake.”

From there, though, Maddox said, it continued to get worse.

Leaving the ‘so toxic’ team

Maddox described the environment for the next month of practices as “very hostile.”

Members of the team and the coaches refused to talk to him. If he said something or asked a question, he’d be ignored. He tried to talk to Anderson again, he said, but the coach refused to help. Maddox said Anderson told him he’d have to earn trust back — and might never be able to do so.

Another coach, Maddox said, told the player he’d personally never trust him again. He also told Maddox, according to the lawsuit, that they wouldn’t renew his scholarship for the following year.

When Maddox went to the locker room after that, his locker had been broken into. His cleats had been stolen, and the rest of his equipment had been covered in protein shakes and was unusable. He didn’t know how he’d be able to replace it, he said.

He reached out next to a higher up administrator within USU’s sports program, who is supposed to help players with issues like this. Maddox said he never got a response.

Meanwhile, Maddox said, he watched as the player who Flint had accused was placed in charge of managing the team’s Instagram account. He was never charged with a crime, after the Cache County Attorney’s Office declined to pursue prosecution. A complaint Flint filed with USU was dismissed.

The environment got “so toxic,” Maddox said, that he felt he must leave. He quit the team at the end of February after three years playing for USU.

Maddox said a few players on the team reached out to him afterward to thank him for coming forward, where they felt like they couldn’t — and still couldn’t, as current players. But mostly, he said, his departure was celebrated by a group he says was entrenched in sexism.

Maddox recounted in the lawsuit that one football staff member suggested making a video specifically about Flint. “Wouldn’t that be funny?” Maddox remembers the employee stating. The video was not made, in the end, after another player objected.

The lawsuit also states that someone in the program shared child porn with a football player. That person has since left the program, according to the filing, though it doesn’t note when the alleged crime occurred.

Maddox said he would hear in the locker room, too, discussions about several players who’d assaulted women. From 2016 to 2020, the lawsuit states, at least four football players at USU were accused of rape — that includes Torrey Green and Ismael Kalani Vaifo’ou, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman in her dorm room and was sentenced to seven months in jail earlier this year.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Patrick Maddox, a former football player at Utah State, is photographed in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. Maddox is alleging in a new lawsuit that he was retaliated against after recording a video of a coach and the USU police chief making derogatory comments about sexual assault victims.

He felt something needed to be said.

“If your brother does something bad, hold him accountable,” Maddox added. “To continue to protect sexual predators to win games, that’s not OK.”

What he’s asking for

Maddox has one more year to finish at USU to earn his business management degree.

He had wanted to possibly play football professionally, he said, when he graduated. But injuries and the treatment he said he faced will likely keep him from doing so. Now, he’s hoping to coach.

With the lawsuit, he said, he wants to hold Utah State accountable for what he experienced. “You shouldn’t punish somebody for doing the right thing,” he said.

In his filing, Maddox is asking for damages to be specified at trial; the money would cover the expenses he said he’s had for therapy, as well as for lost professional and educational opportunities.

His lawyers argue that he was engaged in protected speech when he recorded the videos because he was attempting to highlight and speak out against the harmful culture with sexual assault at USU.

Maddox said he believes USU should be doing more to fix that.

Editor’s note: This story discusses sexual assault. If you need to report or discuss a sexual assault, you can call the Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 888-421-1100.