N.Y. Jets icon Joe Namath allegedly allowed sexual abuse at his camp, lawsuit says

A Florida real estate broker is accusing New York Jets icon Joe Namath of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse he endured at Namath’s football camps in the 1970s, according to the man’s lawsuit.

Philip Lyle Smith, 64, said he was victimized at the summer retreats by Philip Foglietta, the longtime football coach at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn who died in 1998.

Joe Namath and Philip Lyle Smith at one of Namath’s football camps. Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss PLLC Namath and co-defendants John Dockery, a former Jets defensive back, and Nichols College in Massachusetts, the site of the camps, should have seen obvious warning signs, Smith said. Namath and Dockery ran their camp under the company Pro Camps Ltd., which is also a defendant, according to the lawsuit. From 1970 to 1977, when Smith was 10 to 17, Foglietta subjected Smith “to a continuous course of sexual conduct” that “included grooming, oral sexual conduct” and “other forms of sexual abuse,” Smith’s attorney, Arthur Middlemiss, wrote in a Sept. 15 court filing.

Smith’s civil complaint was originally filed in December 2019 but has been bogged down for years as New York courts deal with a backlog of sexual abuse lawsuits that came after the st a te a llowed victims to file suits that would’ve been previously been disallowed due to the statute of limitations.

The defense is challenging Smith’s right to sue in New York state because the camps in question were in Vermont and Massachusetts. It is also questioning whether Namath and Dockery are the proper defendants as individuals.

Those questions are now before a state appeals court.

Smith originally filed the lawsuit as “John Doe” but has since identified himself as the plaintiff.

“Coming forward and shedding my John Doe status was not only empowering to me to aid in my own healing, but I also hoped it might allow others to hear my story and to have the courage to do the same and begin their own healing,” Smith said in a statement on Monday.

Coach Philip Foglietta and Philip Lyle Smith at the football camp. Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss PLLC Smith said he first attended the camp as a 12-year-old in the summer of 1972 as a guest of Foglietta, who knew the youngster as a student at Poly Prep.

Smith did not pay to be at the camp, was no more than 4-foot-7 and weighed less than 70 pounds and didn’t take part in many of the drills against larger high school-aged campers, the lawsuit said.

He didn’t sleep in quarters with the rest of the campers but instead bunked in the same room with Foglietta, who would have been 50 in the summer of 1972, according to the lawsuit.

Philip Lyle Smith. Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss PLLC All of those conditions should’ve have been clear warning signs of sexual abuse that happened that summer and at camps that followed through 1975, the lawsuit said.

“Despite the obvious red flags, the Defendants did nothing to stop the abuse,” according to the lawsuit, which claims that Foglietta sexually abused Smith until he was 17. “Their blind eye allowed Foglietta to escalate the level of sexual abuse then and thereafter.”

Foglietta died more than a decade before Poly Prep was sued for allegedly covering up years of the football coach’s sexual abuse. That lawsuit was eventually settled and the school apologized for not thoroughly investigating claims against Foglietta.

Attempts to reach Poly Prep were unsuccessful Monday.

An attorney for Namath and Dockery declined comment. Dockery and a representative for Namath did not immediately return messages from NBC News on Monday seeking their comments.

A lawyer for Nichols College and a representative for the school also did not respond.

Namath, a Hall of Fame quarterback, is arguably the Jets’ most famous player, having led the team to its only Super Bowl appearance and win in 1969.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the  National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline  at 1-800-656-4673. The hotline, run by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can also access RAINN’s online chat service at  https://www.rainn.org/get-help . Confidential chats are available in English and in Spanish.

David K. Li

David K. Li is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

Helen Kwong

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Toby Lyles

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