Jets legend Joe Namath accused of allowing child sex abuse at football camp: ‘From hero to zero’
Jets legend Joe Namath is akin to disgraced Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, covering up sexual abuse at his facility, according to court papers filed by a man who says he was assaulted there 51 years ago.
Philip Lyle Smith, 64, recently told The Post about his horrific ordeal at a Joe Namath Instructional Football Camp, speaking publicly for the first time about claims he detailed as “John Doe’’ in an ongoing Brooklyn lawsuit.
Smith said his alleged sexual predator was well-known Brooklyn Poly Prep Country Club football coach Philip Foglietta, later revealed to be a serial pedophile who abused scores of students at the tony school.
Foglietta, who died in 1998, was allegedly allowed to repeatedly sexually attack Smith at the camp starting when the boy was just 12, said the married Florida real-estate broker in court papers — claiming to The Post that Namath and other lawsuit defendants were “enablers and the pedophile protectors.”
“Back in those days, Joe Namath was my idol,’’ Smith told The Post. “And he went from my hero to a zero in my life.’’
Smith alleged that Namath’s negligence is analogous to that of the late Paterno, who was accused of knowing that trusted assistant Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused young boys.
“This case is equally about the many adults in positions of power at the [camp] including Joe Namath and [ex-Jets defensive back and camp partner John] Dockery, who were aware of, tolerated and covered up known sexual abuse at the camp, abuse that had a lasting effect on Doe,’’ according to allegations in amended court papers filed in 2021.
Smith’s lawsuit claims that while Foglietta groomed and abused him, he received special perks at the camp, including involving the Jets Hall of Famer.
For example, Smith ate meals in the camp lunchroom with Namath and Dockery, other NFL players who came by and the coaches and instructors, he claims.
“It was a dream come true for a 12-year-old,’’ Smith said. “[Foglietta] always made sure Joe Namath threw me at least one pass almost every single day and said hello to me almost every single day.
“I was feeling very special,” he said.
According to Smith’s suit, “Some campers even thought that Doe was Joe Namath’s nephew and made comments to him to this effect.
“This was because Foglietta made sure that Joe Namath always recognized Doe’s presence and that Doe received special attention whenever Joe Namath made an appearance.”
Smith said other Poly Prep participants at the Vermont camp were jealous, asking why he was “taking up so much of Joe’s time.” He said Foglietta used the preferential treatment to justify the sexual abuse.
“Every night he’d say, ‘See what I did? . . . You have pictures with so and so . . . Joe talked to you . . . How you can do that without me?’ ” Smith said. “That was part of his grooming to abuse me.’’
Smith said that at the time, Namath was “one of the greatest athletes in the world” and that Smith’s mother thought he would be safe there.
“It was a place my mother [thought] would create wonderful childhood memories for me,’’ he said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.’’
Smith said the trauma convinced him not to father children because he feared any kids he had might also suffer his fate.
His 2019 negligence suit targets “Broadway Joe,” the camp and Dockery, among others.
Smith’s case was filed under the now-expired Child Victims Act, which had temporarily reopened the statute of limitations allowing alleged victims to file civil suits against institutions and individuals.
“My innocence was robbed from me at the age of 12 years old at the Joe Namath Football camp in Wilmington, Vt., at the Sitzmark Lodge in July of 1972,” Smith told The Post, accompanied in the interview by lawyer Arthur Middlemiss.
Smith, who was attending Poly Prep at the time, explained he went to the Namath football camp as the “invited guest” of Foglietta.
According to the lawsuit, Poly Prep later discovered — and admitted — that Foglietta had preyed on male students for years and ended up settling a massive suit and sending a letter of apology to alumni, including Smith.
Smith claims in his lawsuit that the camp supervisors did nothing when Foglietta, who regularly brought his Poly Prep players to the Namath summer camps in Vermont and Massachusetts, insisted that Smith sleep in his room.
Namath and Dockery should have known about the sleeping arrangement, the amended complaint says.
Foglietta had Smith sleep in his bed, the plaintiff said.
Smith said his own presence at the camp was unusual because most of the participants were older high-school students.
The other Poly Prep students bunked up in a few rooms, his lawsuit claims. He said he expected to sleep in rooms with them but that Foglietta told him, “‘Oh, you’re not paying, so you can’t stay in the room with all the Poly guys. You’re going to stay with me in my room.’”
Smith said that the coach seemed to take a liking to him after his father died — but that it is clear now that Foglietta “groomed” him, with the abuse starting in a room at the Namath camp in 1972 and continued during camp stints in 1973 and 1975.
He said that one time, Foglietta asked counselors to send a cot to his room to indicate Smith would sleep separately from him although still in the same room. The coach never retrieved the cot, Smith said.
“He had the entire evening with me alone. The sexual abuse physically started there with his actions, started with massages, then it became naked massages where I was naked. He became naked, and it escalated from there, and it lasted the entire week,” Smith said.
Smith said Foglietta would masturbate in front of him and that the coach “tried to masturbate me, but I was 12 years old — I couldn’t achieve an erection.”
“He would actually show me pornography and pornographic magazines to try to arouse me at the Joe Namath camp,’’ Smith said. “In the morning it was like nothing ever happened. ‘Come on, Phil, we’ll go get breakfast.’”
Smith said Foglietta “violated me manually for the first two to three years” at the Namath camp.
Smith said he stayed silent about the abuse for 45 years — until his wife noticed he acted irritably while watching news about the Penn State sex abuse scandal and confronted him.
For the first time, he confided that he was a child sex abuse victim, he said.
“If my coming forward can only persuade one survivor that it is OK to come out into the sunshine and that he or she deserves all of life’s happiness and that they should not live in the darkness of guilt and self-loathing with feelings of inadequacy . . . then I will know my actions were meaningful and not hopeless or in vain,” Smith said.
His amended complaint, filed July 30, 2021, accuses the defendants of negligence, inadequate security, breach of duty, assault, battery and causing emotional distress, and seeks unspecified damages.
Lawyers for Namath, Dockery and the camp did not respond to requests for comment.
A Brooklyn Supreme Court denied a defense motion to dismiss the case, and at least several of the defendants have appealed that decision as the case continues.