Former Penn State Player Files Lawsuit Against Head Coach James Franklin

James Franklin

Getty James Franklin

A former Penn State football player has filed a federal lawsuit against active head coach James Franklin, former teammate Damion Barber and the university.

ESPN and others reported Tuesday that former Nittany Lion Isaiah Humphries filed a federal lawsuit alleging multiple Penn State players hazed Humphries during his time with the school.

Humphries said that Penn State players planned and conducted a campaign to harass and haze the underclassmen on the football team. According to the lawsuit, participants told underclass players they intended to make the young players “their b—- because this is prison.”

The details of suit say Humphries was subject to hazing by Barber, linebacker Micah Parsons, defensive lineman Yetur Gross-Matos and linebacker Jesse Luketa. It also says the coaching staff was aware of the hazing incidents and failed to protect Humphries.

The suit names other disturbing examples of hazing practices, including a participant’s reference to former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who is currently serving at least a 30-year prison sentence for sexually abusing children.

The suit states one participant said, “I’m going to Sandusky you.”

According to the suit, incidents of hazing included wrestling underclassmen players to the ground and restraining them while simulating sex or placing one’s genitals on the underclassmen’s faces. The suit also cites incidents in which participants placed their genitals on the buttocks of the alleged victims and proceeded to stroke their genitalia.

Humphries’ lawsuit asserts the Penn State coaching staff was aware of the actions taking place in the Nittany Lions’ locker room. According to the suit, the Penn State coaching staff became overly critical of his athletic performance after he reported the harassment, and he says he was punished by the coaching staff as a result of his report.

Humphries is now a member of the University of California football team. He departed from Penn State in 2018.

Penn State’s Response

The University has released a statement since the lawsuit surfaced:

The University has established processes in place for responding to claims of sexual misconduct. In accordance with our processes, The Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct carried out investigations independent from Intercollegiate Athletics. In addition, Penn State police investigated related allegations and forwarded the results of that investigation to the Office of the Centre County District Attorney. The DA reviewed the case and decided no charges would be pursued.

The Attorney’s Response

Humphries’ attorney, Steven Marino, also released a statement that was reported by ESPN:

Isaiah attended the school during the calendar year of 2018. He leaves Penn State to another school where he’s offered a scholarship in December. The events that arise to an investigation conducted by Penn State’s office of sexual misconduct and response, that doesn’t arise until May 2019. That investigation was triggered by an anonymous tip and the source of that tip was not my client…. The father knows the coaches and told them what was happening to his son as it was reported to him by his son. No affirmative action was taken to protect this student-athlete at that time.

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