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Former Penn State football player files hazing lawsuit against James Franklin, other players

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
  • Former Penn State football player Isaiah Humphries has filed a hazing lawsuit.
  • The lawsuit was filed vs. PSU coach James Franklin, the university and a player.
  • The lawsuit alleges that he was hazed and harassed while with the team.
Isaiah Humphries

Former Penn State player Isaiah Humphries has alleged that coach James Franklin ignored violent, sexual hazing on the Nittany Lions’ football team, which included some players telling underclassmen, “I’m going to Sandusky you.” 

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Humphries in the U.S. Middle District Court against Penn State, Franklin and defensive tackle Damion Barber, and it also identifies linebackers Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos as the leaders of the hazing efforts. Both Barber and Parsons are former Harrisburg High School standouts.

The complaint includes graphic details of perpetrators exposing their genitalia on and near the faces and bodies of victims. Among other things, perpetrators are alleged to have wrestled victims to the ground and made humping actions while on top of them, stolen victims clothes and placed their genitalia on victims while in the team showers.

James Franklin

Additionally, Humphries claims the perpetrators made references to former football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of child molestation. These alleged actions took place at the football facilities within the Lasch Building in University Park, a dormitory and other locations in Centre County.

In the suit, Humphries says coaches observed some of this hazing. He says both he and his father, ex-Penn State player Leonard Humphries, complained to his coaches, including Franklin, about the conduct, but the complaints were ignored. In fact, Humphries claims that actions were taken against him to punish the complaints.

Damion Barber

These actions allegedly included placing Humphries in drills “designed to ensure [Humphries’] failure,” ostracizing Humphries to force him to transfer and negatively reviewing Humphries to other coaching staffs with whom he showed interest after announcing his transfer. Humphries also says he was subjected to “irrational and inappropriate” academic censure and denied necessary medical accommodations for anxiety and narcolepsy.

Additionally, after Humphries did report the incidents, he claims Luketa told him that if he ever visited “his city” in Canada, Luketa would have him gunned down upon his arrival.

All of these allegations would have broken Penn State’s code of conduct, which explicitly prohibits hazing in all forms. The suit also points out that these actions broke promises made by Franklin during Humphries’ recruitment, when Franklin promised Humphries that if he accepted his athletic scholarship, “he would use his best effort to protect the safety and welfare” of Humphries.

Yetur Gross-Matos

PSU statement: "The University has established processes in place for responding to claims of potential misconduct,” Penn State said in a statement to the Post-Gazette. “In accordance with our processes, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct carried out investigations of the plaintiff’s claims 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 (DA). The DA reviewed the case and decided that no charges would be pursued.”

The statement is referring to a 2019 investigations from the university’s Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response in 2019 to look into reports of indecent assaults at the Lasch Building. Numerous people associated with the program were interviewed at that time, and the police report was reviewed by the Centre County District Attorney, who opted not to file any criminal charges.

Micah Parsons

Barber was suspended: Barber was suspended for the first game of the 2019-20 season, though Franklin declined to give a specific reason for the suspension at the time, stating simply that Barber violated team rules.

Humphries is a former three-star safety who committed to Penn State in its 2018 recruiting class. He didn’t play for the Nittany Lions at all in 2018 and transferred the next season to California. Humphries had to sit out the 2019 season with the Golden Bears due to NCAA transfer rules but is eligible to play in 2020. He is seeking compensatory and exemplary damages from the lawsuit.