STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (CBS) — Penn State’s football team is back in the headlines, after news of a new lawsuit from a former football player who claims he was hazed and harassed by teammates. He also claims the coaching staff did nothing to stop it. The suit was filed this week and now the former player’s Philadelphia-based lawyer is speaking.
A former @PennStateFball player is suing Penn State. He claims he was hazed and harassed on a daily basis and the coach did nothing to stop it. @CBSPhilly was first to talk to his lawyer. Hear from him at noon pic.twitter.com/Gu2G6hKAjN
— Howard Monroe (@HMonroeNews) January 15, 2020
The suit was filed on behalf of former Nittany Lions safety Isaiah Humphries. He says he was subjected to violent and overtly sexual hazing by his teammates. The suit claims when he told the coaching staff, including head coach James Franklin, about the hazing, he was ignored and was retaliated against.
Humphries is represented by South Philly attorney Steve Marino. He says his client first told the coaching staff about the hazing in 2018.
Humphries claims several teammates would wrestle him and other players to the ground and shove their genitals in their faces. Humphries says another threat involved players saying, “I am going to Sandusky you,” referencing disgraced former coach Jerry Sandusky.
Humphries says the hazing happened on a daily basis. According to the complaint, Franklin and his coaching staff not only ignored the hazing but retaliated when Humphries came forward, essentially forcing Humphries from the program and allegedly slandering him when he tried to transfer.
“Not only does he have a statutory duty, he has a common law duty and I will say a contractual duty to make sure his athletes are safe,” Marino said of Franklin.
Marino says his client was humiliated and left to fend for himself.
“This wasn’t just horseplay or kids wrestling in the locker room,” Marino said. “This was a display of humiliation and emasculation. They would take him down, restrain him, and while he was restrained in a display of dominance, they would simulate sexual acts. That’s not kid stuff. That’s not horseplay, that’s not roughhousing. That’s humiliation and that’s misconduct and the coach knew about it.”
Humphries had no choice but to leave PSU after he was hazed and harassed on a daily basis.
“He is recruited heavily. He chooses PSU, they promise to keep him safe,” Marino said. “He comes to school and then he has to resign and change his lifestyle, go to a different school. That demonstrates how pervasive it was. Is he supposed to be in that horrible environment? Is he supposed to worry about getting bullied and harassed and abused every time he walks in a locker room?”
After receiving an athletic scholarship, Humphries played just one year at Penn State. Humphries is currently enrolled at the University of California.
Anthony Lubrano is a former Penn State trustee. He served on the board during the fallout from the Sandusky scandal.
“Let’s do our due diligence, let’s carefully measure before we cut and then make some determinations,” Lubrano said. “These allegations coming from anyone are alarming and someone needs to pay attention to them to ascertain whether or not they’re true. Then an action needs to take place.”
Pennsylvania law requires hazing allegations to be investigated when they’re reported. The school says independent investigations were conducted and the Centre County District Attorney ultimately decided not to press charges.
The university issued the following statement:
“The University has established processes in place for responding to claims of potential misconduct. 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 lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages. Marino also says he expects other players to come forward, as well.
You can watch the full interview with attorney Steve Marino below: