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Former Nittany Lions player files federal lawsuit against James Franklin, Penn State for hazing

UniqueThis 132 Jan 14
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James Franklin, Penn State facing lawsuit from former player (2:40)

Tom VanHaaren discusses the lawsuit former Penn State football player Isaiah Humphries has filed against the school alleging that he was hazed and coaches did not take action when told about it. (2:40)

2:48 PM ET

Former Penn State football player Isaiah Humphries filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the university, coach James Franklin and former teammate Damion Barber.

The suit alleges that Humphries was subject to hazing brought on by Barber, linebacker Micah Parsons, defensive lineman Yetur Gross-Matos and linebacker Jesse Luketa and that the coaching staff was aware of the hazing and did not protect Humphries.

The allegations include instances when the named players collectively orchestrated, directed and facilitated a campaign to harass and haze underclassmen on the Penn State football team. The hazing alleged in the suit includes the participants stating that they intended to make the underclassmen "their b---- because this is a prison."

The participants allegedly referenced former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky -- who is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term for sexually abusing children -- by saying, "I am going to Sandusky you."

The actions included wrestling underclassmen to the ground while maintaining restraint, simulating a "humping" action; wrestling underclassmen to the ground while another participant placed his genitals on the face of underclassmen; and instances of the participants placing their genitals on the buttocks of the alleged victims and stroking their genitalia.

Penn State released a statement Tuesday, making note of its own investigation into the matter and emphasizing that charges were not filed.

"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," the school said. "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 that no charges would be pursued."

A Penn State representative, when asked for comment on the allegations involving Franklin, told ESPN "based on extensive interviews, we did not learn of any information that would substantiate the claims." When asked for comment regarding the hazing allegations, the representative said "no claims of hazing were substantiated against anyone."

Humphries is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Steven Marino, who says the incident is not isolated to just his client.

"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 2018," Marino said. "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 results of the investigation were then submitted to the Penn State University office of student conduct, according to the lawsuit, and the office of student conduct prosecuted charges lodged against Barber. It is not clear, however, what specific student conduct rule violation he was charged with.

Barber was suspended for the first game of the season, against Idaho, for what was termed at the time of the suspension as a violation of team rules, but he played in the second game, against Buffalo.

Marino says the father of his client, Leonard Humphries, notified the Penn State coaches of the hazing and that no action was taken at the time of those complaints. Leonard Humphries is a former Penn State football player and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1992.

"This is a family with a football pedigree," Marino said. "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."

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the coaching staff knew about the hazing and on multiple occasions "observed the harassment and hazing which the plaintiff and other lower classmen were being subjected to in the football locker room."

Humphries is alleging that the coaching staff overly and unfairly scrutinized his athletic performance after he reported the harassment and that he was scorned and punished by the staff.

Humphries left Penn State in 2018 and enrolled at Cal, where he is now a part of the Bears football program.