In a lawsuit filed anonymously to the Superior Court of the State of California for Los Angeles County on Wednesday, an NFL player alleges that he was sexually assaulted and harassed multiple times during a cross-country flight, but that United Airlines failed to take appropriate action or cooperate with authorities. Along with sexual assault and sexual battery, the player is seeking damages for “intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence and negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention” by the company.
The lawsuit was first reported by Bleacher Report’s “Untold Stories,” the host of which posted a copy of the anonymous suit on social media.
“Breaking: A NFL player is suing [United Airlines], alleging that he was sexually assaulted [and] harassed multiple times by a woman on a recent flight,” “Untold Stories” host Master Tesfatsion tweeted Wednesday along with a copy of the complaint. “The lawsuit states United Airlines failed to properly respond during the flight, and failed to cooperate with authorities.”
Breaking: A NFL player is suing @United Airlines, alleging that he was sexually assaulted & harassed multiple times by a woman on a recent flight. The lawsuit states United Airlines failed to properly respond during the flight, and failed to cooperate with authorities. pic.twitter.com/oS4DJZlc7V
— Master (@MasterTes) May 20, 2020
In a series of post, Tesfatsion provided the following summary of the claims of the lawsuit:
The allegation occurred on Feb. 10 during a redeye from LA to Newark. The NFL player claims the woman made multiple unwanted sexual advances. The flight attendants did not move her until the 4th complaint, when the woman grabbed his penis [and] ripped off his protective face mask.
The lawsuit claims the woman previously asked the NFL player why he wore a face mask. He said it’s due to the growing COVID-19 concerns. The woman said he looked “frightening” with the mask on. The NFL player also claims the woman was intoxicated and taking prescription pills.
The NFL player does not wish to release his identity. He filed the lawsuit under “John Doe 1” with another man “John Doe 2” sitting in his row with similar claims. Both men are described as African American males. The woman is described as a middle-aged Caucasian female.
In an update, the Bleacher Report host added that a First Amendment complaint has been filed “to include battery on top of the other 7 complaints previously filed.”
The firm representing the two men, the Darwish and Azizian Law Firm, has since issued a statement explaining the ultimate “goal” of the case.
“We bring this lawsuit with the hope that it will be one of the last of its kind,” it reads. “Our wish would be that in the future no passengers’ multiple warnings and complaints to flight attendants, the onboard authority figures, will go unheeded until it’s too late and the damage has been done. This matter is unfortunately based on several instances of assault – physical, sexual, and verbal – on a ‘red-eye’ United Airlines flight. Instances that could have been prevented, if not the harm reduced, had United’s personnel simply taken action sooner.”
“In-flight sexual assaults continue to be an ongoing problem during commercial flights, particularly during ‘red-eye’ flights,” the statement continues. “In 2018, the FBI issued strict warnings to airlines, including United, about the number of sexual assaults increasing at ‘an alarming rate.’ United has an obligation to keep its passengers safe.”
“Our goal is to shine a light on how assaults can, and are, being made on men, and not just women,” attorneys Darren Darwish and Benji Azizian explain. “This is significant because assault is assault, regardless of the gender, race, and physical attributes of the victim. Once these characteristics are added into the equation, the usual stigma and social stereotypes associated with sexual assaults are amplified.”
TMZ reports that United gave the anonymous player a $150 voucher following the incident. They also reported a succinct response from United. “The safety and well-being of our customers is always our top priority,” said a spokesperson. “In this instance, the customer involved was moved to a different seat. Because litigation is now pending, we’re unable to provide further comment.”
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