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Report: Former Penn State Football Player Who Filed Lawsuit Claims Franklin Told Him Not to Report Fight to Police

by and on November 20, 2020 1:21 PM

A former Penn State football player alleged head coach James Franklin told him not to speak with police following a 2018 fight with a teammate, according to a university report obtained by ESPN.

The allegations filed by former defensive back Isaiah Humphries are contained in a draft report that was part of a Title IX inquiry into an allegation of sexual assault last year in the Lasch Football Building. Humphries, who transferred to Cal in 2019, filed a federal lawsuit against the school, Franklin and former teammate Damion Barber earlier this year over hazing allegations.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann has dismissed some of the claims in that case, but allowed Humphries to file amended complaints. Penn State has denied the allegations and filed multiple motions to dismiss. Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna has said that an investigation did not find enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.

According to ESPN's report, which otherwise mostly added some details to already reported allegations and denials, Humphries told a Title IX investigator about a fight with linebacker Micah Parsons that allegedly began when Parsons poured water on him. Humphries responded by pouring Gatorade on Parsons and punching him. Humphries reportedly said Parsons was strangling him so Humphries pulled out a pocket knife, which ended the altercation.

According to ESPN, the investigator wrote: “Mr. Humphries added that Coach Franklin came and said, ‘Don’t talk to the police because Micah is his start [sic] player and makes money, so if he gets in trouble, he’s gone,’ meaning Mr. Humphries would be gone.”

Humphries’ father, former Penn State player Leonard Humphries, told ESPN he had an “animated” conversation with Franklin following the incident.

“[Franklin is] on the phone saying, ‘Where did [Isaiah] get a f—ing knife? I can’t control the f—ing situation. Now the police are going to get involved,'” Leonard Humphries said Franklin told him.

Penn State issued a statement on Friday denying the allegations:

“Penn State diligently works to foster a community of safety and security for its students and student-athletes, so that they may participate freely in the academic and athletic opportunities the University offers. We’re disappointed that ESPN has chosen to rehash a series of allegations that have remained unsubstantiated despite being investigated thoroughly through the University’s established processes for responding to claims of misconduct and by the Penn State police.

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"Coach Franklin never instructed Mr. Humphries to avoid contacting authorities. The court has twice rejected Mr. Humphries’ complaints, and despite his continued revisions, previously dismissed the claims against Coach Franklin in their entirety. We believe the claims relating to Coach Franklin have no merit, and we will continue to defend him vigorously.”

Humphries claim about Franklin's remarks about the fight, according to the report, came in response to a question about Title IX training, which Humphries said the team regularly received. But he claimed Franklin discouraged players from sharing information outside the team and would "remind people not to say anything."

Other players interviewed for the investigation, however "denied Franklin said that or told school investigators they interpreted it to mean don't talk to the media," ESPN reported.

"Some players said Franklin encouraged them to be honest and open if questioned by investigators," ESPN's John Barr wrote.

Humphries previously alleged sexual harassment by Parsons, defensive lineman Yetur Gross-Matos, and defensive tackle Damion Barber. Those claims were included in January’s lawsuit against Barber, Franklin and Penn State.

Humphries alleged that the players would wrestle teammates to the ground and simulate sexual acts, as well as place their genitals on or near the alleged victims. 

The lawsuit also accuses players of saying things such as “I am going to Sandusky you. ” Additionally, Humphries said some platers allegedly said they intended on making him and other new players “their bitch because this is a prison.”

Players who told investigators that they saw Barber wrestle a teammate who was not Humphries and simulate sex acts said they did not see Gross-Matos or Parsons touch teammates inappropriately.

"The player said he didn't see Barber do that to Humphries and, in his statement, questioned Humphries' character, saying he lies for no reason, the investigator wrote in the report," according to ESPN. "The teammate who was said to have been targeted also spoke to investigators and said he was wrestled to the ground by Barber but that they were both 'always fully clothed; and no one took it seriously."

Many players interviewed for the investigation said they did not see any non-consensual touching in the locker room.

Additionally, according to ESPN, 68 players signed an August 2019 statement saying they didn’t witness any sexual assault in the locker room.

In August 2019, Gross-Matos reportedly took a polygraph test to rebut allegations of unwanted sexual contact with Humphries in the locker room. An examiner found “No Deception Indicated.”

When the university and Franklin moved to dismiss Humphries’ claims earlier this year, they claimed he failed to establish negligence and was harassed because of his lack of seniority, not his gender, thus failing to establish claims under Title IX.

The latest filing in the case came on Nov. 13, with the university again seeking for it to be dismissed entirely.

"This Court has generously allowed Humphries leniency in trying to pin down a theory of his case and plead facts that may support it, but he has failed to do so four times," attorney Matthew Karis wrote. "At some point, this case must end, at least as it involves the University Defendants—and that time is now.

Cantorna said in January that a criminal investigation did not substantiate Humphries' hazing allegations. He told ESPN, however, that the case remains open and encouraged anyone with additional information to come forward.

Cantorna also said his office did not receive a police report at the time of the alleged fight between Humphries and Parsons.

Humphries transferred to Cal in January 2019. Barber left Penn State in June 2020 to join Austin Peay.

Last year, Penn State was required to adopt “major changes” in the way it responds to complaints of sexual abuse and Title IX violations.


Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

Matt DiSanto is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State.
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