We Are…In Legal Trouble

Tackling another lawsuit

Penn State Football is once again in the spotlight, and not for the team’s spectacular prospects or prior season performances.  Head coach James Franklin and several named players are involved in a hazing lawsuit, filed earlier this month by a former Nittany Lion.  Despite attempts to report the hazing to coach Franklin and staff, the former player claims he faced retaliation that affected his potential for success as a Penn State football player.  Although this one player faced the retaliation, the underclassmen as a whole were allegedly subjected to the harassment on and off the football field.

The key plaintiff in the lawsuit, Isaiah Humphries, recounted various instances of abuse by the upperclassmen, including sexual behavior, physical bullying, and threats.  After Humphries and his father, a former Penn State and NFL player, both consulted with the coaching staff, it was as if history was repeating itself. Their claims were not followed by an appropriate investigation or even compassion and protection.  Instead, Humphries was seemingly forced out of the football program.  According to the lawsuit, he was set up to fail at practice and punished by not being allowed to play in games.  Eventually, the staff stated medical reasons to support their recommendation of having Humphries removed from the team.

As Humphries initiated his research of transfer opportunities, the Penn State coaching staff refused to endorse the player’s capabilities to prospective schools.  The members of the coaching staff apparently supplied negative criticisms of Humphries’ performance.  While Humphries was only with Penn State in 2018, it was not until May 2019 that an investigation took place, ignited by an anonymous tip.  One of the named defendants in the lawsuit faced charges pressed by the Penn State University Office of student conduct, however, the specific violation of student conduct is not known to the public.  That student’s penalty was mild, as he was benched for only the first game of the season.

Despite the claims outlined in the lawsuit, the Penn State senior director of media relations insists that any instances of hazing were unfounded after an investigation.  There was no substantial evidence presented that led to further discipline of any particular football player.  Some students have voiced their opinions on the incident and are skeptical that extreme bullying would be tolerated, given the school’s past and the current positive camaraderie around the main campus.