NFL Player Sues United Airlines, Alleging He Was Sexually Assaulted During Flight

United Airline Planes / Drew Angerer / Getty Images

USA TODAYChris Bumbaca – An unidentified NFL player filed a lawsuit against United Airlines, saying another passenger sexually assaulted and harassed him during a February flight. 

A female passenger, described in the lawsuit as a “middle-aged, Caucasian female,” was seated next to him and began questioning why the player was wearing a facemask, which, per to the complaint, was to be proactive about the spread of COVID-19.  According to the World Health Organization, there were 12 confirmed cases in the United States.

Eventually, the woman allegedly began engaging in “verbal and/or physical conduct of a sexual nature” toward the NFL player, identified as “John Doe 1” from Essex County, New Jersey. Another plaintiff in the lawsuit is listed as “John Doe 2,” who does not play in the league and resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both are identified in the lawsuit as black males.

The civil suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday and seeking both punitive and statutory damages, alleges the flight attendants aboard the United flight did not act appropriately to deal with the woman’s alleged behavior.

At one point, the lawsuit claims, the defendant allegedly grabbed the player’s penis and ripped off his facemask. When he got up from his seat to notify a flight attendant, the woman allegedly moved to the middle seat of the aisle and began groping John Doe 2.

Per the complaint, the woman “admitted she was drinking and had taken pills” and was moved to another row when flight attendants arrived to the row.

“The safety and well-being of our customers is always our top priority,” a United spokeswoman said in an email to the New York Times on Wednesday.

“This is a civil matter, and although we might feel the assailant’s actions were criminal, we are not in a position to seek such redress,” Benji Azizian, lawyer for the two men, wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports.

In addition to suing for sexual assault and sexual battery, damages are being sought for battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence and negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention.

“With sexual assault, or any assault for that matter, it is hard to quantify the harm suffered,” Azizian said. “At this time, we do not have a dollar amount available for comment, but will say that we are seeking justice and compensation, including punitive damages, for what our clients had to endure.”

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