By ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS
(NEWARK, N.J.) — An NFL player has sued United Airlines after he was allegedly sexually assaulted on a flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey.
The player, who was not named, was flying home to New Jersey on Feb. 10 when the alleged incident occurred, according to the lawsuit. During the trip, a woman sitting next to him “continued to sexually assault and abuse [him],” the lawsuit states, including by grabbing his penis and groping his thigh.
The woman also stroked her hand across his lap near his genitals, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Aside from the alleged sexual assault, the lawsuit states that the NFL player was wearing a face mask to protect himself from COVID-19, but the woman accused of him of being sick, told him he was “frightening” and ripped off the mask.
United Airlines issued a statement to ABC News, saying, “The safety and well-being of our customers is always our top priority. In this instance, the customer involved was moved to a different seat. Because litigation is now pending, we’re unable to provide further comment.”
The player, who is black, was “fearful of the perception of being a male victim and the racial stigma of being a young African American male,” according to the lawsuit. At one point, he “patiently pleaded” with the woman, who is white, to stop and remove her hand, but she did not, according to the lawsuit.
Another man, who was also not named in the lawsuit and identified only as John Doe 2, was traveling with the player at the time. That man saw the woman groping the player’s knees and thighs and alerted a flight attendant, however, no action was taken, according to the lawsuit.
When the woman then allegedly grabbed the player’s genitals, the player stood up and said the woman was “touching” him before making his way to the rear of the plane to find a flight attendant.
During that time, the woman moved seats to be closer to John Doe 2 and grabbed his leg and groin area, according to the lawsuit. A flight attendant then came over and asked, “Is this the same lady?” before the woman was moved to another row, the lawsuit states.
The woman, whose identity remains unknown, admitted that she was drinking and had taken pills, according to the lawsuit.
Both men were presented with $150 vouchers, however, lawyers for them say they were not properly protected even after complaining.
The men were “put at unnecessary risk of harm and in many cases suffered and continue to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress including depression, anxiety, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and fear of flying and travel,” according to the lawsuit.
“We bring this lawsuit with the hope that it will be one of the last of its kind,” the lawyers for the men said in a statement to ABC News. “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.”
They are seeking punitive damages for multiple claims, including sexual assault, sexual battery, battery and negligence.
The defendants in the lawsuit are United Airlines and multiple unnamed flight attendants.
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