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Report: Former Penn State Player Says James Franklin Told Him Not To Report Fight To Police

Update, November 20, 1 p.m.:

Penn State issued a statement Friday in response to ESPN’s story:

“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.

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.”

Original Story: 

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 Thursday.

The allegations filed by former defensive back Isaiah Humphries are contained in a report that was part of a Title IX inquiry into sexual assault allegations in Penn State’s locker room last year. Humphries, who transferred to Cal in 2019, sued the school earlier this year, but Centre County declined to pursue charges, and Penn State filed a motion to dismiss the case.

According to the report, Humphries told investigators about a fight with linebacker Micah Parsons that allegedly involved punching, choking, and a knife being pulled. He said he met with Franklin, who told him not to report it to the police.

According to ESPN’s obtained documents, 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.

A university spokesperson denied the report’s claims and said Franklin “made it clear” he didn’t instruct Humphries to avoid contacting authorities.

“We believe the claims relating to Coach Franklin have no merit, and we will continue to defend him vigorously,” the spokesperson said.

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.

The lawsuit’s accusations include the players performing sexual acts in the locker room and saying things like “I am going to fuck you,” “I am going to Sandusky you,” and “This is Jerry.” Additionally, Humphries said the upperclassmen intended on making him and other new players “their bitch because this is a prison.”

Players who reported Barber’s behavior to investigators said they did not see Gross-Matos or Parsons touch teammates inappropriately. 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, Parsons reportedly took a polygraph test to rebut allegations of unwanted sexual contact with Humphries in the locker room. An examiner found “No Deception Indicated.”

Penn State declined to comment on Humphries’ allegations, citing the investigation and privacy concerns amid the ongoing investigation.

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.

Although Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said he “could not substantiate the serious allegations of sexual assault,” the case remains open. He encouraged anyone with additional information to come forward.

Cantorna also alleged his office didn’t receive a police report at the time of the alleged incident.

Leonard Humphries said he had conversations with multiple Penn State coaches about the locker room behavior, according to ESPN, but was not fully aware of the allegations.

“I said, ‘Really? This stuff is happening in the same locker room where the Jerry Sandusky stuff happened? Are you kidding me?'” Leonard Humphries said he told members of Penn State’s coaching staff.

He also alleged the incidents took a large toll on his son, who began losing his hair at 19, felt depressed, and, at one point, considered taking his own life.

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.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. He loves Seinfeld, is really into video games, and would wipe the floor with you in Halo. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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