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Franklin told former player Humphries not to talk to police after fight with Parsons: report

Photo by Penn State Athletics

In a graphic and detailed story posted this morning by ESPN, former Penn State football player Isaiah Humphries said coach James Franklin told him not to talk to police after Humphries had gotten into a fight with star linebacker Micah Parsons in 2018.

The fight involved Parsons choking Humphries and then Humphries pulling a knife, according to ESPN’s story.

There are also lots of disturbing details about alleged actions in the Penn State locker room, many of which are sexually related.

The following is from ESPN:

The accusation by now-former Nittany Lions defensive back Isaiah Humphries is contained in a draft report that was part of a 2019 Title IX inquiry into sexual assault allegations in the Penn State locker room. The document sheds new light on the allegations that became public when Humphries sued the school early this year. The report, which does not include conclusions by investigators, contains interviews with dozens of football players, coaches and staff.

Humphries told investigators that, after his fight with linebacker Micah Parsons in March 2018, he met with Franklin in the coach’s car outside the Lasch football building, according to the report. 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.”

In a statement to ESPN, a university spokesperson said “Franklin has made it clear that he did not instruct Mr. 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 statement said.

Humphries, a defensive back who transferred to Cal, is suing Penn State. His hazing suit, according to ESPN, alleges sexual harassment by Parsons, defensive tackle Damion Barber and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos. Barber has since transferred to Austin Peay, and Gross-Matos is in the NFL.

The lawsuit by Humphries includes an alleged reference made by a Penn State player about Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant convicted of child sex abuse.

From the ESPN story:

Humphries told school investigators Barber and Parsons threatened him, telling him they were “making me a b—- because this is prison,” and that Barber said, “I’m gonna Sandusky you,” referring to former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. He also said they would try to place genitalia close to players’ faces and simulate sex acts, and attempt to touch him in the shower, according to the report. He said the three players would wrestle him to the ground while clad only in their towels.

The ESPN story has explicit details concerning allegations of sexually related incidents that took place in the locker room. You can read the graphic details in the story here.

Many of the allegations center around Barber’s actions in the locker room. But the ESPN story also points out this:

Many of the players interviewed in the draft report obtained by ESPN either said they didn’t see or denied there had been any nonconsensual touching within the locker room. Many of those same players said if there was any wrestling, it was playful and consensual and not meant to demean.

As for the fight with Parsons, this is what ESPN reported:

Humphries said his 2018 fight with Parsons began when Parsons poured water on him while he was asleep in the academic center, and that some of the water got on his laptop and phone, according to the report. Humphries said he then poured Gatorade on Parsons, who then punched him.

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Humphries told a school investigator that Parsons was choking him and wouldn’t stop, so Humphries pulled out a pocket knife, which he said led Parsons to stop choking him and put an end to the fight, according to the report.

Following the fight, Humphries’ father, former Penn State player Leonard Humphries, had an animated conversation with Franklin, he told ESPN.

“[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.

Two days after the fight, in a meeting inside Franklin’s office attended by two of his assistant coaches, Isaiah Humphries said Franklin told him “you should have just gotten your ass beat and not pulled a knife,” according to the amended complaint Humphries filed in October.

With regards to the legal aspects and how Franklin handled things, here is what ESPN reported:

Last week, Penn State and Franklin filed a motion to dismiss Humphries’ claims against them, arguing, in part, that Humphries failed to establish negligence. They also argue that Humphries alleges he was harassed because of his lack of seniority on the team, not because of his gender, and therefore fails to establish his claims under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

Humphries’ claim that Franklin discouraged him from reporting his fight to police came in response to a question about training on Title IX practices. Humphries told a school investigator that players received the training about once a week, but he described an atmosphere in which Franklin discouraged players from sharing information about alleged incidents to the media or outside the team. He said Franklin would “remind people not to say anything,” the investigator wrote.

Other players, when asked whether Franklin told them not to discuss team issues, either denied Franklin said that or told school investigators they interpreted it to mean don’t talk to the media, according to the report. Some players said Franklin encouraged them to be honest and open if questioned by investigators.

Penn State issued the following statement in response to the ESPN 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,” the statement said. “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.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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