NFL player, second man sue United Airlines over female passenger's conduct

(Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

An unnamed NFL player and a second man sued United Airlines on Wednesday, alleging the airline flight crew did little to help them after they complained about the alleged sexual misconduct of a female passenger during a February flight from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J.

The plaintiffs are identified only as John Doe 1, the NFL player, and John Doe 2 in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, which alleges sexual assault, sexual battery, negligence and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

"United does not have and/or enforce adequate policies and procedures to prevent sexual assaults on its flights and to properly respond to such incidents that do happen," the suit alleges.

A UA representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The two men and the female passenger were on board a UA red-eye flight on Feb. 10 from Los Angeles to Newark and all three had seats in the same row, according to the suit. The plaintiffs are black and the woman is white, the suit states. The NFL player lives in New Jersey and the second plaintiff resides in Pennsylvania, according to the suit.

The woman boarded after the plaintiffs and the majority of the passengers had already taken their seats, the suit states. The plaintiffs observed her to be "disheveled and unbalanced," according to the suit.

The second plaintiff helped the woman stow her bags in an overhead bin, the suit states. As she sat down, she began harassing the NFL player, who was wearing a face mask in light of the news coverage he had heard regarding the prevalence and transmission of COVID-19, according to the suit.

The woman began hitting the NFL player's arm, told him that he was "frightening" and asked why he wore a mask, the suit states. The player replied he was being proactive because of the growing COVID-19 concerns.

Both plaintiffs saw the woman taking unknown prescription medications and they both believed she was intoxicated, the suit states.

The second plaintiff asked a flight attendant a short distance away to intervene and stop the woman's behavior, but he reneged on a promise to come by and check, the suit states.

After the NFL player's companion sat down again, the woman continued to sexually assault and abuse the player by making unwanted sexual advances toward him and saying things of a sexual nature, the suit states. She also "groped and massaged" his knees and thighs, according to the suit.

"Fearful of the perception of being a male victim and the racial stigma of being a young African-American male, (the player) patiently pleaded for (the woman) to stop...," the suit states.

At one point, the player "jumped up from his seat and complained in front of the entire plane" that the woman was inappropriately touching him, according to the suit. He left to notify the same flight attendant, at which time the female passenger began to sexually accost the second plaintiff, the
suit states.

When the flight attendant reached the plaintiffs' seats, he asked, "Is this the same lady?" the suit states.

The woman admitted that she was drinking and had taken pills, the suit states. The flight attendant moved her to another row, the suit states.

The plaintiffs said they believe the woman was moved a second time for again being disruptive and was ultimately moved to a row with no other passengers.

UA presented both plaintiffs with a $150 voucher for their ordeal, the suit states.