Penn State is 'Disappointed' in ESPN Story, Will Defend James Franklin 'Vigorously'

Penn State responds to ESPN story alleging James Franklin told a former player not to report a fight to police.
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Penn State said it is "disappointed" in an ESPN story alleging that football coach James Franklin instructed a former player not to report a fight with another player to police, adding that the claim has "no merit."

Penn State responded Friday to an ESPN story concerning former player Isaiah Humphries, who filed a hazing lawsuit against Penn State, Franklin and a former football player in January. ESPN, citing a university document, reported that Franklin told Humphries, "Don't talk to police" after an alleged fight with former Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.

In a statement, Penn State said it will continue to defend Franklin "vigorously."

'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."

Humphries, who transferred from the program after the 2018 season, filed his initial hazing lawsuit in January. Some elements were denied. Humphries since has filed two amended complaints, the most recent in October, seeking a civil trial. Penn State filed a motion to dismiss the third amended complaint this month.

In the third complaint, Humphries alleges that in March 2018, he was sleeping in the university's Morgan Academic Center when Parsons, who opted out of this season, threw a pail of water on him and his belongings.

Humphries threw a bottle of Gatorade at Parsons, who responded by punching Humphries and choking him, the complaint alleges. Humphries "brandished a knife at Micah Parsons to ward off his aggression," the complaint alleges.

According to the complaint, Humphries met with Franklin, who said he expected players on his team "to fist-fight and take a beating, rather than brandish a weapon."

Humphries' third complaint consists of 10 counts, including allegations of assault and battery counts against former Penn State player Damion Barber. The complaint also alleges that Penn State violated Title IX and state anti-hazing statutes.

In January, Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna issued a statement saying an investigation into the hazing allegations produced no charges. Penn State also said then that investigations by two university offices did not substantiate claims against Franklin or the program.

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