An unnamed American football player is suing United Airlines, saying he was harassed and sexually assaulted by an intoxicated female passenger on a red-eye flight back in February.
According to the lawsuit, soon after boarding the cross-country flight, a woman sitting in the same row as the man confronted him over a face mask that he was wearing as protection against the coronavirus. She made sexual advances towards the man, reached inside his jacket to caress his chest, then grabbed his crotch and ripped off his mask.
The player said he and a man flying with him had complained several times to two flight attendants, who gave the woman one verbal warning but ignored other requests to intervene when the harassment continued.
Lawyers for the player and the second man filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the Associated Press reported on May 23rd. It has been revealed that the football player lives in Essex County, New Jersey, and the second man lives in Philadelphia. They are seeking unspecified damages from the airline, that so far has only gave them two $150 vouchers for their trouble.
United Airlines confirmed that an incident occurred on the flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Los Angeles, but did not elaborate further.
“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,” airline spokeswoman Leigh Schramm said in a statement.
“Because litigation is now pending, we’re unable to provide further comment.”
The lawsuit said the woman was white and the two men are black. During the incident, it said, the football player pleaded with the woman to stop because he was fearful “of the perception of being a male victim and the racial stigma of being a young African American male.”