An unnamed NFL player is suing United Airlines after an incident onboard a February 10 transcontinental redeye flight in which the sports star alleges a predatory female passenger sexually assaulted him on several occasions with flight attendants failing to come to his rescue. The case, which lists seven separate complaints including sexual assault, sexual battery and negligent infliction of emotional distress, was recently filed in the Superior Court of the State of California.
The NFL player and a second man who he was travelling with have not been named and in an attempt to keep their identities secret, the case against United simply lists them as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2. According to the Bleacher Report, the men are described as “African American”, while the female assailant is “Caucasian”.
The complaint describes the female passenger as both “intoxicated” and allegedly suffering from the effects of prescription pills during the overnight flight from Los Angeles to Newark on February 10. The woman allegedly made multiple “unwanted sexual advances” towards the player during which time flight attendants failed to respond.
At one point, the woman told the player that the face mask he was wearing to protect himself in light of the COVID-19 outbreak looked “frightening”. The woman then allegedly ripped the face mask from his face and grabbed his groin several times.
The lawsuit, which is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, claims it took four separate complaints to the onboard crew for flight attendants to eventually move the assailant to another seat. The Darwish and Azizian Law Firm’s which are representing the two men said the lawsuit was being brought in an attempt to prevent similar incidents from ever occurring in the future.
“Our wish would be that in the future no passengers’ multiple warnings and complaints to flight attendants, the onboard authority figures, will go unheeded until it’s too late and the damage has been done,” said Darwish and Azizian in a joint statement.
“This matter is unfortunately based on several instances of assault – physical, sexual, and verbal – on a “red-eye” United Airlines flight. Instances that could have been prevented, if not the harm reduced, had United’s personnel simply taken action sooner.”
“Our goal is to shine a light on how assaults can, and are, being made on men, and not just women,” the statement continued. “This is significant because assault is assault, regardless of the gender, race, and physical attributes of the victim. Once these characteristics are added into the equation, the usual stigma and social stereotypes associated with sexual assaults are amplified.”
The union that represents United’s flight attendants has led a high-profile campaign to highlight the continuing problem of in-flight sexual assaults, pushing for greater awareness and better training for flight attendants. Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) said last year that she could not remember ever receiving any training on how to deal with serious complaints like sexual harassment or assault.
The Association of Flight Attendants claimed last September that the airline industry’s sexist past continues to define the atmosphere in the aircraft cabin. A 2017 study conducted by AFA found that one in five flight attendants had experienced a report of passenger on passenger sexual assault while working a flight.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.