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NFL Player Sues United Airlines After Alleged Sexual Assault by Fellow Passenger During Flight

Ashley Boucher

An anonymous NFL player is suing United Airlines, claiming that he and another male passenger were sexually harassed and assaulted and that employees on the plane did not do enough about it, despite numerous complaints.

The NFL player and the other male passenger filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, CNN reported Wednesday, seeking "unspecified compensatory damages and punitive damages." In the filing, the NFL player is identified as John Doe 1, and the other male passenger is identified as John Doe 2.

The alleged altercation took place during a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New Jersey in February, CNN reported.

The two men were sharing a row with a female passenger, who the men believed to be intoxicated, according to the suit. They said in the filing that the woman made "unwanted sexual advances" on them, NJ.com reported.

Both men made three complaints to flight staff as the woman kept bothering them. While the first two complaints allegedly went ignored, the woman was given a "verbal warning" after the third, according to CNN.

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After the warning, the woman allegedly groped at the NFL player's genitals. She also ripped a mask the athlete had been wearing to protect from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) right off his face, John Doe 1 claimed — so he got up to complain again. While he was out of his seat, the woman allegedly went on to grope the other man, too.

After that, the woman was moved to a different seat. Both John Does were given a $150 voucher by the airline, the lawsuit says, according to CNN's report.

"The safety and well-being of our customers is always our top priority," a spokesperson for United tells PEOPLE in a statement. "In this instance, the customer involved was moved to a different seat."

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"Because litigation is now pending, we’re unable to provide further comment," the statement added.

Lawyers for the two men said in a statement obtained by Bleacher Report Wednesday that they hope "in the future no passengers' multiple warnings and complaints to fight attendants, the onboard authority figures, will go unheeded until it's too late and the damage has been done."

The statement said that the alleged assaults "could have been prevented, if not the harmed reduced, had United's personnel simply taken action sooner."

"United has an obligation to keep its passengers safe," the statement said.