The alleged incident took place on 10 February on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Los Angeles, according to a new lawsuit. A second man claims he was also assaulted by a woman on board the flight.
The athlete, referred to as John Doe 1, claims that the unidentified woman massaged his thighs and touched his genitals, without consent, according to the New York Post.
A man who was sat on the same row, referred to as John Doe 2, is also suing the airline, and claims that he complained to airline staff, but they did not do anything to stop the behaviour.
The lawyer representing both of the men, confirmed that the two alleged victims did not know each other before the incident on the flight.
Both men are African Americans, and the lawsuit claims that they did not want to complain, in case they were racially stigmatised by staff and other passengers.
“Fearful of the perception of being a male victim and the racial stigma of being a young African American male, John Doe 1 patiently pleaded for assailant to stop and removed her hand,” the complaint read.
After a short period, the woman then started “grabbing and groping his quads and then stroking her hand across his lap towards the inside of his leg near his genitals,” it added.
The woman was eventually moved to a different row, after she confessed to staff that she had taken some pills and had been drinking, according to the complaint.
Darren Darwish and Benjamin Azizian, the lawyers for the two men, are looking for further compensation, after the airline only gave the alleged victims vouchers worth $150 (£123) each.
In a statement, they said that “this is a civil matter, and although we might feel the assailant’s actions were criminal, we are not in a position to seek such redress”.
They added that “accountability and responsibility are at the core of our justice system. We seek to hold accountable those who have harmed our clients through their direct or indirect actions”.
Rachael Rivas, a spokeswoman for United Airlines, told Bleacher Report that “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,” she said. “Because litigation is now pending, we’re unable to provide further comment.”