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Lawsuit: MSU violated football player rights following alleged sexual assault

An MSU football player says the East Lansing school is violating his Title IX rights.
Michigan State University football game, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Michigan State University football game, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)(Al Goldis | AP)
Published: Oct. 9, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As Michigan State University’s football team enjoys success on the field, the program is facing criticism for its handling of off-the-field controversies.

An MSU football player filed a lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court Western Michigan District, claiming the East Lansing school violated his Title IX rights. The lawsuit, filed by Grand Rapids law firm Springstead Bartish Borgula & Lynch PLCC, says the football player was unfairly suspended from the team and that the university has been slow in its response.

It says the now-Sophomore scholarship football player -- who was named in the lawsuit as “John Doe” -- was suspended after a woman complained he sexually assaulted her on January 31st. The football player says the sexual encounter with the woman, who works as a student intern with the football team, was consensual.

In a message to News 10, the Michigan State University Department of Police and Public Safety confirmed it is investigating the report of a sexual assault that took place in Case Hall. “Detectives with the MSU Police Special Victims Unit are conducting a detailed and thorough investigation,” said police spokesman Chris Rozman. “Special Victims Unit detectives have training specifically to conduct investigations in a trauma informed and supportive manner. Michigan State University has many supportive services available for relationship violence and sexual misconduct.”

The lawsuit says “MSU has not completed the grievance process, has not submitted the case to the final decision-makers, has not held a hearing, and has not provided Plaintiff with either updates regarding timing or an end date.” It says the football player told his coach about the incident around February 3. He says head football coach Mel Tucker banned the football player from all team activities the next day. The lawsuit says that decision has prevented the football player from being able to practice, compete or travel with the team. It says that decision has deprived him of “substantial educational opportunity.”

The football player’s lawyers argue that his suspension is illegal since a final determination hasn’t been made. The suit also claims MSU discriminated against him because of his gender.

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program that receives federal funds. The law protects due process rights for students accused of sexual assault.

The lawsuit claims the player has suffered “anxiety and uncertainty over his future, loss of reputation, loss of trust by his teammates, loss of his position and status on the team, loss of the opportunity to sustain and build his football skills, loss of future employment prospects stemming from a Division I athletic career, loss of esteem, anger, disappointment, and embarrassment.”

The lawsuit was filed Friday. You can read it below.

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