A Mississippi football player is suing coach Lane Kiffin and the school for racial and sexual discrimination and negligence, saying he was kicked off the team during a mental health crisis.
DeSanto Rollins, a defensive tackle from Baton Rouge, La., filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Oxford, Miss., where the school is located.
Rollins, who is Black, is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages. He claims he was not supported through his depression the way white and female athletes have been at Mississippi.
“We have not received a lawsuit,” the school said Friday through spokesman Kyle Campbell. “DeSanto was never removed from the football team and remains on scholarship. In addition, he continues to have the opportunity to receive all of the resources and advantages that are afforded a student-athlete at the university.”
Rollins was still listed on the Rebels’ roster as of Friday.
A letter dated May 3 from the office of Rollins’ attorney, Carroll Rhodes of Hazlehurst, Miss., was addressed to Kiffin, Mississippi chancellor Glenn Boyce, state Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Commissioner of Higher Education Alfred Rankins and laid out Rollins’ tort claims demand.
The lawsuit claims none of the defendants responded to the letter.
Rollins’ playing career has been hampered by injuries, including a concussion and Achilles tendon injury in the spring and summer of 2022, that left him severely depressed, the lawsuit said.
He said nobody within the athletic department or football program provided him with direction or referrals to mental health services after his injuries.
Rollins said Kiffin and defensive line coach Randall Joyner urged him last November to enter the transfer portal, but he declined.
In January, Rollins’ grandmother died and he “continued to suffer severe depression,” according to the lawsuit.
In late February, Rollins was told by Kiffin he was moving to the offense line and relegated to the scout team, the lawsuit said.
After Rollins’ mother reached out to the football team’s athletic trainer, Rollins was directed to psychologist Josie Nicholson. The two met Feb. 28.
The complaint states Joyner told Rollins on March 1 that Kiffin wanted to meet with the player. Rollins had another appointment with Nicholson on March 7, the suit said, and told Nicholson he did not want to meet with Kiffin.
After repeated requests from the football staff, Rollins met with Kiffin on March 21. Rollins says he made an audio recording of his coach berating him and kicking him off the team during that meeting.
Kiffin said playing on the team was the equivalent of having a job.
“… If I have mental issues and I’m not diminishing them, I can’t not see my (expletive) boss,” Kiffin said, according to the lawsuit.
“When you were told again and again the head coach needs to see you, wasn’t to make you practice, wasn’t to play a position you don’t (expletive) want to, OK? It was to talk to you and explain to you in the real world, OK? So I don’t give a (expletive) what your mom say, OK, or what you think in the real (expletive) world, you show up to work, and then you say, ‘Hey, I have mental issues, I can’t do anything for two weeks, but if you change my position I won’t have mental issues.’”
Later in the conversation, the lawsuit claims, Rollins said: “You’re acting like my issues aren’t real.”
Kiffin replied: “I didn’t say they’re not real. You show up when your head -- when your boss wants to meet with you. It wouldn’t have been like this. If you would’ve come here when you kept getting messages the head coach wants to talk to you, you say, ‘I’m not ready to talk to him.’”
Kiffin then added: “Go, you’re off the team. You’re done. See ya.”