Ole Miss defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins has filed a lawsuit against head coach Lane Kiffin and the University of Mississippi, alleging that the coach and school failed to provide equal protection and engaged in racial and sexual discrimination as Rollins was struggling with a mental health crisis. Rollins was eventually dismissed from the team for missing practices and meetings while dealing with his mental health struggles.
According to ESPN, Rollins is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages. Rollins says Kiffin intentionally took adverse action against Rollins "on account of race for requesting and taking a mental health break, but not taking adverse action against white student-athletes" for the same request. The lawsuit also alleges sexual discrimination on the basis that Ole Miss has not taken similar action against female athletes in the same situation.
"We have not received a lawsuit," Ole Miss wrote in a statement issued through a school spokesman Thursday night. "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."
The lawsuit alleges that Ole Miss did not have procedures or protocols in place to deal with mental health issues, and that coaches had not been trained to recognize the signs or symptoms of mental health disorders.
Rollins suffered multiple injuries during his time with the team, which his lawyers allege caused Rollins to "severe depression, anxiety, frustration, embarrassment, humiliation, a loss of sleep and loss of appetite" from an injury to his Achilles.
After being told he was being moved from the staring defense and placed on the scout team's offensive line, Rollins decided to step back from football.In February of 2023, he was provided a sport psychologist, whom he met with, but he was not ready to meet with Kiffin even though football staff had made multiple attempts to meet with Rollins.
When in March he finally did meet with Kiffin, Rollins legally, but without Kiffin's knowledge, recorded his conversation, a transcript of which was published by ESPN:
"Ok, you have a f---ing head coach, this is a job, guess what, if I have mental issues and I'm not diminishing them, I can't not see my f---ing boss," Kiffin said, according to the lawsuit and the audio recording. "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 f---ing want to, ok? It was to talk to you and explain to you in the real world, ok? So I don't give a f--- what your mom say, ok, or what you think in the real f---ing 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.'
"I guarantee if we f---ing called you in and said you're playing defense, would you have mental issues?"
"I definitely would," Rollins said.
During the audio exchange, Rollins is heard saying, "I mean, you're acting like my issues aren't real."
"I didn't say they're not real," Kiffin responded. "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.'"
"I wasn't," Rollins said.
"What f---ing world do you live in?" Kiffin asked.
"I don't see why you have to be disrespectful, honestly," Rollins said.
"Get out of here," Kiffin said. "Go, you're off the team. You're done. See ya. Go. And guess what? We can kick you off the team. So go read your f---ing rights about mental health. We can kick you off the team for not showing up. When the head coach asks to meet with you and you don't show up for weeks, we can remove you from the team.
"It's called being a p---y," Kiffin said. "It's called hiding behind s--- and not showing up to work."
Rollins, an honor roll student expecting to graduate in December with a business degree, had played in only three games as a reserve defensive lineman heading into this season. He redshirted in 2020 and played in one game as a sophomore in 2021 as a backup defensive tackle against Austin Peay.