Ole Miss defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins is suing football coach Lane Kiffin and the University of Mississippi for failure to provide equal protection, racial and sexual discrimination, and other allegations.
Rollins said he recently was kicked off the team for missing practices and team meetings due to what he described as a “mental health crisis,” according to the lawsuit obtained by ESPN’s Heather Dinich. However, in a statement released Thursday night to ESPN, Ole Miss said “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.” Kiffin declined comment and deferred to the statement made by the university.
Rollins filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking $10 million compensatory damages, and $30 million punitive damages. Rollins alleges that Kiffin took action against him “on account of race for requesting and taking a mental health break, but not taking adverse action against white student athletes [for similar reasons],“ per the lawsuit. Rollins also alleges sexual discrimination against Ole Miss, stating the university has not taken “adverse action against female student-athletes for requesting and taking a mental health break.”
Rollins sustained multiple injuries in his career as a Rebel, including concussions and right Achilles injuries, which occurred during the spring and the summer of 2022. As a result of the injuries, his lawsuit states that he dealt with “severe depression, anxiety, frustration, embarrassment, humiliation, a loss of sleep and a loss of appetite.” Rollins also stated in the suit that the university did not provide any guidance in regard to the mental health support he sought as a result of the depression and anxiety he was feeling following the injuries.
During fall camp in August, he aggravated an injury in his left knee and had what he described as “severe depression.”
Rollins and defensive line coach Randall Joyner met in November. Rollins claims that Joyner attempted to convince him to enter the portal during that meeting. Rollins refused to do so. On Jan. 6, 2023, Rollins’s grandmother died, and as a result of her death, Rollins “continued to suffer severe depression,” per the lawsuit. Rollins said he met in February with Kiffin, who told him that he planned to move Rollins to scout team offensive line because he wouldn’t transfer. According to the suit, Rollins asked Kiffin whether it was “a choice or command,” and Kiffin allegedly stated that “if he didn’t like it then he should quit.”
Rollins told Kiffin he was taking a mental health break following the meeting, and his mother, Connie Hollins, contacted Ole Miss athletic director Pat Jernigan to inform him of her son’s decision. Jernigan set up a meeting for Rollins with Josie Nicholson, who is the school’s assistant athletic director for sport psychology. Nicholson encouraged Rollins, who was feeling overwhelmed by the situation, to take a break and meet with her on March 7th for a second session. Rollins was informed by Nicholson that Kiffin wanted him to talk with her when he met with her in March. Rollins replied he wasn’t ready to do so, and he didn’t meet with Kiffin until March 21.
The lawsuit claims that Rollins recorded Kiffin at the meeting on March 21 without his consent. As part of the testy exchange, Kiffin allegedly said, “Get out of here. Go, you’re off the team. You’re done. See ya. Go. What’s this? You could be kicked out of the team. Go read your rights on mental health. We can remove you from the team if we don’t see you. 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. It’s called hiding behind s— and not showing up to work.”
Rollins’s suit further stated that “as a proximate result of actions and inactions of the defendants … Rollins has suffered physical pain and emotional distress and anguish.” He also cited a “mental impairment” for being kicked off the team due to a mental health disability, which the lawsuit says is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Rollins will graduate in December from Ole Miss. Rollins has only played three games as a defensive lineman in his college career.