SUMNER, Pierce County — Sumner High School’s boys basketball head coach was accused in a lawsuit filed Wednesday of sexual assault and exploitation by a player he coached.
In an exclusive interview, his accuser described Jacob “Jake” Jackson, 35, as a gatekeeper for young people’s college basketball aspirations. Jackson’s accuser, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe 1, said he has abandoned his collegiate basketball dreams.
Jackson’s private sporting goods company is also named as a defendant in the suit, which seeks an undisclosed sum. Jackson is the CEO of Puyallup-based Inspirit Athletics Inc., also known as Sterling Athletics. The company “specializes in the manufacture, marketing and sale of sports balls, sporting equipment and custom apparel,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit, filed in Pierce County Superior Court by Tacoma attorney Loren Cochran, asserts that Jackson engaged in sexual exploitation of children, sexual assault and false imprisonment.
Attempts to reach Jackson were unsuccessful. His attorney, Brett Purtzer, said Wednesday that he is aware of the complaint and reviewing the allegations but declined to comment.
Donna Robinson, who co-owns Sterling Athletics with her husband and is Jackson’s mother-in-law, answered a phone number listed for the company on Wednesday and declined to comment, saying, “I don’t think anyone is going to be talking to you” about the allegations against Jackson.
Sumner School District placed Jackson on unpaid administrative leave on Aug. 31 after “police made the district aware of an investigation regarding allegations against the coach,” according to district spokesperson Elle Warmuth. An internal investigation by the school district is ongoing, she said.
Jackson’s accuser said the coach did not teach at the school.
The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office confirmed Wednesday that Jackson is the subject of an investigation by the Sumner Police Department, according to spokesperson Adam Faber. The prosecutor’s office expects to review the findings of the investigation when it’s complete.
Sumner police referred questions about the status of their investigation to city spokesperson Carmen Palmer, who did not return messages seeking a statement.
Jackson’s accuser called the coach “royalty” in Pacific Northwest basketball circles. Jackson played basketball at Lake Oswego High School in Oregon, on the same team with NBA player Kevin Love.
After he graduated in 2005, he was the basketball team’s student manager and later a graduate assistant at the University of Arizona. News accounts show he forged a close relationship there with coach Lute Olson, who’s enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jackson spent a short stint as an assistant coach at Sumner High before becoming head coach in 2012 at Peninsula High School. He left that job in 2016 to take over as head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Sumner.
Jackson began communicating with his accuser in 2017, before the boy started high school, according to the lawsuit, sending frequent messages by text and on Instagram and Snapchat.
“Jackson offered to help guide John Doe 1’s journey and help develop him into a collegiate basketball player… (and) Jackson started to shower John Doe 1 with gifts from Sterling Athletics, including free basketball equipment, gear and custom apparel,” the suit states.
Jackson also gave the boy free basketball shoes and envelopes of cash, sometimes paying him in excess of $100 per hour to help out at Sterling Athletics, according to the suit.
Jackson’s frequent communications with the boy began with “innocuous” messages but progressively became more sexual over the course of a year, the suit states. Jackson began asking the boy about his sexual behavior and sent him pictures of himself urinating. By the end of the boy’s freshman year, Jackson was requesting pictures of the boy’s genitalia.
In the summer of 2020, Jackson invited the boy to his home to help with yard work, and the boy felt pressured to comply, according to the suit. After finishing the work, Jackson reportedly invited the boy into his house, turning off the house’s phone and Alexa smart speaker on the way in. The lawsuit alleges that Jackson invited the boy to admire his sneaker collection in a closet while Jackson showered.
Jackson emerged from the shower and “cornered” the boy in the closet, then tried to pressure him into sexual behavior, the lawsuit said. The boy declined.
Over the next two years, Jackson allegedly sent the boy requests via social media for explicit photos.
“Feeling pressure to participate and scared of the repercussions if he did not, John Doe 1 complied with Jackson’s repeated requests,” according to the lawsuit.
The boy “did not want to send Jackson photos of his genitals, but he also did not want to lose his employment opportunities with Sterling Athletics or jeopardize his playing time on the Sumner High School Boys’ basketball team,” the suit says.
“[Jackson] knows a lot of people, he’s got connections. And if you were on his good side, he was going to do all he could – reach out to coaches, network, basically, and get you looks from colleges,” Jackson’s accuser said in an interview with The Seattle Times. “If that’s one of your goals, you’re going to listen to him. You’re idolizing him because he has tools that can help you achieve your goals.”
He added, “Since I idolized him from sixth grade, and never had another high school coach, when he said this was normal, I didn’t question it like I otherwise might have.”
Jackson’s accuser “continues to suffer extreme emotional distress, personal anguish, fear, humiliation, pain and suffering” from the experience, according to the lawsuit.
The accuser’s parents also are plaintiffs, identified only as John Doe 2 and Jane Doe, alleging that they “have experienced parental grief, mental anguish and suffering.”