Former UCLA player Reeves Nelson is suing Sports Illustrated for $10 million, citing defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress over its recent article about problems in the school’s basketball program.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Superior Court in Los Angeles names Time Inc. and writer George Dohrmann as defendants. The story titled “Not the UCLA Way” initially appeared Feb. 28 on the magazine’s website and then in its March 5 print edition. Nelson also wants a retraction and public apology.
The lawsuit includes sworn statements from 18 current and former UCLA players, including Tyler Trapani, the great-grandson of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. They attest that the article’s general description of Nelson as a “psychotic bully” is false and that specific instances of Nelson’s alleged bullying described in the article never happened or were grossly distorted.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants specifically blamed UCLA’s problems on Nelson, describing him as “a classic bully, targeting teammates who weren’t as athletically gifted as he and tormenting the support staff.”
Former player Tyler Honeycutt, who was described in the article as one of Nelson’s victims, confirms in his statement that Nelson never urinated on his bed and clothes, as mentioned in the article. Trapani, who has since graduated, says Nelson did not go “out of his way” to step on his chest as Trapani lay on the ground during a practice drill. Both Honeycutt and Trapani say they were never contacted by Dohrmann about the alleged incidents.
Former players Alex Schrempf and Blake Arnet said in their statements that they were both contacted by the writer, and they told him that his version of events was incorrect. Neither of them was quoted in the article.
The lawsuit says that none of the 18 players contributed any of the anonymous quotes in the article, and that all of them have confirmed that the bulk of the writer’s claims about Nelson are false.
According to the suit, Nelson spoke briefly with Dohrmann about his UCLA career before the article was published. However, it says Dohrmann never questioned Nelson about any of the incidents involving his teammates. Instead, it says Nelson’s comments were in reference to his actions just before he was suspended and dismissed from the team last December for insubordinate behavior.
Nelson played professionally in the Lithuania Basketball League for two months before leaving to prepare for the NBA draft in June.
He is seeking a jury trial, and any damages would have to be decided by a jury.