WASHINGTON, Pa. (CN) - Cosmopolitan magazine ruined a college student's reputation and potential NFL career by falsely portraying him as abusive, the man claims in court.
The complaint filed on Dec. 26 in the Court of Common Pleas for Washington County, Pa., takes aim at the Cosmo article titled "My Ex Threatened to Kill Me. Why Wasn't He Expelled," which appeared in the October 2014 issue.
Andrew Cerett says his ex-girlfriend, Emily Frazer, composed the article with freelance writer Roxanne Patel Shepelavy.
"The article, which included a color photo of Wallace on campus, falsely depicted Cerett as a violent and abusive man, a hulking football player who threatened, attacked and wanted to kill his then-girlfriend."
It presents as fact a "fictionalized" story of how Cerett and Frazer, now married to Carolina Panther practice squad athlete Martin Wallace, ended their on-again-off-again relationship at "at an alcohol-fueled weekend dorm party on or about January 21, 2011," the complaint states.
The argument, as Cerett tells it, involved both parties raising their voices and Cerett smacking his hand on the kitchen counter. Frazer is named in the complaint by her married name, Wallace.
"Cerett left the suite when Wallace screamed at him to 'please leave,'" the complaint states. "At no time did Cerett threaten Wallace or hit her.
Cerett says he did break a window on the floor of the dorm because he "was intoxicated and emotionally upset" after the argument.
"Wallace later told Temple University Police that Cerett did not damage her property and that he did not strike her," the complaint states.
Though campus police arrested him, Cerett was not charged, according to the complaint. In addition to a suspension from the team, the school's student conduct board found that Cerett had destroyed "university property (the window)" and had violated the school's alcohol policy. (Parentheses in original.)
The board found Cerett "guilty" of intimidation and disorderly conduct, according to the complaint, but cleared him of stalking and harassment charges.
After the breakup, Frazer allegedly made it her "mission to attack and destroy" Cerett.
"In bold type and vivid prose, the article portrayed Cerett as a violent thug and Wallace as a victim," the complaint states.
Cerett says he and Frazer met as student-athletes at Temple University. While the 260-pound Cerett was on a full athletic scholarship as a punter for Temple's football team, Frazer played volleyball, according to the complaint.
Cerett describes himself as a "standout football player in high school ... ranked as the sixth best punter in the United States in 2010," but now "faces the loss of a possible career as a punter in the NFL - something he has dreamed about ever since he was a young boy in elementary school."
A football website, NFLFemale.com, canceled an already scheduled interview with him as a result of the article, and at least one football scout told him that the article did not make him look good and NFL teams would "not consider him," according to the complaint.
Cerett, now enrolled at California University where he is on the honor roll and ranked fifth in his football division, says the "outrageous and blatantly false statements" come in a climate where they can severely harm his standing in the community.
"We live in a time when the NFL and football players - including Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Dwyer - are under scrutiny for domestic violence arrests and related charges," the compliant states.
Cosmo's article, as described in the complaint, asked why Wallace/Frazer ended "up kicked off her team" when it was Cerett who "turned violent."
It said the article represented an investigation into "whether campuses are doing enough to protect women."
Cerett also notes concerns about "his 15-month-old daughter getting picked on at school later in life as a consequence of Defendant's character assassination."
In addition to Wallace/Frazer and Shepelavy, Cerett names Cosmo publisher Hearst Corp. as a defendant.
Cerett seeks punitive damages for defamation and false light. He is represented by William Labovitz of Elliott & Davis in Pittsburgh.
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