LOS ANGELES (CN) – In a $10 million claim in Superior Court, former UCLA basketball player Reeves Nelson claims Sports Illustrated defamed him as a “psychotic bully” who terrorized his fellow Bruins.
Nelson, 20, sued Sports Illustrated’s corporate parent, Time Inc., and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist George Dohrmann, who wrote Special Report: Not the UCLA Way, which was published online in February and appeared in print in March.
Nelson, a Bruins junior, was dismissed from the team by Coach Ben Howland in December 2011 for a second incident of insubordinate conduct. The previous month Nelson was late for a team meeting and missed a team flight to Hawaii.
The Sports Illustrated story article cites several instances in which Nelson allegedly incited fights during practice, and allegedly bullied, stalked and injured teammates.
The piece detailed one incident where Nelson supposedly urinated on teammate Tyler Honeycutt’s bed and clothes for blowing the lid on a planned New Year’s Eve party.
In another, Nelson allegedly bullied teammate Matt Carlino so badly he quit the school to transfer to Brigham Young.
The article also claimed that Coach Howland turned a blind eye to Nelson’s misconduct because of his status as a star player, according to the complaint.
But Nelson attached 18 sworn declarations to the complaint – including many from his alleged victims – which rebut many of the claims made in the article.
“Every single one of these declarations confirmed that the article’s general description of Nelson as a psychotic bully is false and … the specific instances of Nelson’s supposed ‘bullying’ described in the article never happened and/or were grossly distorted out of all proportion,” the complaint states. “Every single one of these declarations confirms that Nelson did not intentionally attack or try to physically harm his fellow teammates or team staff, nor was he favored by Coach Howland, nor did he ‘stalk’ or ‘target’ his ‘victims,’ nor was he the ‘classic bully’ described in the article.”
Elsewhere in the complaint, Nelson attributes the incident involving Honeycutt to a “minor college prank,” and claims that he only threw candy and baby powder on the player’s bed.
“Despite writing a feature piece attacking the UCLA basketball program at length, defendants did not bother to contact the overwhelming majority of the team players,” the complaint states.
The complaint claims the article also “twisted around quotes” to make it appear that Nelson and his mother had confirmed the portrayal of Nelson in the piece.
“Plaintiff is informed and believes that readers of the article have found defendants’ portrait of plaintiff Nelson especially damning because much of it appeared to be a self-portrait, told by plaintiff Nelson in his own words,” the complaint states.
Nelson is represented by Keith Fink with Fink & Steinberg.
Sports Illustrated declined to comment.
Dohrmann did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.