SI's big UCLA expose came...and went. George Dohrmann (who won a Pulitzer for his coverage of academic fraud at Minnesota, a real scandal) painted a picture of a dysfunctional Bruins program, but there wasn't any there there. It didn't slow UCLA: they completed their recruitment of the best prep player in the nation, and Ben Howland kept his job.
In the SI piece, Howland came across as overmatched and hapless, but it was the troubled Reeves Nelson playing the villain. Numerous instances of Nelson physically and verbally abusing his teammates were reported, culminating in Nelson urinating on a roommate's bed. Clearly, something happened, as Nelson was dismissed from the team in December. But Nelson lawyered up almost immediately, and demanded a retraction of the article's claims.
Not surprisingly, that retraction didn't come. SI and publisher Time stood behind the story, saying it wouldn't have been published if it weren't reported out. Nelson has followed through, filing suit today in Superior Court in Los Angeles. The complaint can be found below.
Most interestingly, the complaint contains 18 sworn declarations from Nelson's former teammates, disputing specific incidences recounted in Dohrmann's story. We'll quote a few. First up, Alex Schrempf, who spoke to Dohrmann for the story and claims he told a different version of an incident than what ended up in print:
"During our conversation, Dohrmann specifically told me that he had 'heard' that Nelson intentionally injured me during practive by knocking me to the ground from behind. According to Dohrmann's 'source,' Nelson's conduct cause me to suffer a serious back injury. I explained to Dohrmann that this version of events was incorrect. While I was fouled by Nelson during a practice game, I explained to Dohrmann that I did not believe Nelson intentionally meant to injure me. I further explained to Dohrmann that I hurt my hip as a result of landing on my back during this practice game."
Tyler Trapani, another of Reeves's reported victims, also takes issue with the characterization of one incident:
"I am aware than in the article written by Dohrmann, he refers to an incident during a team practice where I took a charge from Nelson. I did take a charge from Nelson during what we call a '3 on 2, 2 on 1' drill. Contrary to what was written in the Sports Illustrated article, Nelson did not go out of his way to step on me. Moreover, I do not believe he in any way tried to harm me during this or any drill."
Finally, from current Sacramento King Tyler Honeycutt, alleged victim of the bed urination:
"Contrary to the story told in Dohrmann's and SI's article, Nelson did not pile my clothes onto my bed on New Year's Eve, and he certainly did not urinate on my clothes ... On the contrary, Nelson played a minor college prank on me, throwing some Jolly Rancher candy and baby powder on my bed and flipping over the mattress when I left our dorm room."
If this case ever makes it to court, we eagerly await cross-examination.