Judge dismisses Nelson’s lawsuit
A Los Angeles judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by former UCLA player Reeves Nelson against Time Inc., the parent company of Sports Illustrated, and a reporter who wrote a story about problems in the school’s basketball program.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy agreed with attorneys for the media conglomerate and reporter George Dohrmann that the complaint concerning the story, ”Not the UCLA Way,” that appeared in the magazine’s March 5 print edition, infringed on their clients’ right to free speech. She also found that Dohrmann had numerous sources to back up the facts in his story.
”This man spent a lot of time and talked to a lot of people,” Murphy said Wednesday.
Nelson’s attorney, Olaf Muller, declined to comment. He argued during the hearing that Murphy was incorrect in her finding that Nelson, although a college athlete at the time, was nonetheless a limited public figure who had to demonstrate that Sports Illustrated and Dohrmann acted with malice toward him.
Muller said Nelson was an amateur who did not even have a publicist.
Defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli also declined to comment.
A statement from Sports lllustrated said, ”We have stood behind the reporting of our Pulitzer Prize-winning writer since day one. We are pleased that after reviewing the case, the court agreed it should be dismissed.”
Nelson, who filed the suit May 23, also alleged false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but those causes of action were additionally dismissed by Murphy’s ruling. Nelson maintained he was falsely portrayed as a chronic troublemaker who deliberately hurt teammates. He had sought $10 million in compensatory damages and another $10 million in punitive damages.
Nelson was kicked off the UCLA team last December.
The Sports Illustrated story cited accounts from Bruins players and staff members who alleged Nelson urinated on players’ clothes and got into fights with teammates. Nelson denied the allegations and Muller told Murphy it was defamatory for the magazine to suggest the player had admitted to them. In a sworn declaration submitted in support of the dismissal motion, Dohrmann said he relied on as many as 11 sources for some of portions of his story.
Nelson is currently on the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster.