LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A judge today tossed a defamation lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball player Reeves Nelson against Time Inc., the parent company of Sports Illustrated, and a reporter concerning an article critical of the player and the Bruin 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 Sports Illustrated story “Not the UCLA Way” infringed on their clients’ right to free speech. She also found that Dohrmann had numerous sources to back up the facts in his article.
“This man spent a lot of time and talked to a lot of people,” Murphy said.
Nelson’s attorney, Olaf Muller, declined to comment outside the courtroom. 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.
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.
The Sports Illustrated story cited accounts from Bruin 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 Sports Illustrated 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, including a statement that Nelson “bullied and sometimes injured his teammates before (Coach) Ben Howland dismissed him from the team in November (2011).”
(No Ratings Yet)