Reeves Nelson already had a bad reputation for being kicked off the UCLA basketball team for poor behavior, but what remained of it was shredded by a damning article published in Sports Illustrated this week. Reeves reacted swiftly and hired a lawyer who sent a letter to SI demanding a retraction. He continued the damage control with an interview on NBC Los Angeles Thursday night.
In the interview, Nelson says Sports Illustrated writer George Dohrmann took his remorseful apology out of context. He also says almost all the stories in the article are false.
“My attitude towards the team and the program as a whole just was very immature,” Nelson said of the behavior that led to his dismissal. “I was defiant, I walked out of a team practice without coach’s permission, I missed a team flight to Maui — which obviously doesn’t look good — you never want to do. And then, I think the final straw was when I was just showing disrespect by laughing on the bench at the end of a loss against Texas.
“That’s why I was really dismissed, and those were the mistakes I was speaking about when I gave my original statement,” Nelson said.
Sports Illustrated responded to the demand for a retraction and stood by Dohrmann, saying “Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated unequivocally stand behind George Dohrmann’s story, Not the UCLA Way. Dohrmann has multiple sources on the facts uncovered during his reporting. This includes a detailed conversation with Mr. Nelson in which he was given an opportunity to respond to the facts and, to his credit, he did.”
Nelson contradicts SI’s statement and described his conversation with Dohrmann as brief, and one where he did little protesting because he figured Dohrmann made his mind up about the article and was going to write it regardless of what some “punk kid” would say (Nelson seemed to really lose credibility when making that statement). He disputes the accuracy of the article.
“I would say that almost every single one of [the allegations] about me is false.”
Nelson believes many of the stories were based on hearsay.
“I don’t necessarily think [Dohrmann] made them up out of thin air, I think that he may have talked to people other than [the people] who were directly involved in the incidents he reported on.”
He responded to perhaps the most disgusting tale from the article, the allegation that he peed on his friend’s bed. Nelson said he was guilty of a prank on his friend that involved baby powder. He says that story specifically bothered his family.
“When I saw the article was like it was, it became more of an issue of ‘what is my mom, my granny, and my sister going to think of me if I peed on some guy’s bed who’s supposedly my friend.’ My mom and my granny were pretty much fighting back tears until I assured them it was all false.”
Nelson denied intentionally trying to injure his teammates, saying “Nothing like that could ever go unpunished. Coach Howland wouldn’t allow that.”
He also says some former teammates reached out to him to express support, and one, James Keefe, even offered to testify in court on his behalf.
“The people that I supposedly harmed all have told me that they will be on my side because they know it’s completely not true. The people that I supposedly intentionally injured are still my friends to this day,” he insists.
Nelson also denied being one of the Bruins alleged to have smoked marijuana or drink alcohol before practice.
“I never had any part in that and I was unaware of anything like that happening,” he said. “You can check at UCLA, I never failed a drug test and never got in trouble for drinking … and I don’t think drinking alcohol makes you practice better so I don’t know why anyone would do that.”
Nelson understands his reputation will be damaged by the story and says his solace comes from knowing “Between me, God, and the people involved, I know what’s true.”
Now that Reeves’ side has come out, it’s up to the public to decide what to believe. While I believe some accusations in the article may have been based on hearsay and possibly exaggerated (such as the peeing story), I believe the overall picture painted of Reeves is accurate. He got kicked off the team for many reasons, all of which have to do with him being a poor teammate. Do I believe he was an overly aggressive player who bullied his teammates? Absolutely. Did he try to injure all of them intentionally? Maybe not, but I do believe he tried bullying many of them.
I also think people are in denial mode for a few reasons. One, when you’re being attacked, the tendency is to bond together as a group, and I think many people from the program are doing that. Two, it’s hard to stand up to bullies, so it’s no surprise people only talked about Reeves anonymously and still won’t say things to his face. The interview helped Reeves, but I don’t think it will change his overall public perception.
h/t A. Liu
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