Sports Now

Former basketball players sue Pepperdine, coach for discrimination

Two former women's basketball players sue Pepperdine, coach for discrimination

Two former Pepperdine University women’s basketball players allege they were harassed and discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, according to a lawsuit filed last week against the university and Coach Ryan Weisenberg in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Haley Videckis and Layana White, who left the university this month, say in the 24-page complaint Weisenberg wanted them off the team because they were dating.

“Coach Ryan believed that the plaintiffs were lesbians who were in a relationship and would cause the team to lose games,” the complaint said.

To that end, the former players say, team staffers regularly queried them about their sexual orientation and sleeping arrangements, asked for access to their current and future gynecology records and didn’t promptly process White’s NCAA appeal to be eligible to play in the 2014-15 season after she transferred to Pepperdine from the University of Arizona.

“Things have been covered up to an extreme extent and haven’t been dealt with properly,” Videckis said in a telephone interview.

In a statement to The Times, Pepperdine disputed the lawsuit’s version of events.

“We take allegations of this kind very seriously,” the statement said. “We conducted an immediate and thorough investigation and found no evidence to support these claims, and we look forward to demonstrating the truth of the matter in court. The university remains committed to a diverse and inclusive environment.”

Weisenberg, an assistant coach with the WNBA’s Sparks from 2000 to 2005 who is in his second season as Pepperdine’s head coach, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The complaint said that at an April meeting of the team’s leadership council that included the plaintiffs, the coach told the assembled players “lesbianism is not tolerated on this team” and “it is the reason why teams lose.”

Asked to respond to the alleged comments, Pepperdine said in a statement “it is important to note that allegations are not facts.”

In June, the complaint said, Weisenberg blamed a failed relationship between two members of the Sparks for the demise of a past season: “That was the reason our team fell apart and lost.”

Videckis and White say the comments made them believe their scholarships would be pulled if their relationship became public.

White, the complaint said, suffered from “severe depression” because of the situation and attempted suicide in September.

“It’s not a great university to be gay in,” said Alan Burton Newman, attorney for the former players.

The players filed a complaint with the university under Title IX, the federal law that bars schools from discrimination based on gender. In November, Pepperdine said its investigation revealed “insufficient evidence to conclude that harassment or sexual orientation discrimination occurred.”

The lawsuit, which claims the players’ right to privacy and Title IX were violated, seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order barring Pepperdine from asking students about their sexual orientation. Newman also wants the university to honor the players’ scholarships until they are able to transfer to another school.

“It raises a good social question,” said Michael McCann, a professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law who reviewed the case, “but I’m not sure if the law is as strong as the social commentary or social significance of the case.”

Follow me on Twitter.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

5:10 p.m. PST: This report previously featured a photograph with a player misidentified as Layana White, who did not play this season for Pepperdine.

97°