Two former players on the Pepperdine University women's basketball team have filed a lawsuit against their former coach and alma mater, saying they faced harassment and discrimination based on their lesbian identity and relationship.
Haley Videckis and Layana White, who have both since left the Malibu, Calif., university, allege that basketball coach Ryan Weisenberg disapproved of their relationship and wanted them off the team, the Los Angeles Times reports. The suit claims the university violated their privacy as well as Title IX of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, which bans sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
According to the lawsuit, filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, "Coach Ryan believed that the plaintiffs were lesbians who were in a relationship and would cause the team to lose games." Videckis and White claim that because of this, team staffers harassed them by asking them to define and describe their relationship in detail. Queries included invasive requests for gynecological records.
Pepperdine, a private Christian university, admits gay and lesbian students but has a policy requiring all students to refrain from sex outside marriage, the suit notes. The women's relationship would not violate university policy as long as they were not having sex, according to the suit, but they tried to remain discreet.
Nevertheless, the women say, they faced mistreatment. According to the complaint, Coach Weisenberg told the team leadership council, which included Videckis and White, that "lesbianism is not tolerated on this team." He reportedly based his view on his experience as an assistant coach for the L.A. Sparks team in the WNBA; he thought the breakup of two Sparks players had an adverse effect on the team.
At right: Ryan Weisenberg
Videckis and White say they believed being out could have resulted in a loss of scholarship. White says the stress and harassment caused her severe depression to the point where she attempted suicide back in September.
Asked to respond to the suit, Pepperdine said in a statement to the Times, "It is important to note that allegations are not facts."
The statement also said, "We take allegations of this kind very seriously," adding, "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."