Two women’s basketball players have filed a civil rights action suit against Pepperdine University and the women’s basketball coach, claiming harassment on and off the court because of sexual orientation.
Haley Videckis, a transfer student from Arizona State, and Layana White, a transfer student from the University of Arizona, filed the suit against the school and Women’s Basketball Head Coach Ryan Weisenberg, after alleged harassment about the students’ lesbian relationship led White into depression, an alleged suicide attempt and both students forfeiting their basketball scholarships. Their lawyer estimated the scholarship expenses were “worth $70,000 to $80,000 per year.”
In addition to violating the women’s civil right to privacy, the couple also claims Pepperdine and Weisenberg violated the California education code and Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities. The couple is seeking compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages for defendants’ severe and pervasive conduct.
The women state in their complaint that Weisenberg and Academic Coordinator Adi Conlogue, became obsessed with the nature of the couple’s relationship. Weisenberg established a group of his top six team “leaders”, including White and Videckis, and started private innovative “Leadership Meetings” with the council.
During one meeting, the suit claims Weisenberg said to the group, “Lesbianism is not tolerated on this team. It is why teams lose. Lesbianism is a big concern in women’s basketball.”
Alan Newman, attorney for White and Videckis, said the school’s conservative reputation made the players hesitant to admit a relationship.
“Pepperdine has a very religion-based school, and they were not about to advertise their relationship in the least,” Newman said.
Pepperdine has an affiliation with the Churches of Christ, and claims to represent many different religious backgrounds and students of all races and faiths, with a purpose of pursuit of high academic standards and Christian faith.
“We take allegations of this kind very seriously. 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,” Pepperdine said in a statement. “The University remains committed to a diverse and inclusive environment. Due to federal privacy regulations, we are prohibited from publicly discussing student matters.”
The couple said in their civil complaint that the Bible-based university admits lesbian students, but also states students will be expelled if the students engage in the sin of premarital sex.
In the complaint, White said Conlogue separately questioned both women multiple times about their relationship, their sleeping arrangements, sexual orientation and sexual preferences of other team members.
During a discussion with the team, the coach warned the players against intra-team dating, citing his experiences coaching women’s professional basketball team, the L.A. Sparks. Weisenberg blamed a mid-season breakup between two players on the L.A. Sparks as the “reason [the] team fell apart and lost,” according to the suit.
When White confronted Weisenberg with the allegations that his department had been prying into the women’s relationship, Weisenberg denied the accusations and defended his coaching staff, saying the questioning was “definitely not true” and “my staff doesn’t gossip.”
After months of harassment, fear and following a confrontation with Conlogue outside of the coaches office on September 5, White allegedly attempted suicide. Around the same time of White’s attempt, Videckis told Weisenberg she would not be at a September 12 practice due to testing for cervical cancer. Weisenberg allegedly refused to allow her back on the court without a doctor’s note from a gynecological exam.
In addition to seeking help from university officials and the team physician, the president of the university also refused to assist the women, the complaint alleges.
Despite doctors’ notes proving good health, both women are no longer on the women’s basketball team. White gave up her scholarship under “emotional stress” and after Videckis was determined to be disqualified from the team, gave up her scholarship.
An online search of both players lists brief accolades and bios as members of the women’s basketball team at Pepperdine, but clicking the links for more player information through the athletic department page leads to a notice stating “the page you have requested could not be found.”
Before White committed to Arizona, she was a star on her high school basketball team at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School in Burbank, and as a senior, earned All-CIF first team and All-League first team honors.
Videckis finished third on Illinois’ Bartlett High School’s all-time scoring list with 1,350 points, and also scored a school record 133 career 3-pointers. She accounted for 200 assists, 203 steals and 461 rebounds during her 112-game career before transferring from Arizona State to Pepperdine to better her chances of playing in the WNBA.
Due to transfer and eligibility requirements, White and Videckis were awaiting a December 2014 start date to play for the Waves.