Three former UCLA players are suing the University of California regents, former UCLA Coach Jim Mora and other members of his coaching and training staff for injuries the players say they received while playing for the Bruins.
Zachary Bateman, John Lopez and Poasi Moala filed the lawsuits Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking unspecified damages. The Lopez and Moala lawsuits also target the NCAA.
Bateman played offensive tackle for UCLA in 2015-17. Lopez played offensive tackle in 2013-16 and Moala played offensive tackle, tight end, fullback and guard in 2013-16.
A UCLA representative issued a statement Thursday regarding the lawsuits.
“While we cannot comment on the specific details of a pending lawsuit, we want to make it clear that the health and safety of our student-athletes is UCLA’s top priority,” the statement read. “We strongly deny and will defend ourselves against the allegations made in the lawsuit. We handle every injury with the highest standard of care. Our team physicians and sports medicine staff work hand-in-hand on diagnosis, monitoring and treatment, and they are the only individuals who determine when a student-athlete is cleared to participate in their sport; coaches are not involved in these decisions.”
Bateman attended Orange Coast College and was recruited by many prestigious universities in 2014, including Ohio State, but Mora convinced him to accept UCLA’s offer, his suit states.
Bateman told the coaching staff that he had severe pain in his right foot, but they told him to “man up” and play through it, the suit alleges. The coaches later began to ridicule and insult him every time he asked for treatment and an X-ray, the Bateman suit states.
“His coaches and trainers insisted that his complaint was just a sprain and repeatedly advised him to take some ibuprofen and return to practice and gameplay,” the Bateman suit states.
The coaches, including Mora, believed that if a player could stand up on two feet, he had no reason to refrain from practicing with full intensity and full contact, the Bateman suit states.
In 2017, Bateman suffered an injury to his left foot, the suit states. When he suggested having an MRI on both feet, a member of the training staff said, “You don’t need a (epithet) MRI, Zach,” the Bateman suit alleges.
Bateman ultimately had an MRI done on both feet by an outside specialist and it was revealed he had two breaks to his right foot, his suit states.
In addition to his physical injuries, Bateman suffered emotional distress by being shamed, ridiculed and bullied in front of his teammates, the Bateman suit states.
He also was threatened with the revocation of his scholarship, the Bateman suit states.
The Lopez suit states that Mora expected players to perform injured.
“Under Coach Mora’s `no excuses’ culture, players had to be more than tough if they wanted to keep a starting spot and if they were injured, they could never let it slow them down if they wanted to succeed,” the Lopez suit states. “The pressure to `play through the pain’ was ingrained into the players’ mentalities.”
Lopez “frequently falls into episodes of dark depression and paralyzing anxiety, both of which are conditions that he never experienced prior to suffering his concussions,” his suit states.
“Sadly, the most alarming event in John’s downward spiral came in the fall quarter of classes in 2016, when he attempted to take his own life,” the Lopez suit states.
Lopez’s family and girlfriend intervened during his attempted overdose on drugs and they took him to UCLA Medical Center’s emergency room, the Lopez suit states.
Lopez remains so wrought with anxiety that he is uncomfortable being around his former teammates and he suffers from panic attacks so severe that he does not want to leave his home until they are over, according to his suit.
As for Moala, he suffered concussions and hip injuries, his suit states.
Moala “took repeated hits to the head from man-on-man contact of repetitive hitting and head-to-head contact,” his suit states.
Moala complained about pain in his hips to his coaches and trainers, but they told him each time that his hips were just “tight” and that if he should just stretch and roll them out the pain would go away, the Moala suit states
Player concussions were not treated with the appropriate concern at UCLA, the Moala suit alleges.
“The team’s punishing practice regime left no time for Moala to recover from any of the post-concussion symptoms he experienced and the team’s supposed post-concussion protocol was well-known to the players to be just for show and was not followed in any meaningful way by the coaches and trainers,” the Moala suit alleges.
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