Former Mater Dei soccer player claims hazing resulted in brain injury
The family of a former Mater Dei High football player filed a complaint on Tuesday that described a culture of hazing within the nationally acclaimed program that left their son with a traumatic brain injury.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Orange County Superior Court and names Mater Dei and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange as defendants, documents a hazing ritual known as “Bodies” in which two players stand together. beat “until [one] can no longer and give up.
“The unwritten rules involve limiting their punches to the torso area between the shoulders and the hips,” the complaint read.
“In an effort to fit in and be seen as tough among their teammates, players sacrifice their physical health, fighting each other in a sickening display that is sometimes filmed by other players.”
The court record describes an altercation on February 4 that targeted the plaintiff, who was a junior at the time and has since dropped out of school, which went well beyond the chest blows typically administered as the team sought to strengthen his tenacity and to strengthen his reputation as the best football program in the country.
The complainant had previously played other sports at Mater Dei, but was a newcomer to the football program, whose fall season was postponed to the end of winter due to a COVID-19 hiatus .
An athlete called Teammate 1 in the lawsuit encouraged the plaintiff to participate in Bodies with Teammate 2, the son of an assistant football coach of Mater Dei. In an effort to fit in, the lawsuit said, the plaintiff agreed to participate in the fight against his much larger opponent.
Due to its decision to participate, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office does not intend to press charges in the case and views the altercation as a mutual fight, according to the Southern California News Group, who first reported the story.
The fight started in the locker rooms of freshmen and spilled over into university locker rooms, with no staff intervening to stop the beating, the lawsuit said. The complainant’s family obtained video of the incident which shows teammates yelling at Teammate 2 to “get this N word”, referring to the complainant, who is white.
This was a clear mismatch, according to video seen by the Southern California News Group, with the grieving seriously missing swings and Teammate 2 repeatedly connecting with punches to the head and face that made fall the smallest athlete to the ground.
The plaintiff is heard on the video telling his teammate 2, “I thought we were playing Bodies”, according to the lawsuit, wondering why he was shot in the head and face instead of the torso. Teammate 2 responded with additional racial slurs.
According to the lawsuit, no Mater Dei staff intervened on behalf of the injured player, who struggled to keep blood from flowing to both sides of his face.
According to the lawsuit, he was told “not to snitch,” and when a sports trainer finally examined his injuries, he said he hit his face against a sink. The lawsuit alleges that the trainer did not call for medical assistance and did not contact the parents of the plaintiff for 90 minutes.
When the complainant’s father arrived at school, he questioned the trainers about the explanation for his son’s injuries and the lack of prompt treatment before taking him to a nearby emergency care center. The player was diagnosed with a head trauma. A specialist determined that his nasal fractures required immediate surgery to repair and reconstruct his nose.
He stayed home from school for weeks to recover and experienced pain, slurred speech and cognitive dysfunction, according to the lawsuit. The player changed his hairstyle and wears more hats in an attempt to hide two defined scars above his eyes. He also took advice to help him cope with memories of the altercation.
The lawsuit alleges that Mater Dei staff took significant steps to minimize the fallout from the fighting. The school and teammate 2 did not cooperate with a police investigation, suggested that a search of players’ phones did not reveal any video of the incident that the plaintiff’s legal team later discovered and were reluctant to discipline players or end the tradition of hazing.
“If I had a hundred dollars for every time these kids played Bodies or Slappies, I would be a millionaire,” Mater Dei football coach Bruce Rollinson told the plaintiff’s father shortly after the incident, according to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that Rollinson, in a subsequent interview with police, said he had “no knowledge of Bodies, nor any form of hazing”.
The complainant’s father says Rollinson, who led Mater Dei to two national championships, told him he was “at a dead end” from a disciplinary point of view because his teammate 2’s father was an assistant coach.
When the plaintiff transferred from Mater Dei, according to the lawsuit, his transfer documents flagged him with a “disciplinary restriction” that made him ineligible to participate in California Interscholastic Federation sports.
“Despicably, Mater Dei staff told the complainant’s father that if the complainant had stayed at Mater Dei, he would not have been prevented from participating in Mater Dei sports,” the lawsuit says. “In summary, because the Applicant withdrew from Mater Dei and left school for safety reasons, Mater Dei knowingly took steps to prevent the Applicant from participating in sports at his new school.”
The complainant’s new school has since obtained authorization from the CIF to allow him to participate in certain sports.
The family of the former Mater Dei player allege negligence, a violation of the California criminal code over hazing, an inability to properly protect the player and emotional distress. They seek damages that will be determined during a trial as well as medical, legal, interest and any other relief the court deems appropriate.
Mater Dei has yet to file a response in court.
The school released a statement to the Southern California News Group that said, “An independent and thorough investigation has been conducted. We are unable to comment further due to the involvement of minors. “