Mater Dei Boys' B-Ball Players Bullied Their Co-Captain, Calling Him "Bitch" and "Nigger": Claim

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Last week, we reported that Mario Soto, a forward on Mater Dei High's boys basketball team, was leaving the school for reasons unknown. Today, we know why he left: bullying by former and current teammates, including allegations of physical assaults and that they called him "bitch" and "nigger"--never mind that Soto is half-Puerto Rican and half-Indian.

And lest petty Mater Dei fans skewer Soto by claiming he's making up excuses for not being able to hack it it under coach Gary Mcknight (never mind that Soto was a returning starter who had been a co-captain since his sophomore year), the senior is serious about his claims. He has retained the counsel of John Manly, the legendary Newport Beach lawyer who has sued his alma mater many times for its pedophilically inclined employees and is a wrecking ball of righteousness.

Last Friday, Manly sent a letter to Diocese of Orange general counsel Maria Schinderle stating he would represent Soto and his family and described a "3-year saga at Mater Dei where [Soto] was bullied, harassed, intimidated, physically assaulted, and perhaps worse, routinely called a 'nigger.'" Named in the claim were Orange Bishop Kevin Vann, McKnight and his son, Clay (an assistant coach), and Mater Dei president Pat Murphy. Sources tell the Weekly that the bullying was brought to the attention of Mater Dei officials to no avail, which wouldn't be the first time they ignored warnings that something was amiss in McKnight's program.

The Soto family declined comment, and Manly wouldn't discuss details but said the family plans to file a lawsuit if Vann doesn't take action.

"This matter is now on the bishop's desk, and the bishop has a choice," Manly says. "He can choose to take action against people that let this happen, to try and heal the wounds that this family suffered, or he can continue the path of his predecessors, which is to pretend like everything is fine and try to run the victim over."

Given that Vann just appeared in the Orange County Register wearing a Mater Dei hat, I think we already got the answer to Manly's challenge.

Manly also says that other players were subject to bullying as well, which wouldn't surprise us: McKnight, after all, is notorious for his asshole-ery toward players. But if it turns out that he presided over a locker room that makes Richie Icognito seem like Lady Byng, then Vann's going to have a lot of 'splaining to do in this anti-bullying era of ours.

Heckuva job, Vanny!

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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