Thursday, October 22, 2009

ESPN Should Sue Deadspin

(Full disclosure: 2 years ago I wrote the Packer Season Preview for Deadpsin, in which I made a bunch of really bad predictions.)

Update: First read this, which includes this:

the Supreme Court ruled that in order for a public figure to recover for defamation they must be able to prove that the statement was made with "actual malice", i.e., a. a knowledge of falsity or b. a reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.

Yesterday Deadspin decided to publish a bunch of unsubstantiated rumors about the sexual practices of ESPN employees. This is not foreign territory for Deadspin, but when they’ve been sordid in the past they’ve at least done some vetting or sourcing, or hey, even some actual reporting. This was not the case yesterday, and frankly, their little series on ESPN was pretty despicable. In particular, they attacked a middle management type who does not appear in any public capacity for ESPN. Taking a shot at Eric Kuselias might be in bad taste, but at least he’s a public figure. Throwing around rumors about some poor woman in middle management is an entirely different matter.

Proving libel is difficult in America*, especially if the victim is a public figure (where you have to show that the offender knew that they were publishing false information), but in this case there is one non-public figure (I’m not going to write her name or a link. You can find it if you want, and I don’t need to make that any easier). Moreover, I think the public figures may even have a case based on this statement from AJ Daulerio:

“And since the tenuous connection between rumor and fact for accuracy's sake has been a little eroded here, well, it's probably about time to just unload the inbox of all the sordid rumors we've received over the years about various ESPN employees. Chances are, at this point, there's some truth to them.”

While this isn’t an admission that he knew this info was false, it’s pretty darn close. It at least shows that he did not care if it was true or not. In short, it looks like "reckless disregard" to me.

I suppose all of this dirt could be true, in which case Deadspin will remains safe, (despicable, but safe), and ESPN may not want to draw further attention to this situation. But this was a risky venture, and if any of it was false, AJ and Deadspin could be in deep trouble.

I certainly won’t be visiting Deadspin for awhile. I won’t say forever, as they may have Ken Tremendous and company back at some point, but I won’t be back soon.

AJ Daulerio should be ashamed of himself.

*I don’t do libel as part of my job, and the legal analysis here is based entirely on trying to remember law school, so take it with a grain of salt.


Lenny Bruce said...

Great they can Sue Deadspin right after they get done defending all the slander and lies ESPN reported on Rush.

What goes around comes around :)

PaulNoonan said...


Rubie Q said...

The other problem a public figure faces in a libel suit -- and I'm working the neurons on this one, too, Paul -- is that he has to prove the statement is false, which is obviously (in legal terminology) a bitch. How do you prove you haven't slept with someone?

PaulNoonan said...

Yeah, the "truth is an absolute defense" thing is tough too.

Jon said...

hahahaha love how that guy got all angry about how poor rush limbaugh was mistreated/slandered, and tried to work it into some totally unrelated topic. hehe

PaulNoonan said...

Yeah, that was weird.

Eric said...

i believe the point was "what comes around goes around."

Or "If you can't take it don't dish it out."

Or "You who are without sin may cast the first stone."

Or "How's it feel sucka?"

Course i'm just guessing

Lenny Bruce said...

Eric is right

but it is ok if you slander a person who they do not like and ESPN and it's parent network ABC was part of the MSM cabal that did Slander Rush with false and made up quotes.

So why should I care if DP slandered them

Jon said...

Well for one Rush slanders people all the time, so why should you care that ESPN slandered him? For another ESPN is actually a huge corporation, and one or two employees slandering Rush does not equal ESPN slandering him. So basically you're saying because that woman works at the same giant corporation that someone else who slandered Rush (who makes a living slandering people all day long), you think its fine to slander about that woman's personal life. Stay classy!

Lenny Bruce said...

Jon, you are proving my point it is ok to Slander people you do not like but in bad taste if it is someone you think doesn't deserve it.

PaulNoonan said...

I do not believe that Jon is proving that point.

Eric said...

Kinda looks that way.

Seems quite simple really. If ESPN willfully reports incorrect information it has no grounds to complain about a group which reports incorrect information about ESPN.

To the credit of ESPN i don't believe they've taken action. So as vile as false reporting might be they at least don't appear to be hypocrites about it.