A Tweet, a referee and a lawsuit

Bill Spooner would like $75,000 for that Tweet, thank you very much.


I mentioned this last class, but I felt it deserved the full rundown instead of an abridged summary, so here goes:

During a Jan. 24 game between the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves, veteran referee William Spooner called a foul against a Timberwolves player before telling the team’s coach, Kurt Rambis, he would later review the call.

Associated Press sports writer Jon Krawczynski, sitting courtside, Tweeted away: “Ref Bill Spooner told Rambis he’d ‘get it back’ after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That’s NBA officiating folks.” The implied imprompriety contained within, of course, is that Spooner would make up his one bad call against the Timberwolves with another against the Rockets.

So, on March 14, Spooner sued Krawczynski in federal court for defamation, asking for $75,000 in damages and a court order to remove the statement from Krawczynski’s log of Tweets. In the lawsuit, Krawczynski claims that the message led to a disciplinary investigation by the NBA and damaged his professional reputation among referees.

This doesn’t seem like a battle Spooner will win anytime soon, though. He’s already got one strike against him, and it’s from the organization that’s purportedly representing him — the NBA.

Tim Frank, the NBA’s senior vice president for basketball communications, said the league investigated the tweet and “found it to be without substance, and informed Mr. Spooner that we considered the matter closed.”

It will be interesting to see if Spooner is able to triumph in any legislative battles here. As addressed in this TH Online article, there are a number of obstacles preventing online comments from being successfully litigated. If Spooner can win, it may be a watershed moment for that branch of law.

Do you think we’ll see a day when Tweets and Facebook posts will be regularly — and successfully — struck down in court? Let me know below.


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