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Mind your ump-bashing this year. Unless you wanna get sued.

Mar 15, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT

Bill Spooner

This doesn’t come from the world of baseball, but it’s a cautionary tale for any of us who, after a couple of refreshments, take to Twitter while simultaneously watching baseball games and would dare criticize the men in blue:

A Tweet by The Associated Press’ beat writer for the National Basketball Association’s Minnesota Timberwolvesthat was critical of an official could prove costly, as ESPN.com reports that NBA referee Bill Spooner filed suit against Jon Krawczynski for alleging that Spooner promised the Timberwolves a makeup call during a Jan. 24 game against the Houston Rockets.

Given that (a) NBA officials obviously give makeup calls all the time; and (b) the reputation of NBA referees in this post Tim Donaghy world is so poor, I question whether the ref has a leg to stand on. But that’s a matter for the courts now, I guess. And for the witnesses who Krawczynski will likely be able to find from that press table who will corroborate his story.  And probably for the NBA and the NBA referee’s union, who couldn’t have possibly signed off on one of its officials actually suing a member of the media over something silly like this, could they have?

All I know is that if this creates any kind of precedent, I should go back and erase the tweets I made following Buster Posey being called safe on that steal attempt during Game 1 of the NLDS, because I’m sure I said things way more defamatory than the stuff Krawczynski said. I think I got into Paul Emmel’s parentage, intelligence, hobbies and/or amorous tendencies, and that was before Posey even got done brushing the dirt off his pants. His totally-out-by-a-mile-yet-was-still-allowed-to-come-around-and-score-the-only-run-in-the-game pants.

I’m guessing we’ve all had such moments.  The only solution: tweet only about the dead, who can’t sue for defamation. That’s what I’m going to do anyway. Next time I see a bad call, I’m going to curse a blue streak about Eric Gregg’s strike zone in the Livan Hernandez game in the 1997 playoffs. Yes, it’s transference, but it should keep me out of court.

UPDATE: Nope, the NBA didn’t sign off on the lawsuit. And if you read between the lines, you get the sense that they aren’t at all pleased that it was filed.

  1. mncubsfan - Mar 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Best case scenario referees, officials and umpires see Bill Spooner get his name drug through the mud in the court of public opinion and maybe they become a little more diligent about their play calling.

  2. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Mar 15, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    I wouldn’t be so sure, Craig. You may be sued on behalf of the dead person’s estate. There’s no safe place to talk trash about refs apparently. No where. Except maybe on this comments board…let’s see: Hey Cowboy Joe West! Your music sucks almost as bad as your umpiring! You hear me? You suck balls!

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 15, 2011 at 1:23 PM

      The estate of a dead person can’t maintain a defamation suit. There are instances when they’ve tried to shoehorn defamation suits into other legal theories, but I don’t think they’ve been successful. The actual defamation claim is deemed a personal tort and dies with the person whose reputation was allegedly sullied.

    • kellyb9 - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:16 PM

      You better watch out… they cloned Joe West so he could be at half the games this year. You may have 15 to 16 seperate defamation suits on your hands. (side note: seriously… they cloned him… he’s at every game. I can make a similar argument on PFT to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.)

  3. Joe "Bestest Umpire In The" West - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    I see that you have requested me to suck your balls…? Not without you buying me a 14 course meal first, buddy boy. Now go get your back fixed, you Nancy boy.

    • Jonny 5 - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:12 PM

      Tell Quatto I said Hi.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:52 PM

      Hey Joe, the only “West” that you are the bestest umpire of, is in the west side of downtown Douchetown.

      • Joe "Bestest Umpire In The" West - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        So…does this mean no 14 course meal? I was so looking forward to the pie(s) at the end. You’re still a Nancy boy, Heyward.

  4. globalcowboy13 - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    I’m not defending the legitimacy of the suit, but I do think there is an important distinction to be had here that means it wouldn’t spill over. The suit isn’t over Krawczynski saying Spooner made a bad call or anything like that, but rather Spooner is alleging that Krawczysnki fabricated potentially damaging quotations. If Krawczynski had just said “That must have been a makeup call”, I don’t think we would be in this situation

  5. cur68 - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    Man I would love to see Scott Barry sued by Ryan Howard. That would be a deserving suit. Umps hand out make up calls all the time and the commentators call them that all the time but MAYBE its reasonable to not want someone putting words in your mouth. However if your behavior matches the alleged statement, then do you have a leg to stand on?

  6. Kevin S. - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Doesn’t Spooner have to prove that not only did Krawczynski make the quote up, but did so out of malice (as opposed to genuinely mishearing him)? Yeah, good luck with that, buddy.

  7. crpls - Mar 15, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    With regards to the successful SB by Posey…

    *points to the World Series trophy*

    You lose.

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