Thursday, January 07, 2016

Two Major League Baseball players sue Al Jazeera for defamation; a lesson in the law? (and for sports?)

There’s a good example of defamation law playing out now.  Two MLB baseball players, Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals, and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies, have sued news organization Al Jazeera for defamation on apparently reporting on some supposed violation of MLB’s policies of use of performance-enhancing drugs. ESPN’s story and video follows here.  USA Today has a similar story here.

The content had been included in an Al Jazeera documentary “The Dark Side: The Secret World of Sports Doping”. The news organization seems to tell its own side of the story in its own account here

 Right now, I could not yet find an entry for the documentary in imdb.

To prevail, since the players are “public figures”, they would have to show that the defendants (which can included both whole companies and individual employees or contractors working for them) had acted maliciously, or with reckless disregard for the truth.

Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez had occurred on the list of a clinic that had dispensed improper substances to some players, but MLB cleared him of any wrongdoing (ESPN story). 

All of this is a serious distraction to both teams involved.  The Washington Nationals hired a new manager (Dusty Baker) who then started some controversy with online comments on unrelated matters.  The team needs to be healthy and focused as Spring Training starts in six weeks.  A story like this concerning one of its key players (often sidelined by injury) does not help.  Of course, many medications used in conjunction with injuries would be legitimate.

It also shows the risks fimmakers can run with "expose" documentary.  

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