Tweet at Your Own Peril

In the course of my daily meanderings in cyberspace, I came across this article from MediaBistro. Apparently NBA referee Bill Spooner is suing AP reporter Jon Krawczynski over a tweet from the January 24 game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Houston Rockets.

The backstory:

In the second quarter,  Spooner called a sketchy foul on the Wolves’ Anthony Tolliver, which upset coach Kurt Rambis, who asked Spooner how he was going to get those points back.

Krawczynski then tweeted “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 Fallout:

The NBA investigated the call and decided the matter was closed. Spooner, however, decided to file suit, asking for $75,000 for “defamation per se to his professional and business reputation, a declaratory judgment that the Twitter publication constitutes defamation and an injunction requiring the removal of defamatory statements from the Defendants’ Internet postings.”

My take:

As a former journalist, this is absurd to me. Journalists, especially those who write opinion pieces, have the right, nay, the duty, to say any damn thing they want (within limits established by their publication’s editorial board).  If Spooner’s lawsuit, by some freak occurrence is upheld, it will strike a major blow against journalistic freedom and integrity in this country. I know Twitter isn’t exactly the same thing as an op-ed piece, but at the same time, freedom of speech and the press is a fundamental part of this country. Taking it away because someone is offended (by an accurate observation at that) would be a travesty. I hope the judge throws this out, but I guess we’ll see

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