Bill Spooner’s Frivolous Lawsuit Is an Embarrassment to NBA Officials


March 16, 2011

In America, we have a Bill of Rights to protect the freedom of the press. In the NBA? It's anyone's guess.

A story broke Tuesday of a longtime NBA official suing an Associated Press basketball reporter, alleging that the reporter libelously tweeted about his handling of a bad call made during the Timberwolves-Rockets game on Jan. 24.

The official, Bill Spooner, is suing for $75,000 because the reporter, Jon Krawczynski, announced via Twitter that Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis would "get it back" from Spooner after a bad call. The Wolves got robbed of two points, Spooner promised them the points back, and he made a makeup call later, Krawczynski alleged.

This lawsuit leaves you scratching your head for a variety of reasons. So many questions, so little time. Questions like?

Why does Spooner care? It's just one tweet, and basketball writers make thousands of them. Why not just let it go?

Why now? The game and the tweet in question happened almost two months ago. It takes a good few minutes' worth of scrolling down Krawczynski's Twitter page to even find the "defamatory accusation." Isn't this old news by now? Why damage your reputation by digging it up?

Why $75,000? Senior NBA officials, including a 22-year veteran like Spooner, generally make around half a million bucks per season. Suing for a measly $75 grand means that this tweet cost Spooner a few weeks of damages. What does that even mean?

But here's the best question of all — what in the world is Bill Spooner's case?

Krawczynski, like any good reporter, no doubt has a background in media law and ethics. We all took that college class at some point back in the day, didn't we? The golden rule is that the burden of proof is on the accuser — unless Spooner can prove he didn't promise Rambis a makeup call, and further prove that Krawczynski's tweet damaged his career in the NBA, then he loses. Spooner is fighting a battle that he can't possibly win.

After all, this is America. If Krawczynski isn't allowed to report the facts here, then he can't do it anywhere.

Whether you agree with the policy of makeup calls is beside the point. All that matters is Krawczynski saw and heard one such call being made, and he came out with the truth. In other words, he did his job.

It's an embarrassment that this is even an issue. Not because the call was made and tweeted about, but because NBA refs should have better things to do than complain about months-old tweets.

Our court system is clogged up with enough frivolous lawsuits already. Let's hope this one dies.

What do you think of Bill Spooner suing Jon Krawczynski? Share your thoughts below.

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