A disgruntled New York Yankees fan is suing the team, ESPN, and Major League Baseball for broadcasting him taking a nap in the bleachers during a game. In a complaint filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, the trial-level court in New York State, plaintiff Andrew Robert Rector alleges that he was defamed by the team, the league, and the sports broadcasting network, entitling him to significant damages.
Andrew Rector admits that he attended the game, a rivalry game between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, when he was caught on camera dozing off in the stands. When ESPN cameras caught the plaintiff sleeping, the broadcast announcers Dan Shulman and John Kruk, allegedly, “unleashed an avalanche of disparaging words against the plaintiff.” The plaintiff alleges that these words included “fatty,” “unintelligent” and “stupid,” which were then repeated with photos and video on the Major League Baseball’s (MLB) www.mlb.com website and MLB’s www.youtube.com channel the following day.
No one disputes that the announcers did poke fun at the sleeping giant, and fans of message boards appeared to have choice words for Mr. Rector’s mid-inning nap. However, sports outlet Deadspin reportedly reviewed the clips from the game, and they did not hear any of the alleged terms used by announcers Shulman or Kruck. Even if the allegations are true, however, Mr. Rector cannot recover unless he convinces the court and/or a jury that the statements were statements of fact and not merely opinions.
According to the New York Post, Mr. Rector is claiming defamation, alleging that the slights to his “character and reputation” have damaged his reputation as a used-car dealer. He specifically alleges that he has suffered “mental anguish, loss of future income, and loss of earning capacity.” Rector is seeking $10 million in damages.
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