Dean Rod Smolla Looks at Sports-related Law Suits in Sports Illustrated

Lexington, VA • Monday, August 27, 2007

Washington and Lee School of Law Dean Rod Smolla analyzed some current law suits in the Newsmakers section of a recent issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. The piece, "See You in Court! Handicapping the recent spate of sports related lawsuits" focused on cases involving Don Imus and Barry Bonds.

In the Imus case, a player from the Rutgers basketball team is suing the shock jock for defamation and slander after he called her and her teammates "nappy-headed hos" during a broadcast. Smolla noted that the case will hinge on whether the word "ho" is viewed as simply a slur or suggesting promiscuity. "It may be offensive to a lot of folks, but my instinct is that a court will say you cannot sue on the basis of that phrase, because it's an insult but not libel," said Smolla.

In the Bonds case, Bonds has retained attorneys who have threatened to sue anyone who has made false and defamatory statements regarding Bonds’ alleged used of steroids. But legal analysts agree that his lawyers would be foolish to pursue these claims as it would only increase scrutiny on Bonds.

Says Smolla, "If he does sue, he's playing with fire. A great example of this is Oscar Wilde, who was accused of [sodomy] and sued for libel. It then came out during the investigation that he was gay, and he was ruined."

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