Some Inside Michigan State Want “Massive” Lawsuit Against Media Falsehoods
Spartan Nation learned after the ESPN article on Michigan State walk-on Brock Washington that there are some inside the University that are tired of what they believe to be a media witch hunt against the school and some of the student-athletes. While we were told that they have NOT had a discussion with President Engler as of yet, that they believe the sentiment and resolves is there do it and they believe that it will be discussed.
Spartan Nation senior writer Jon Schopp (who is a highly successful attorney) discusses what the parameters of such a suit would have to look like from the Spartan perspective:
Defamation is a type of civil action brought when someone’s words end up causing harm to someone else’s reputation or livelihood. Libel is generally a written or published defamatory statement, while slander is defamation that is spoken out loud. A plaintiff typically needs to prove at least three elements to win a Defamation law suit: that a defendant published or otherwise broadcast an unprivileged, false statement of fact about the plaintiff; that it caused material harm to the plaintiff by publishing or broadcasting those false statements of fact; and that the defendant negligently or with actual malice. One thing to note is that MSU would likely file suit in Federal Court because of the amount in controversy, aka the amount of damages claimed.
ESPN and other media have chosen to write stories about players that have not been charged, left out what many inside and outside the University believe are very relevant facts, and in some cases ran complete falsehoods. But it was the article on Washington that specifically set the wheels in motion in consideration for this.
As the hemorrhaging ESPN network continues to go after the Spartans they have some potentially damaging issues. There have been massive layoffs and firings from the network. Some disgruntled former employees are starting to sound the alarm at what they allegedly believe to be unethical behavior of the four letter network. The sources that we have spoken to at Michigan State believe that adding those people (some they are privately already aware of) to be deposed in relation to this court case that stories with significantly more evidence were not run, altered or buried because of advertiser or other interest pressure would bolster their case of this being selective reporting.
Lastly, Spartan Nation has learned from our sources at the University of another Interesting Fact. When ESPN was bidding to win the rights to the Big Ten Network, a Big Ten official asked, “How many millions are we talking?” It was in a casual, but open conversation with several people. The ESPN official told the group, “Our reach is worth billions.” Those words could help define the amount of money that Michigan State could seek and use the network’s own words against them.
Finally, Spartan Nation was told, “I can see this going forward where the University would take care of all the legal expenses associated with the suit. But any monetary damages collected not being kept by the school, but passed on to victims of sexual abuse and used to make the school even safer for our students.”
Would winning the suit be difficult? Yes. Is it impossible? No. As our source said, “I can’t imagine ESPN wanting their executives in a deposition chair and under oath having to answer questions about killing stories while letting others with far less fact go. Why would you do that? Would they want to have to spend time rebutting their former employees? Does ESPN want to answer questions under oath as to their own other internal scandals? We might not win the case, who knows, but we would get to depositions and ESPN doesn’t want that.”
Michigan State could prove damages easily by donor emails, merchandise sales, and numerous other avenues of revenue flow that have been impacted. That isn’t considered a problem. It is important to clarify that the anger is not felt for the reporting on the scandal involving Dr. Larry Nassar. It is related to their reporting on issues with Spartan Football and Basketball.
Spartan Nation is NOT reporting the potential suit as imminent. It is interesting to know it is under consideration by some very influential members of the University who think that a fighter like President Engler could be inclined to support it.
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