DOCUMENT: Fail, Sports

Yankee Fan's Defamation Suit Is Put To Sleep

Man sued after being shown on ESPN snoozing

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Sleepy Fan Dismissal

SEPTEMBER 29--A New York City judge has dismissed the $10 million defamation lawsuit filed by a New York Yankees fan shown on ESPN sleeping in the stands during a game last season against the rival Boston Red Sox, court records show.

In a July 2014 complaint, Andrew Rector alleged that he was disparaged during the broadcast of an April 13 game from Yankee Stadium. Rector, 27, sued Major League Baseball, the Yankees, ESPN, and announcers Dan Shulman and John Kruk for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

During the fourth inning of the ballgame, an ESPN camera showed Rector sleeping in his second-row seat in the ballpark’s lower level. Shulman referred to the snoozing fan as “oblivious,” while Kruk commented that the stadium was “not the place you come to sleep.”

While Rector’s lawsuit alleged that he was subjected to an “unending verbal crusade” by the ESPN duo, the assorted putdowns referred to in the complaint actually appeared in the comment sections of online articles about Rector nodding off during the game. Two comments cited in the lawsuit referred to Rector as a “fatty cow that needs two seats” and a “confused disgusted and socially bankrupt individual.”

In a decision issued last month, Judge Julia Rodriguez ruled that Shulman and Kruk made none of the nasty comments attributed to them in Rector’s complaint, adding that “none of the comments actually made by the announcers” was defamatory or false. Rodriguez added that, “At worst, the announcers’ comments might be considered to be loose, figurative or hyperbolic statements which are not actionable.”

In seeking the dismissal of Rector’s lawsuit, an attorney representing ESPN and the other defendants quoted a Yankee legend in one court filing. Arguing that Shulman and Kruk never defamed Rector, lawyer Thomas Sullivan noted that Yogi Berra once actually said, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”   

Addressing Rector’s contention that the defendants “set the stage” for others to defame him, Judge Rodriguez (seen at right) dismissed that claim, ruling that Rector’s lawyer Valentine Okwara cited no “legal authority upon which any of the defendants may be held liable for Plaintiff’s alleged injuries.”

Rector, a used car salesman, claimed in a court affidavit filed earlier this year that the ESPN broadcast--which he termed “bullying”--caused “enormous grief and embarrassment and affected my ability to work and go about my daily activity.” He added that, “people have avoided dealing with me. Insurance companies now consider me a high risk.” (9 pages)