The AP Settles Over NBA Twitter Lawsuit, Pays $20,000 Fine

The Associated Press has settled a lawsuit with an NBA referee who felt he was defamed by a tweet from one of their writers.

The AP has agreed to pay $20,000 in damages to the referee to cover his legal costs, as well as remove the tweet from the writer’s account.

As we reported when this lawsuit came to light in March, AP reporter Jon Krawczynski tweeted the following after a call that NBA referee William Spooner made during a January 24th game:

“Ref Bill Spooner told Rambis he’d ‘get it back’ after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That’s NBA officiating folks.”

And that tweet ended up costing his organization $20,000.

Spooner took the AP to court over this tweet, claiming that this tweet reported the conversation between Spooner and Rambis as fact, when it did not actually happen. He also noted in his lawsuit that the tweet caused a disciplinary investigation into his actions that night, and tarnished his reputation.

This week, the two parties came to an agreement which saw the AP pay $20,000 for Spooner’s legal fees, remove the tweet from Krawczynski’s account, and issue the following statement:

“AP and its reporter Jon Krawczynski learned through discovery that referee Bill Spooner and coach Kurt Rambis have both consistently and independently denied that Mr. Spooner told the coach ‘he’d get it back’ in an exchange that occurred after a disputed call against the Timberwolves on Jan. 24, 2011, as Mr. Krawczynski had tweeted from courtside that night. Mr. Spooner has testified that he instead told the coach he would ‘get back’ to him after reviewing videotape of the play during a halftime break.

“The NBA promptly investigated at the time and concluded that Mr. Spooner had acted properly. AP was initially unaware of the investigation and does not contest the NBA’s finding. During the game, Mr. Krawczynski tweeted what he believed he had heard. Mr. Krawczynski acknowledges the possibility that he misunderstood what Mr. Spooner said and has therefore removed the Tweet from his APKrawczynski Twitter feed.”

This is only the latest in a string of Twitter lawsuits. Perhaps the most notorious (and expensive) was Courtney Love’s lawsuit in which she defamed a dress maker and was required to pay $430,000 in damages. There was also a case of a politician being ordered to pay over £50,000 over a tweeted political smear, and there is currently a million-dollar lawsuit in the courts against a Portland blogger for defamatory tweets made against a doctor.

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