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Broadcaster Says ESPN Radio Host Defamed Him

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - An ESPN Radio host falsely accused a competitor of being a rapist and child molester as part of an effort to boost his ratings, the competitor claims in court.

Todd Bartley, a radio host on ESPN Williamsport, also claimed Darrick Dixon was involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a female basketball player he once coached, according to a lawsuit filed by Dixon.

Dixon, who sued Bartley, ESPN and ABC in the Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court last Friday, operates an interscholastic broadcasting company known as PA Sports Live.

He admits that, in 2001, after being accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his players, he entered a no contest plea but never pleaded guilty and was never a registered sex offender.

Dixon alleges Bartley has had it out for him because of his "ability to attract higher ratings and more advertising revenue" than Bartley's ESPN affiliate during certain sports events.

The lawsuit says PA Sports Live's football videos often generated "more than 10,000 views" on YouTube, while "the most viewed football video on ESPN Radio's YouTube page during the 2015 season attracted fifty-four (54) views."

In a lengthy, on-air tirade directed at Dixon on Feb. 1 of this year, Bartley allegedly called Dixon a "former girls basketball coach who raped one of his players."

"I'm telling you right now, people ... have said today, in 2016, he got no business being around kids or being at a school, let alone with a camera," Bartley allegedly said. "The guy's doing face to face interviews on the court, on the floor, on the mat, on the gridiron and if you tell me I can't go, I'm going to sue you because I can't make a living. Well guess what? Most people didn't rape their own player back in 2001, most people didn't do that."

The March 4 complaint says Bartley posted a link to the Feb. 1 audio on his Facebook page, which "has attracted more than 4,000 listeners."

Dixon claims that several cease and desist letters sent to ESPN and its local broadcast affiliates have had no effect, and that Bartley has dedicated several more segments of his show to defaming his character.

The lawsuit cites another one of Bartley's broadcast from Feb. 10, 2016.

"Do you hear a recurring theme? If you go online and you look at any of the videos that [Dixon] is putting out, girls or female student athletes compared to male or boy student athletes, it's about 20 to 1 girls to guys in number of videos that are online that he's putting out for recruiting purposes," Bartley allegedly said.

Bartley also stated that one school doesn't want Dixon on their campus "because he reached out to one of their girls basketball players to do one of her games," adding that "the man has no shame," according to the complaint.

Bartley concluded the Feb. 10 segment by claiming that Dixon should be forced to register as a sex offender, the lawsuit states.

"If a loophole does exist which I don't believe it does, name it after him. He wants to be famous. Name it the Darrick Dixon loophole and close it," the host allegedly said.

Dixon and his broadcasting company seek more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for defamation, false light, tortious interference with business relationships, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

According to the lawsuit, "for more than a decade, [Dixon] has devoted countless hours to volunteering to better his church, community and alma mater," and he recently "organized a community gathering to end gun violence and improve relations between the Williamsport community and the police department."

Colonial Radio Group of Williamsport LLC and Pioneer Sports Production LLC are named alongside Bartley, ESPN and ABC as defendants in the case.

Dixon is represented by Steven Silver of McBreen & Kopko in Philadelphia.

A statement on the ESPN Williamsport website says that the station "stands behind every word of its reporting and stands prepared to defend it in any court venue at any time."

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