MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – An NBA referee claims an Associated Press sportswriter defamed him in a Twitter post that said the ref told Timberwolves Coach Kurt Rambis he would “get back” his points after the ref made a bad call, and then made a makeup call on the Wolves’ opponents.
William Spooner sued AP and its Timberwolves beat writer Jon Krawczynski in Federal Court, seeking damages for defamation and removal of the defamatory tweet.
Spooner called the Jan. 24 game between the Timberwolves and the Houston Rockets at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
During the second period, Rambis confronted Spooner about a foul call on a Timberwolves player. Spooner “told Coach Rambis that he would review the call at halftime and get back to him about it,” the complaint states.
“Coach Rambis walked away from plaintiff Spooner, commenting with words to the effect of, ‘That’s fine, but how do I get those points back.'”
Krawczynski, who was covering the game from near the scorer’s table, published a statement on Twitter that night, saying, “‘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.'”
Spooner says he promised to review the foul call “only for his personal edification and not to determine whether to change the call, nor to determine whether to make any new, false calls.”
He says that Krawczynski knew or should have known that the quoted attribution was false.
Spooner adds that Krawczynski’s “false statement,” which triggered a disciplinary investigation by the NBA, affected “his chances of being assigned to officiate during the NBA Playoffs and Finals” and tarnished his record.
Spooner claims that Krawczynski “has made a theme of his reporting persistent criticism of NBA officiating,” throughout the season, and that game-fixing allegations are still a sore spot in the aftermath of the Tim Donaghy scandal.
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison and 3 years of probation for betting on NBA games, making calls to fix game scores and disclosing information to his associates, which included low-level mobsters tied to the Gambino crime family. The 2008 betting scandal surrounding Donaghy cast a shadow on professional basketball and subjected NBA referees to closer scrutiny by the media.
Spooner seeks more than $75,000 in compensatory damages and a retraction.
The Associated Press and Krawczynski are both named as defendants.
Spooner is represented by Nicholas Paul Granath with Seham, Seham, Meltz & Petersen of Minneapolis.