JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- John Daly sued The Florida Times-Union
and its Web site, contending he was defamed by a columnist who
called the golfer a thug who allegedly beats women.
Columnist Mike Freeman's article appeared during The Players
Championship last spring. It discusses Daly's past and how fans
continue to root for the former British Open and PGA champion who
has battled problems with alcohol, weight and his temper.
Daly, 39, of Cordova, Tenn., is suing over statements that he is
"accused of smacking women around" and he has "Thug Life
qualifications" and "a rap sheet that would make R. Jay Soward
look like a Backstreet Boy." Soward was drafted in 2000 as a
first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was suspended for
repeated violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy.
The suit was filed July 26 in Duval County Circuit Court and
seeks an unspecified amount in excess of $15,000 -- the minimum for
filing a circuit court suit -- and a jury trial.
"The statements in the Times-Union [column] were not true,"
said Lydia Jones, Daly's attorney. "We are pursuing the lawsuit
vigorously and intend to seek punitive damages."
Times-Union editor Pat Yack defended Freeman and his March 25
"It's regrettable that Mr. Daly has taken this step. Mike
Freeman is a fine journalist. We stand by his work and his
column," Yack said.
The Times-Union and its Web site, Jacksonville.com, and their
owners, Morris Publishing Group of Augusta, Ga., were named in the
suit. Freeman is being sued personally.
On July 15, the newspaper ran a "Note to Readers" on the front
page of the sports section, clarifying parts of the column.
The Times-Union said Daly was charged in a domestic disturbance
involving his then-wife in 1992, pleaded guilty to harassment and
was placed on probation. It also said references to Daly's
substance abuse referred to his alcohol abuse and that a reference
to basketball player Shawn Kemp, who has fathered several children
out of wedlock, was not meant to suggest Daly's three children were
Daly's lawsuit says the note "did not constitute a full and
fair correction, apology or retraction."