|Monday, July 7
Court refuses to dismiss Sprewell's libel suit
By Darren Rovell
A New York State Supreme Court judge gave New York Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell the green light to proceed with his $40 million libel suit against the New York Post and Post staff writer Marc Berman.
Sprewell is suing the newspaper and its staff writer for publishing four reports that claimed Sprewell fractured his right pinkie finger -- an injury that kept him out of the first eight games of the NBA season -- during an altercation on his boat.
"This is a major victory for us," said Bob Gist, Sprewell's agent. Gist said two additional defendants -- New York Post reporters Mark Hale and Doug Montero -- could be added to the case in the coming days.
The Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that Sprewell injured his shooting hand by hitting a wall with an errant punch aimed at the boyfriend of a woman who had vomited on his boat. Sprewell calls the reports "ridiculous" and contends that he suffered the injury while trying to brace himself during a fall on the boat's deck.
"We're happy with the result and we look forward to continuing this case to its logical conclusion," said Stephen Weizenecker, Sprewell's lead attorney.
Counsel for the Post did not immediately return calls seeking comment. On July 17, the two parties will meet and set a date for a trial.
The Knicks, which got off to a 1-7 start to the season without its star guard, fined Sprewell $250,000 and suspended him for one game, a loss of another $140,000 in salary, for keeping news of the injury quiet and not cooperating with the team's medical staff.
In 1997, Sprewell was suspended 68 games for choking Golden State Warriors head coach P.J. Carlesimo, an incident that the Post's counsel claimed had already damaged Sprewell's reputation and cited as reason to dismiss the suit. But in rendering her decision to allow the suit to proceed, Supreme Court justice Marcy Friedman found that Sprewell's reputation could be further damaged if the reports are proven to have been published libelously.
In the suit, Sprewell's lawyers alleged that the articles were "published with actual malice, exposing Mr. Sprewell to public ridicule, contempt, aversion, disgrace, and induced evil opinions of him in the minds of right-thinking persons."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org