Sports Defamation: Miller v. Mile High City? (Nah.)

sports defamation lawsuit speculation
Will a former Denver Nugget file a sports defamation lawsuit?

Is another sports defamation lawsuit on the way?

Nah, probably not. Nevertheless, former Mile High City point guard Andre Miller recently hit headlines for publicly waxing poetic about his former team and coach Brian Shaw.

Now, to be crystal clear, the words “sports defamation” or “lawsuit” – so far as we know – have never crossed Miller’s lips, but a few media outlets have made the connection — and it got us thinking: would Miller have a solid sports defamation suit in this instance?

Let’s take a look at the facts and engage in some sports defamation speculation, shall we?

What Has Reporters Wondering If A Sports Defamation Suit Is On The Way?

Our tale of possible sports defamation woe began on January 1, 2014. People around the world were tending to headaches or cracking on their resolutions. Denver Nuggets point guard Andre Miller, however, was ostensibly nursing pent-up frustrations and dealing with the end of his 239-game-on-court streak.

According to reports, the “coaches’ decision” to bench Miller erupted in a heated exchange between Miller and NBA veteran/gumshoe head coach, Shaw. A locker room blow-up punctuated the incident. Apparently, disparagement and frustrations were shared by all – loudly.

Later, when asked about the incident by Yahoo! Sports, Miller chided, “I was made out to be the bad guy, the villain, because I was the one complaining about minutes. That wasn’t the issue at all.”
He continued:

“I came out and represented the organization, played games, practiced and did it the right way. Don’t bash me. It’s not true saying I was disgruntled about minutes and complaining. In reality, I was just speaking up for guys on the team and being a veteran leader. I was just doing my job.”

Who Would Probably Win In Our Hypothetical Miller v. Nuggets Sports Defamation Lawsuit?

What would be the likely outcome of a hypothetical Miller v. Denver Nuggets sports defamation lawsuit? Bluntly speaking, he’d probably lose. No, let me re-phrase that, he’d most definitely lose (unless public reports are missing key information).

Why is it unlikely that Miller would emerge victorious in our hypothetical sports defamation lawsuit?

In order to win a sports slander or libel lawsuit in the U.S., plaintiffs must prove that:

  1. The defendant made a public false statement of fact (Internet postings count);
  2. The false statement of fact caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation or bank account; and
  3. The defendant acted either negligently or with actual malice.

Since Miller is a “public figure,” he would have to meet actual malice standards to win a sports defamation lawsuit. You can read more about actual malice here. To give you a quick (incomplete) definition, actual malice occurs when a person knowingly lies, with the intent of causing another person or entity harm. In this case, it sounds like nobody lied, but simply expressed their negative opinions about the other parties.

Miller and the Nuggets’ coaching staff begrudgingly shook hands and parted ways after the 1/1/14 incident. At the trade deadline, management traded Miller to the Washington Wizards where he is now averaging 3.9 points and 3.2 assists per game.

Contact A Sports Defamation Law Firm

Kelly / Warner handles all types of sports defamation lawsuits. Our batting average is great – and we get the job done quickly. Get in touch today to learn more about your sports defamation legal options.

Yes, I Want to Speak with Someone about an Internet Law Issue »