MINNEAPOLIS — An NBA referee has sued The Associated Press and one of its sportswriters over a Twitter message suggesting he intentionally made a bad call to make up for a previous bad call that went against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Minneapolis, veteran NBA referee William Spooner claimed AP sportswriter Jon Krawczynski defamed him in the Twitter message, sent while he was covering the Jan. 24 Rockets-Timberwolves game.
In the second period, Spooner called a foul against a Timberwolves player. According to Spooner’s lawsuit, Wolves coach Kurt Rambis argued the call and Spooner told him he would review it at halftime. Rambis said that was fine, but asked how he was supposed to get the points back, according to the lawsuit.
Spooner says in the lawsuit that he didn’t respond to Rambis. But Krawczynski, seated courtside, posted a tweet that said, “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.”
The Rockets went on to win the game 129-125.
Spooner claims the Twitter message led to a disciplinary investigation by the NBA and that his professional reputation has been hurt.
Spooner has asked the court for damages of more than $75,000 plus a court order to remove the statement from Krawczynski’s Internet postings.
AP attorney Dave Tomlin said, “We believe all the facts we reported in our coverage of that game, in all media, were accurate.”
Tim Frank, the NBA’s senior vice president for basketball communications, said the league investigated the tweet and “found it to be without substance, and informed Mr. Spooner that we considered the matter closed.”
Frank said the NBA also advised Spooner’s attorney that the league didn’t think suing a journalist for posting a tweet it deemed incorrect would be productive.
A hearing date has not been set.