|is still good law. If the defamation rules apply in the false light context, it would appear that Gertz modifies Time, Inc. in regard to the private- person plaintiff.|
|8.||Doctors who reveal medical information about their athlete-patients might find themselves defending defamation or privacy suits. Weistart and Lowell address the problem as a form of medical malpractice at 989-990.|
|9.||Even though an abundance of information relates to defamation
generally, there is a paucity of information concerning specific sports
cases and sports figures, which is surprising because of the number of
defamation cases arising in sports.|
One article, however, outlines the referees' defamation case. See Melvin Narol and Stuart Dedopolous, "Defamation: A Guide to Referees' Rights," 16 TRIAL42 ( 1980). The authors, both of whom are attorneys and basketball officials, predict an increase in defamation litigation by referees. They attribute this to the unwillingness of sports officials to continue to be subjected to verbal abuses and the like.
Although the authors fist several issues to be considered in the referees' defamation case, they concentrate on one. In their opinion, the key issue is whether the sports official will be considered a "public figure." Because of the exposure through television, radio, and print media, the authors would regard an NBA referee as being within the public figure category. On the other hand, they feel a professional boxing judge would not fall into that category because of limited media coverage of boxing.
Some factors to consider in evaluating whether the referee is a public official are the level of competition being officiated; the number of years the sports official has been officiating; whether the athletic contest was broadcast on radio or television; and the sports official's notoriety in the particular sports community. In light of these factors, the official will fall on a continuum between public figure and private individual. At the public figure end would be an NBA referee. Moving toward the middle, the authors place there the Amateur Athletic Union and semi- professional and other similarly situated officials. In the middle falls the college sports official. The high-school official would fall into the private individual classification. And clearly, volunteer officials in Little League and community center games would be private individuals for defamation purposes.
Authorities who cover defamation and privacy generally are listed in the following bibliography.
"Accommodation of Reputational Interests and Free Press: A Call for a Strict Interpretation of Gertz," 11 FORDHAM LAW JOURNAL401 ( 1982-83).