Doug Gottlieb tweeting that Freddie Freeman wasn’t provided with a final contract offer by the Atlanta Braves has been heavily disputed by agent Casey Close, and now Close is taking the case to court.
Jeff Passan had that story today at ESPN:
The lawsuit details Close’s negotiations with the Atlanta Braves, the team with which Freeman had spent his career before signing a six-year, $162 million free agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in March. On June 29, Gottlieb tweeted: “Casey Close never told Freddie Freeman about the Braves (sic) final offer, that is why Freeman fired him” — an allegation the complaint says is false and has prompted death threats toward Close and tens of millions of dollars in damages to Close and Excel.
In a statement, Close said: “Although we gave Mr. Gottlieb an opportunity to retract his false statement, he failed to do so. The Complaint sets the record straight as to what occurred during the negotiations with the Atlanta Braves.”
Libel is difficult to prove, and I’m certainly not some big city lawyer. But this is a fascinating example of the kind of responsibility media members have when putting stuff out into the world. Gottlieb’s tweet is the sort of thing that, if true, could certainly change Close’s reputation going forward. We’re probably going to get plenty of evidence discovery here that will show whether or not Gottlieb had a leg to stand on.
Passan lays out the requirements for libel in his report:
The complaint says Close, a former New York Yankees minor leaguer who has negotiated billions of dollars in contracts over a 30-year career as an agent, is a private figure.
If his private-figure status is upheld by a court in the Southern District of New York, Close would need to prove Gottlieb’s statement was false and made with negligence. For public figures, the threshold is that the defendant published the statement with “actual malice,” or, as the Supreme Court defined, “knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
Gottlieb isn’t exactly the top name in MLB newsbreaking, either, you know? But this is the risk taken when you put things out this specifically. It’s wild considering the proliferation of fake news and baseless misinformation that someone could actually be taken to court over an issue like this, but Close clearly views it as important enough to spend time and effort proving his point.