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Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

Sticks and Stone Can Hurt People, But Disagreement Between NFL Players Is A Reminder That Words Also Can Hurt Us

Posted on: February 20th, 2020

By:  Jeffrey Hord

In the final minute of last November’s NFL game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and swung it at Rudolph, hitting him in the head. This attack drew national attention and resulted in an indefinite suspension for Garrett. Despite the shocking nature of the attack, some early speculation that Rudolph might sue Garrett for battery for the this on-field altercation showed no signs of spilling over into the courts…until now.

Last week, during an interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes, Garrett repeated a claim that he first made in the days following the November brawl: specifically, that Rudolph had sparked the fight by calling Garrett a racial slur. Rudolph has emphatically denied the allegation and also notes that the NFL investigated Garrett’s allegation and concluded that there was “no evidence to support” his claim.

Now, Rudolph’s attorney has responded to Garret’s latest allegation by suggesting that his client may now sue Garrett for slander. In California – where the interview with Kimes took place – slander involves a false statement by one person about another person which tends directly to injure the victim with respect to his office, profession, trade or business. Rudolph essentially contends that his reputation has been damaged by the accusation that he used a racial epithet.

Interestingly, however, Rudolph may not prevail simply by proving that the allegation is false. Rather, if Rudolph is deemed a “public figure” in the eyes of the law, Rudolph then will have to prove that Garrett also acted with actual malice in making the allegation. Under California law, “actual malice” is a higher standard to meet as it must be proven that the false statement was made with actual knowledge that the statement is false or with reckless disregard for the truth. If the fight that started on the field leads to a legal fight off the field, it will be interesting to see if Garrett tries to push it into the NFL’s grievance system, what evidence Garrett relies upon in support of his allegation, whether a court finds that Rudolph is a “public figure” and how Rudolph may try and use the NFL’s report as evidence that he did not utter the alleged word.

If you have questions regarding defamation or other tort claims, feel free to contact Jeffrey Hord at [email protected].

What Does Your Video Watching Behavior Say About You?

Posted on: December 18th, 2017

By: Jonathan Romvary

A federal court recently determined that the sharing of an individual’s device identification number and the videos watched does not violate federal privacy laws. In Eichenberger v. ESPN, Inc. , 2017 BL 427074, 9th Cir., No. 15-35449 (Nov. 29, 2017), the Ninth Circuit held that an individual’s Roku Inc. device serial number and a list of the ESPN videos watched does not qualify as personally identifiable information (PII) under the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) such that ESPN’s sharing of the information with a third party did not violate VPPA protections.

What did the Court hold?

The three-judge panel held that while the plaintiff had standing under the Court’s Spokeo ruling, he could not continue with his suit because the shared information was not personally identifiable under the VPPA. The panel adopted and expanded the Third Circuit’s 2016 Viacom ruling that information can only be considered personally identifiable if an ordinary person could use it to pinpoint a specific individual’s video-watching behavior. Here, an individual would require the data to be combined with other personal information that ESPN never shared or possessed.

Why is this important?

The impact of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling may be far reaching. Nowadays, technology service providers and app developers are moving away from identifying their users by their names. They now utilize a variety of alphanumeric identifiers to identify their users, whether it is the unique identification number of the user’s device (see ESPN) or a unique user account identification number. Without more, the average user is unable to identify the person who watched. As one observer noted, this ruling may pave the way for companies such as Hulu, Netflix, Google and Facebook to optimize their user experience to provide more targeted marketing without violating federal statute.

In recent years, plaintiffs have filed a serious of class actions alleging violations of the VPPA against companies such as Fandango, Blockbuster,, Gamefly, Redbox, Best Buy, Netflix, and Hulu. The attractiveness of these suits is likely because plaintiffs can argue that violations are punishable by $2,500 in statutory damages per violation. However, as this court’s ruling indicates, every technological advancement away from the brick and mortar video rental stores away will make it harder for a plaintiff to sustain a successful claim.

However, the impact should also not be overstated. Despite this win for technology providers in the Ninth Circuit, there remains the matter of Yershov v. Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc., No. 15-1719 (1st Cir. Apr. 29, 2016) which held that the disclosure of an individual’s viewing data along with the device’s unique identifier and device’s GPS information constituted PII such that the disclosure may violate the VPPA. The fact remains that there is still much uncertainty about the scope and viability of the VPPA.

If you have any questions or would like more information on this developing issue please contact Jonathan Romvary at [email protected].