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Ex-Bulls Star Files Suit Claiming Websites Falsely Labeled Him as Bankrupt; Is Blog Tag Defamatory?

Posted Dec 14, 2011 10:20 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Former Bulls basketball star Scottie Pippen claims in a lawsuit that his net worth is at least $40 million—and website reports to the contrary have defamed him.

Pippen’s suit filed Dec. 13 in Chicago federal court seeks $9 million in damages. The suit says Pippen has never filed for bankruptcy, and reports suggesting he did so amount to negligence, false light and defamation. The Chicago Sun-Times and TMZ have stories on the filing.

"It is a most foul libel indeed to be falsely accused of being bankrupt,” the suit (PDF) says.The complaint begins with a long summary of Pippen’s successful career as part of its description of the parties, and includes a photo of a charitable appearance at a school to illustrate his record of public service.

In an unusual claim targeting Arizona State University, the suit alleges defamation because of blog tags—keywords created by bloggers to help readers find stories through online search engines. The targeted blog post had tags for the categories of “bankruptcy” and “Scottie Pippen.” The article has since been removed, but a cached version describes Pippen's successful malpractice suit against his former law firm claiming its bad advice caused him to lose money on the purchase of a Gulfstream jet.

Other allegations in the suit: Pippen was included on a list of 15 athletes who went bankrupt by CNBC.com. And CBSSports.com ran a huge photo of Pippen next to a headline reading, “Money a problem for a lot of former players.”

Updated at 9:50 a.m. to include additional information from the lawsuit.

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