Entertainment & Sports Law

Sleeping Yankees fan caught on camera sues for alleged defamation

A Yankees fan who was caught on camera napping at an April 13 game has filed a $10 million suit for alleged defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit filed on behalf of fan Andrew Robert Rector claims the ESPN announcers “unleashed [an] avalanche of disparaging words” about him, implying that he doesn’t understand the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Courthouse News Service has a story, later picked up by the Smoking Gun, the New York Post and the New York Times.

The clip was posted on Major League Baseball’s website the next day, resulting in more “vituperative utterances,” the suit says. On the clip, announcer Dan Shulman says “this guy’s oblivious” while announcer John Kruk says “this is not the place you come to sleep.” Words used, the suit says, included “fat, unintelligent, stupid”; the Times says the announcers did not use such words in the posted clip.

Shulman did allude to Rector’s weight, the Post says, when he asked “the famously rotund” Kruk: “Not a cousin? Not a relative?” In his reply, Kruk said, “Physically he could be, yeah.”

The suit was filed on July 3 in New York state court in the Bronx. The complaint, according to the Times, “was written in highly idiosyncratic and often ungrammatical English.” The lawyer who filed it, Valentine Okwara, has a degree from the University of Buckingham in England and was admitted to the New York bar last year, according to the state courts website.

The defendants include Major League Baseball, the Yankees and ESPN. The Times was unable to get a comment from the defendants, though ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys deemed the lawsuit “frivolous” when declining to comment.

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