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#pounditThursday, August 11, 2022

Legal Matters

Sage Steele files lawsuit against ESPN

Sage Steele at the ESPYs

Jul 11, 2017; Marina del Rey, CA, USA; Tamika Catchings (left), Sage Steele (center) and Karl-Anthony Towns pose during the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year Awards at the Ritz-Carlton. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Longtime ESPN anchor Sage Steele is suing her employer.

Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Steele has filed a lawsuit against ESPN and parent company Disney. The suit accuses ESPN of taking action against Steele after she exercised her right to free speech.

During an appearance on the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast last September, Steele ripped ESPN over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. She later tested positive for COVID and was temporarily taken off the air. The belief was that her hiatus had just as much to do with her comments about ESPN’s vaccine mandate as it did with her contracting the virus.

Steele also faced backlash for comments she made on the same podcast about former president Barack Obama. She said she finds it “fascinating” that Obama identifies as black on his US census form “considering his black dad was nowhere to be found.”

Steele later issued an apology. Her lawsuit states that the apology was forced by ESPN executives. The suit also claims ESPN retaliated against Steele by “taking away prime assignments and failing to stop bullying and harassment by Ms. Steele’s colleagues.”

The lawsuit alleges that ESPN violated Connecticut state law.

“ESPN violated her free speech rights, retaliated against her, reprimanded her, scapegoated her, allowed the media and her peers to excoriate her and forced her to apologize simply because her personal opinions did not align with Disney’s corporate philosophy of the moment,” Steele’s attorney Bryan Freedman said in a statement. “Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced.”

Steele is expected to remain on the air with ESPN while the lawsuit plays out, Ryan Glasspiegel of the New York Post reports.

ESPN said last year that it welcomes differing viewpoints but that those viewpoints need to be “expressed respectfully.”

The Cutler podcast appearance was not the first time Steele has faced backlash for something she publicly complained about.

Police investigating claim that college baseball team tried to poison opponent

Kansas Wesleyan water cooler poison

Police have opened an official investigation after a college baseball team claimed their opponent attempted to poison them during a game last week.

According to police records obtained by TMZ, Kansas Wesleyan University filed an incident report with the Lindsborg Police Department in Kansas in which multiple unnamed people are listed as victims. The report stems from an allegation that someone with Bethany College tried to poison Kansas Wesleyan’s team water cooler in order to get their players sick.

The alleged incident occurred on April 24, which is when KWU played the third of a three-game series against Bethany College. KWU won the game in an insane 33-2 blowout. After the game, a Twitter account called KWU Barstool shared a photo of what allegedly showed paint thinner in Kansas Wesleyan’s water cooler.

The Twitter account is not affiliated with KWU or Barstool Sports, according to TMZ. The allegation, however, is being taken seriously.

“Kansas Wesleyan is aware of the primary tweet — made by an account not affiliated with the university — regarding this situation,” KWU said in a statement. “We take this extremely seriously. Therefore, we immediately began a thorough, in-depth review, with the priority of putting the health and safety of our student-athletes first.”

The offenses listed in the incident report include criminal threat, contaminated food/water sources, battery, knowing/recklessly causing bodily harm and criminal damage to property.

Mike Tyson could face lawsuit over airplane incident

Mike Tyson before a fight

Nov 28, 2020; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Mike Tyson (black trunks) exits the ring after his split draw against Roy Jones, Jr. (white trunks) during a heavyweight exhibition boxing bout for the WBC Frontline Belt at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Scarnici/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tyson repeatedly punched a man during an altercation on an airplane earlier this week, and the former heavyweight champion could face a lawsuit over the incident.

Melvin Townsend III, the passenger who was punched by Tyson, has hired a lawyer. The attorney, Matt Morgan, criticized Tyson for his actions while speaking with TMZ on Friday.

“Our client is a big Mike Tyson fan. When Mike Tyson boarded the plane, he became overly excited,” Morgan said. “At first, their interaction was cordial. At a certain point, Mr. Tyson clearly became agitated by an overly excited fan and began to strike him in an excessive manner. This situation could have been avoided simply by contacting the flight attendant. Our client denies throwing a water bottle prior to being struck by Mr. Tyson.”

As Morgan mentioned, Tyson’s representatives claimed Townsend was harassing the 55-year-old and threw a water bottle at him. The incident took place Wednesday night on a JetBlue flight that was headed from San Francisco to Miami. You can see video footage of the altercation here.

“To state the obvious, as one of the greatest fighters of all time, Mr. Tyson should have exercised greater restraint before using his hands on an overly excited fan,” Morgan added.

While Morgan did not say if a lawsuit would be filed, it seems like things could be headed in that direction. A source close to Townsend told TMZ that Townsend is “still in shock and has not made a determination on what his next steps will be.”

Both Tyson and Townsend got off the plane and spoke with police. Townsend received medical attention but reportedly declined to press charges at the time.

Townsend has a lengthy criminal history and has spent time in jail on two separate occasions.

Man Mike Tyson punched on plane has lengthy criminal record

Mike Tyson before a fight

Nov 28, 2020; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Mike Tyson (black trunks) exits the ring after his split draw against Roy Jones, Jr. (white trunks) during a heavyweight exhibition boxing bout for the WBC Frontline Belt at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Scarnici/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tyson was involved in a violent altercation with a fellow passenger on an airplane this week, and some new information has surfaced about the man he repeatedly punched.

Tyson was on a JetBlue fight that was scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Miami on Wednesday night. Video footage showed the former heavyweight champion unleash a beating on a man who was seated behind him. A witness said the former heavyweight champion was initially cordial with him and the recipient of the beating and took a selfie with them.

According to Tyson’s representatives, the other passenger was extremely intoxicated and harassing Tyson. He also allegedly threw a water bottle at Tyson.

On Friday, TMZ identified the man Tyson punched as Melvin Townsend III. Townsend has a lengthy criminal history that includes convictions of fraud, grand theft, burglary, possession of controlled substances, and trafficking in stolen property. The 36-year-old stole a trailer in 2018 in one alleged incident. The drug possession charge was for Oxycodone.

Townsend has served jail time on two separate occasions — once for 20 months and another time for 15 months.

Tyson walked off the plane minutes after the incident. Townsend reportedly received medical attention and both he and Tyson met with police. Townsend declined to press charges.

Von Miller sued over alleged explicit photos

Von Miller before a game

Jun 1, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) during organized team activities at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Von Miller is being sued by a woman who claims the Buffalo Bills star distributed a sexually explicit photo of her without her permission.

According to court documents obtained by TMZ, Miller and a woman he dated in 2020 took photos together while engaging in sex acts. The two agreed that the photos would never be shared with anyone else, but the woman alleges that Miller shared one of the photos with “two well-known celebrities.” She said he did so while “in a fit of jealousy, anger, and rage.”

The lawsuit claims that the photo was sent to two different people minutes apart on May 7, 2020. Miller allegedly wrote, “This the bitch you want?” in two different messages along with the photo.

The woman’s attorney said the situation should serve as a “cautionary tale for young woman that date professional athletes like Miller that think laws do not apply because of fame, money, and power.”

“However, professional athletes are not exempt from the law and Miler’s vindictive, manipulative and unlawful actions must not be overlooked,” the lawsuit states.

The woman is seeking monetary damages and asking the court to order Miller not to share any of the photos.

Miller, 33, was on the other side of a legal situation involving sexually explicit material several years ago.

Miller helped the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl last season after they acquired him in a trade with the Denver Broncos. He signed a six-year, $120 million deal with the Bills last month.

Jerry West demands apology over his portrayal in HBO’s Lakers show

Jerry West in a suit

Mar 15, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LA Clippers executive board member Jerry West reacts in the first half against the Chicago Bulls at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

HBO’s drama “Winning Time” about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers may be going over well with critics and fans, but it’s had the opposite reaction among former players and executives.

Jerry West, who served as a Lakers scout and then general manager beginning in 1982-1983, apparently is quite displeased with his portrayal in the show.

West had his legal team send a letter to Adam McKay, the producer of the show, seeking a retraction, apology and damages.

The letter alleges that the show “falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic,” who “bears no resemblance to the real man,” according to ESPN.

The letter sent to McKay includes statements from numerous former Lakers players and employees, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Jamaal Wilkes.

Abdul-Jabbar sent a statement of support for West. He alleged that West was turned into a cartoon character by the show.

“He never broke golf clubs, he didn’t throw his trophy through the window. Sure, those actions make dramatic moments, but they reek of facile exploitation of the man rather than exploration of character,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote.

West’s attorneys feel the “drama” disclaimer surrounding the show is unsufficient. They also feel “the show goes out of its way to denigrate Jerry West despite his accomplishments as an executive.”

West was a longtime player and executive for the Lakers, helping them to win a championship as a player and six as an executive. However, there seems to be some recent issues between him and the team, as evidenced by Jeanie Buss’ list. His portrayal in the show is the latest issue he has had that has to deal with the franchise.

In addition to West, Magic Johnson has expressed displeasure with HBO’s show.

“Winning Time” debuted on HBO this year and is in its first season, with seven episodes airing already.

Details emerge in murder investigation involving Cowboys’ Kelvin Joseph

Kelvin Joseph in a helmet

Jul 22, 2021; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kelvin Joseph (24) during training camp practice at the Marriott Residence Inn. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kelvin Joseph was named a person of interest in a murder investigation this week, and his attorney has shared some details about the alleged incident.

A 20-year-old man named Cameron Ray was shot and killed on March 18 after a fight broke out near the OT Tavern Bar and Grill in Dallas. Police identified Joseph as one of the people who was part of the group that got into a fight with Ray’s group. Joseph’s attorney, Barry Sorrels, told the Dallas Morning News on Friday that Joseph was a passenger in a car from which several shots were fired. Sorrels said Joseph was unarmed and not in any way responsible for the situation escalating into a tragedy.

“Kelvin Joseph did not shoot Cameron Ray,” Sorrels said. “Mr. Ray’s death is a tragedy, and Kelvin extends his deepest condolences for the family’s loss. On the night of March 17, Kelvin was unarmed and was not looking for violence. He found himself in a situation that escalated without his knowledge or consent.”

Sorrels did not provide any information about Joseph’s conversations with police.

The biggest issue for Joseph could be that the incident took place nearly a month ago. Police identified the 22-year-old as one of the six men involved in the fight after they asked the public for help. Joseph raps and goes by the nickname “YKDV Bossman Fat,” and some people identified him by the “YKDV” necklace he was wearing in video footage that was released by police. The acronym stands for “You Know Da Vibe.”

Even if Joseph had no part in the actual shooting, he may have withheld information until police identified him. The Dallas Morning News notes that Joseph and anyone else in the SUV at the time the shots were fired could face charges under Texas’ law of parties.

Joseph was a second-round pick by the Cowboys last year. He had 16 tackles in 10 games during his rookie season. The team released a statement on Friday saying they are aware of Joseph’s possible involvement and have been in contact with Dallas police.

Video shows youth baseball umpire being assaulted by coach

A youth baseball umpire is shoved by a coach

An umpire who worked a youth baseball game in Texas on Saturday has pressed charges after he was assaulted by one of the team’s coaches.

Longtime umpire Sam Phelps told Peyton Yager of FOX 4 that he was working one of his several assigned games in Denton when a coach from the Abilene team disagreed with multiple calls. The coach came out of the dugout to express his displeasure after Phelps called a runner safe at home. Things then took an ugly turn.

“I ejected him, and I held up my hand and said, ‘We aren’t doing this, coach,’” Phelps recalled. “And then he held up his hand to mock me saying, ‘Oh, we aren’t doing this.’ And then he shoved me right in the face, and I fell backwards and hit my head. And I was down for a while.”

You can see the incident in the video below:

One parent of a 10-year-old player said Phelps was on the ground for about 10 or 15 minutes. An ambulance then came onto the field and paramedics placed him on a stretcher. Phelps was taken to a local hospital and evaluated for a concussion before being released on Saturday evening.

Phelps filed a police report after he was released from the hospital.

“If there are no consequences, this can continue,” he said.

The coach who attacked Phelps was reached by FOX 4 on Monday. He admitted he crossed the line and said he hopes he can apologize to Phelps one day and shake his hand.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have seen an official attacked during a youth sporting event.

Former Oregon player suing NCAA for $100 million over controversial workouts

Doug Brenner at the Rose Bowl

Doug Brenner, a former Oregon player, filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in 2019 after a harsh workout led to him being hospitalized two years before. The ex-offensive lineman has since added a $100 million damages claim to the complaint.

Brenner alleges in the lawsuit that he sustained lifelong injuries during a series of controversial workouts in 2017. Former Oregon coach Willie Taggart and strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde are named in the suit. Oderinde was suspended by Oregon in 2017 after Brenner and two other players were hospitalized.

Brenner initially sued the NCAA for $11.5 million. According to court documents obtained by ESPN’s Heather Dinich, Brenner’s legal team amended the complaint on March 24 following discovery. The claim for pain and suffering was increased from $6 million to $20 million, and a $100 million punitive damages claim against the NCAA has been added.

The lawsuit claims that Oderinde was not qualified to be a strength and conditioning coach and did not have the proper certification. The NCAA argues that it does not have the power to pass health and safety bylaws or police the way schools are handling player health and safety.

Brenner’s complaint details a series of workouts in 2017 that were implemented after Taggart was hired at Oregon. The documents state that workouts began at 6 a.m. on four consecutive days and lasted 60-90 minutes. Water was allegedly not made available to players on at least the first day. The lawsuit states that several student athletes “vomited, passed out, or collapsed during the workouts” and that Oregon’s staff acknowledged the workouts “went beyond the student athletes’ natural limits after the first day.” The coaching staff allegedly brought in oxygen tanks the second day rather than changing or stopping the program.

Brenner, former tight end Cam McCormick and former offensive lineman Sam Poutasi were hospitalized as a result of the workouts with a condition called rhabdomyolysis. According to the lawsuit, the condition caused permanent damage to Brenner’s kidneys and has shortened his life expectancy by about 10 years.

All three players rejoined the team. Taggart left Oregon after one season to become the head coach at Florida State. He brought Oderinde with him, but Taggart was fired during his second season with the Seminoles. He now coaches at Florida Atlantic.

Taggart apologized after the 2017 incident and said he addressed the issue with his strength and conditioning team.

The trial for Brenner’s lawsuit is set to begin Tuesday.

Photo: Dec 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks offensive linemen Elijah George (74) and Doug Brenner (57) pose with the Leishman trophy at media day for the 2015 Rose Bowl at the L.A. Hotel Downtown. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Two other coaches join Brian Flores lawsuit

Brian Flores on the field

Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL more than two months ago, and he has now been joined by two other coaches.

Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and former NFL defensive assistant Ray Horton have both joined Flores’ discrimination lawsuit. Wilks filed a complaint on Thursday alleging that he was discriminated against by the Cardinals in 2018. He says he was hired only as a “bridge coach” that season and not given any real shot to succeed.

Wilks was fired following a 3-13 season. His complaint notes that he was replaced by Kliff Kingsbury, who had no prior NFL coaching experience.

Horton made a similar allegation against the Tennessee Titans. He accused them of conducting a “sham interview” with him in 2016 before they hired Mike Mularkey.

Flores made other allegations in his original suit that could have serious ramifications down the road. The ex-Miami Dolphins head coach accused his former team of trying to compensate him for losses and committing a major tampering violation. He accused multiple teams of conducting sham interviews with him to satisfy the Rooney Rule.

Flores joined Mike Tomlin’s staff with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach.

Photo: Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores runs off the field after winning the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports