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Davis/Lang vs. SU/Boeheim: The Fizz’s Solution to the Defamation Lawsuit

‘Tis the season of giving and as the Bernie Fine Ferris Wheel of Insanity continues to spin, giving might be the solution that ends it all. Yesterday, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang filed a defamation lawsuit against Jim Boeheim and Syracuse University for Boeheim’s initial comments regarding the two accusers. Ironically, those comments said Davis and Lang were in it for the money (and now they would like to collect).

The Fizz said at the time Boeheim’s comments went too far. Add in celebrity attorney Gloria Allred and apparently they went far enough for a lawsuit. So do Davis and Lang just want to cash in? Will this case get ugly? Looking to the the holiday spirit might just be the solution.

The outcome of the case depends on whether Boeheim acted intentionally or wrecklessly. Friend of The Fizz John Brennan (a lawyer, unlike me) of Orange44 explains how the case works:

“Defamation is a civil cause of action for damage caused by untrue statements being published. The suit basically alleges Boeheim went to the press with false information about Davis & Lang – by calling them liars and saying they came forward for money – and that they have suffered damages as a result. The legal questions here will be: did Boeheim act intentionally or recklessly in making the assertions about the truthfulness & motivations of Davis & Lang? Did Davis & Lang actually suffer damage? Was that damage caused by Boeheim’s assertions?”

Based on that, there are two possible outcomes. First, Boeheim and the university settle out of court – which can happen at any time – and all of this goes away. The alternative is this goes through the courts and any evidence of abuse, Boeheim’s potential knowledge, or anything that could harm the public image of Lang or Davis becomes public. In other words, it gets more sordid. Allred makes this worse because she also fights her cases through the media. It all comes out.

If it goes to court, it might be hard to prove Boeheim was intentionally defaming Davis/Lang in his statements. At the time JB called the accusations “a bunch of a thousand lies” there had been three investigations (SU, P-S, ESPN) that had come up empty. Boeheim was defending a longtime friend who had been with him from the start, by his side for every bit of success over a Hall of Fame career. 

The irony of course is that Davis and Lang are looking for money over accusations they were looking for money. The public is likely to sway against the accusers as their attention shifts away from Fine and onto Boeheim. The specter of this lawsuit may have prompted the JB to issue his apology following the Florida game. But it also came off as genuine, and curried favorable public opinion for him. With all that said, he should still pay up. And so should Bobby Davis and Mike Lang.

The Fizz’s solution: Find an amount of money they can both agree on and donate it to the McMahon-Ryan Center. Dragging this through the courts is ugly for everyone. Boeheim has spoken highly of his conversations with those at the MRC. Have the money go towards helping fight child sex abuse. It can actually do some good, instead of creating more hurt for a community dragged through the mud nationally.

Boeheim gets to give even more towards a charitable cause. Davis and Lang can argue they are not looking to get rich off this. Perhaps, the money can even go to a Bobby Davis scholarship fund which provides a chance for victims of abuse to go to college when they get older. Then Davis’s story, which he wanted heard so badly for so long, has a voice every time a student accepts the scholarship fund. 

Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely. Allred is not working pro bono. Davis and Lang will probably want their cut of the money. Boeheim is notoriously stubborn and if he doesn’t believe he’s guilty, the chances he agrees to a compromise might be slim. In the meantime the Bernie Fine Ferris Wheel of Insanity just goes and goes. Where it stops? Nobody knows.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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