Golfer sues newspaper for defamation

John Daly has sued The Florida Times-Union and its website, contending he was defamed by a columnist who called the golfer a thug who allegedly beats women.

Columnist Mike Freeman’s article appeared during The Player’s Championship in March. It discusses Daly’s past and how fans continue to cheer for the former British Open and United States PGA champion who has battled problems with alcohol, weight and his temper.

Daly (39) is suing over statements that he is “accused of smacking women around” and he has “thug life qualifications” and “a rap sheet that would make R Jay Soward look like a Backstreet Boy”.

Soward was drafted in 2000 as a first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He was suspended for repeated violations of the National Football League’s substance-abuse policy.

The suit was filed July 26 in Duval County Circuit Court and seeks an unspecified amount of more than $15 000—the minimum for filing a circuit court suit—and a jury trial.

“The statements in the Times-Union [column] were not true,” said Lydia Jones, Daly’s attorney. “We are pursuing the lawsuit vigorously and intend to seek punitive damages.”

Times-Union editor Pat Yack defended Freeman and his March 25 column.

“It’s regrettable that Mr Daly has taken this step. Mike Freeman is a fine journalist. We stand by his work and his column,” Yack said.

The Times-Union, its website, Jacksonville.com, and their owners, Morris Publishing Group of Augusta, Georgia, were named in the suit. Freeman is being sued personally.

On July 15, the newspaper ran a “Note to readers” on the front page of the sports section, clarifying parts of the column.

The Times-Union said Daly was charged in a domestic disturbance involving his then wife in 1992, pleaded guilty to harassment and was placed on probation. It also said references to Daly’s substance abuse referred to his alcohol abuse and that a reference to basketball player Shawn Kemp, who has fathered several children out of wedlock, was not meant to suggest Daly’s three children were illegitimate.

Daly’s lawsuit says the note “did not constitute a full and fair correction, apology or retraction”.—Sapa-AP

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