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Time, Inc. v. Johnston
United States Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit
448 F.2d 378 (1971)
Time, Inc. (defendant) was the publisher of Sports Illustrated, a weekly sports magazine. In 1968, Sports Illustrated selected professional basketball player Bill Russell as the Sportsman of the Year. Sports Illustrated engaged a well-known sportswriter, George Plimpton, to prepare an article on Russell that featured quotes from interviews of people who knew Russell. Russell was an exceptional basketball player and in particular an extraordinary defender for the Boston Celtics. Russell had apparently faced off with another outstanding professional basketball player, the Philadelphia Warriors’ Neil Johnston (plaintiff). For the article, Plimpton interviewed Russell’s coach, Red Auerbach, and included a quote of Auerbach’s statement about Russell’s abilities. Auerbach indicated that Russell had an ability to “destroy” players and that Russell had “destroyed [Johnston] psychologically . . . [Russell] blocked so many shots that Johnston began throwing his hook farther and farther from the basket. It was ludicrous.” Johnston had retired from the realm of professional basketball two years before the article’s publication. At the time of the article’s publication in 1968, Johnston was an assistant basketball coach for a university. Johnston sued Time alleging he had been libeled in the article. The trial court denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment. The parties appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Russell, J.)
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