What does it take for controversial boxing promoter Don King to catch a break? As The American Lawyer reports, a Florida judge has thrown out King's $2.5 million libel suit against sports network ESPN for its unflattering depiction of him in a 2004 documentary. According to internal ESPN emails entered into evidence, network executives pushed producers to depict the man behind "The Rumble in the Jungle" and the "Thrilla in Manilla" as a "thug" and an "evil mob-connected guy," and to add "more ominous" background music to the flick. No go, said the judge, who accepted the arguments of ESPN attorney James Quinn. As the story notes:
King could not prove that ESPN acted with malice and that statements made in the documentary were false—the two criteria a public figure must meet in order to win a libel case.
Still, says Bruce Rogow, a private attorney and First Amendment expert who has represented Donald Trump and the rap group 2 Live Crew, the internal e-mails "show a reckless disregard for the truth."
The judge also offered this zinger:
"Contemporary boxing has been described as a 'subterranean world,'" the judge wrote. "It comes as no surprise King may have associated with people who were unsavory or labeled as 'con artists.'"
I'm curious where John McCain stands on this burning issue. As Contributing Editor Greg Beato noted in his great piece on the commercial success of mixed martial arts, McCain once did his best to cripple the fledging Ultimate Fighting Championship, dubbing their matches "human cockfighting" and using his clout as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to make it very difficult for UFC to hold their pay-per-view events. Yet when it comes to the bloody business of boxing, McCain is a self-described "fanatic" who frequently employs boxing metaphors to describe his own political career. But is there anybody associated with UFC as insane as former King star Mike Tyson? For some fascinating history of boxing's long association with violence (both inside and outside of the ring), Joyce Carol Oates' take on heavyweight champ Jack Johnson is well worth a look, as is Nick Tosches' extraordinary book The Devil and Sonny Liston.