SBD/Issue 73/Sports Media

Pimp My Ride: Evel Knievel Crashes In Libel Suit

Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal
Of Knievel’s Libel Suit Against ESPN

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of a libel suit filed against ESPN by Evel Knievel and his wife, Krystal, according to Bob Egelko of the S.F. CHRONICLE. After Knievel appeared at ESPN’s ’01 Action Sports & Music Awards, a photo from the event featuring Knievel with two women, one of whom was Krystal, was posted on ESPN.com with a caption reading: “Evel Knievel proves that you’re never too old to be a pimp.” The court ruled that “no reasonable reader would have interpreted ‘pimp’ literally.” Judge A. Wallace Tashima, citing one Web site’s definition of pimp as slang for “cool,” said the caption “was most likely intended as a compliment.” Tashima added that “at the very least, any reasonable reader would have considered the caption ‘an attempt at humor.’” In a dissenting opinion, Judge Carlos Bea, citing Knievel’s claim “that some business clients canceled endorsement deals after the photo appeared,” stated that “a jury should decide how the average reader would interpret the caption” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/5).

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