A legal battle has emerged between Kai Spears, a walk-on player for the University of Alabama basketball team, and The New York Times. Kai Spears’ lawsuit claims that an article published by the newspaper falsely claims that Spears was present during a fatal shooting near the campus earlier this year.
The allegation stems from an incident that threatened Alabama’s hopeful season, and the college community as a whole. Early January 15th, on the Tuscaloosa Strip, people converged to celebrate Alabama’s win over LSU the night before. An altercation occurred between a group that the victim, Jamea Harris, was a part of; and an opposing group with numerous Alabama basketball players. Gunfire broke out between the opposing groups and their respective vehicles. A bullet hit Harris was shot and pronounced dead.
The newspaper’s fallacious report as to the whereabouts of Kai Spears could come with legal repercussions, which is why according to the lawsuit, a formal written request for a retraction was submitted to The New York Times by the plaintiff’s legal representatives. The newspaper has chosen not to retract the story as requested.
Darius Miles, a player involved in the incident, faces serious charges of capital murder and was subsequently expelled from the team. Despite the allegations, Miles has entered a plea of not guilty. According to law enforcement, Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley, both NBA prospects, were reportedly present during the shooting, but no charges have been filed against them thus far.
Spears’ legal representatives, Matt Glover and Stephen P. New, are asserting claims of defamation, libel, and false light invasion of privacy as the foundation for their argument in the lawsuit. Spears is seeking $75,000 in damages, without counting interest and court costs.
On March 15, the University of Alabama issued a statement to The New York Times, asserting the inaccuracy of the published story. The following day, Kai Spears himself released a public statement aligning with UA’s position. In addition, Christian Spears, Kai’s father and the athletic director at Marshall, denounced the article as “demonstrably false reporting by the NY Times” in a statement on March 16.
“I was not anywhere near the scene or vicinity at the time that took place,” Kai Spears said in an interview. “I don’t think it is a mistaken identity. I just think they didn’t do their due diligence.”
According to the complaint and said interview, the individual claimed that he was present in his dorm with friends on January 15th when the tragic incident occurred. The lawsuit, which has been filed in a federal court in Alabama, incorporates a sworn statement from one of the two friends who affirm being together with Spears on that particular night.
While the shooting happened on Grace Street at about 1:45 a.m., according to the lawsuit, Spears and his friends left at 1:40 a.m., and Spears called via Facetime to Miller and Bradley to see where they ended up going at 1:48 a.m.
Spears’ legal representatives contend that he suffered “severe emotional distress, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life” due to the repercussions of the article.
A New York Times spokesperson told The Tuscaloosa News, “We plan to defend against the suit vigorously”.
Spears has supposedly faced public scrutiny and negative attention, straining his collegiate experience and potentially impacting his athletic career. The lawsuit not only aims to address the harm caused to Spears personally but also raises questions about the responsibility of media outlets in their reporting on athletes. Most importantly, in the outcome of this lawsuit lies the future of the New York Times’ credibility, a news organization nationally admired for its journalistic integrity, quality reporting, and enduring influence in the media landscape.