Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gilbert Arenas? Twitter account screwed up his lawsuit

Have you spent any time with @agentzeroshow this summer? It's the relatively new Twitter account of noted NBA eccentric Gilbert Arenas. He has not been shy about airing the specifics of his life: In addition to live-tweeting a terrible date, he has displayed the terribly misogynistic categories on his BlackBerry Messenger account and updated fans on all manner of irregular topics. Oh, and he also gives away shoes, presumably to prove he's not 100 percent insane.

Away from the computer, Arenas has some legal irons in the fire. One of them involves the involvement of his erstwhile paramour Laura Govan in the VH1 series "Basketball Wives LA." Arenas sought a court order to restrict Govan from mentioning details of their relationship on the show. Now, though, it appears his suit won't be successful. And it's because of his Twitter account. From TMZ (via TBJ):

Gilbert Arenas' ex-fiancee is free to talk smack and get in as many catfights as she wants on "Basketball Wives LA" ? thanks to a federal court decision today.

A judge ruled against the NBA star's request to block Laura Govan from appearing on the show and mentioning his name.

The judge said Gilbert's claim that details of his family life should not be aired on the reality show ? is undercut by the fact he has "tens of thousands of Twitter users who follow [him] as he tweets about a variety of mundane occurrences."

This ruling makes a lot of sense in isolation -- it's hard for Arenas to act like his personal life is off limits when he broadcasts all sorts of details to anyone who cares to follow his account. If Arenas is cool with telling everyone about his dates and propensity for random hookups, then Govan should be able to talk about what happened when they were a couple.

On the other hand, the legal precedent set here is a little more controversial. Arenas' tweets are emphatically not the norm for public figures -- he's arguably honest and forthcoming to a fault. The majority of players are content to tell people what they're eating, send a few inspirational quotes out to the adoring public, and give tickets away to lucky fans every so often. These updates are by no means especially personal, but they do involve minor aspects of the athletes' lives that wouldn't otherwise be part of typical media coverage. If this Arenas ruling becomes precedent, then 140-character movie reviews and silly stories about fans players meet during lunch could be construed as personal details. In that case, will substantive cases like this "Basketball Wives" incident be considered on the same level?

I'm not a lawyer and don't know about the case law here, but it's something to ponder. Soon enough, Channing Frye's�innocuous�updates on his love of Phoenix's fans will be the downfall of his personal life. We live in a brave new world full of computer shock and awe. Every time you take a step forward, there's the chance to fall into a chasm. It's like that scene at the end of "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade," just with programmers instead of immortal knights.


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