There once was a time when anonymously spreading rumors about which booster's wife your local college football coach was banging was the birthright of every college football message board user, but times are changing. Now, that stuff can get you sued for defamation.
From MLive.com comes the story of Bonnie Zeigler, a prominent Western Michigan University booster's wife, who has filed a lawsuit against three men for defaming her on a WMU football message board. Specifically, she is suing the men for posting rumors about her sleeping with WMU head coach P.J. Fleck:
Zeigler is seeking damages in excess of $25,000 against each defendant, as well as attorneys' fees and costs, for alleged defamation and false light, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that [Bruce] Bendix, [Dan] Burgardt and [Randolph] Foster each posted "false and defamatory statements" about Zeigler on the sports website CSNbbs.com while using the online pseudonyms "MajorHoople," "Chipdip2" and "DesertBronco," respectively.
"Defendants' publication of these false and defamatory statements was negligent and/or with reckless disregard of whether or not they were false," the lawsuit says.
Bruce Bendix, the guy who went by "MajorHoople" on the message board, actually played for WMU in the 1970s and went on to become a well-regarded high school coach in Michigan, so much so that he is a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
According to the lawsuit, the three men were identified via their email and IP addresses. Since the lawsuit was filed, Bendix, Burgardt, and Foster have all returned to the original thread to issue retractions of their original statements. For example:
The intent of this post is to issue a retraction statement of all statements where I referred, repeated, alleged to the truth rumors being repeated on this thread which have been since deleted, regarding the Ziegler Auto Group and a previously un-named member of the Ziegler family.
A letter relayed via this web board to us which was constructed by a legal firm has stated that these statements are false, defamatory and legally actionable.
I myself have no firsthand knowledge of the parties mentioned therefore I should not have repeated the rumor which I had no knowledge of firsthand. I should not have repeatedly referred to the rumor in subsequent posts, which have been since deleted as well, and apologize to all offended parties.
Again, the intent of this post is to issue a full retraction statement of all posts where I repeated the rumor and stated that I believed it to be true. This has been attempted within the best of my ability to match the same size type and in substantially the same manner as the alleged original posts in this thread.
So be careful out there, message-board trolls. You never know when you might get sued.