Palestine Herald Press v. Zimmer (Published): High school football coach’s defamation suit dismissed because a column calling his end-of-game victory dance unsportsmanlike and “obscene” was not a matter subject to “objective verification” and hence, not actionable.
I don’t know if I’d be able to recognize the place if East Texans ever stopped being a little crazy about their high school football. Fear not. Craziness still reigns.
Jacksonville and Palestine have a long rivalry. In 2006, the game was in Palestine. The home crowd’s hearts were broken when, down by two, their Wildcats’ last second field goal attempt was blocked. Naturally, the visiting Jacksonville Indians erupted in jubilation. Including the D-Coordinator, who (in the words of the decision) …
ran onto the field with his right arm overhead … leapt into one of his players’ arms near the middle of the field between the twenty and thirty yard lines … [then, after the player let him go] turned generally toward the Palestine team’s sideline as he pumped his right fist in the air once … then raised both fists to the side of his head, and abruptly thrust his arms downward to his hips three times while slightly bending his knees and sidestepping toward the thirty yard line … [all the while] yelling with elevated excitement as he motioned … then ….
There was a little more, but you get the idea.
The sports columnist for the defeated home team took umbrage. He wrote a column calling out the coach. The coach could have blown off the column. Or he could have issued a statement that he was caught up in the moment and didn’t intend to offend. Instead, the coach sued. The suit went nowhere because the columnist was entitled to express his opinion.
As any fan of NBC”s Friday Night Lights would tell you, Coach Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler and pictured above) wouldn’t have done the dance. And wouldn’t have sued.