Sports Illustrated's 'Dirty Game' articles spark false-light lawsuit

Sports Illustrated magazine has been sued — accused of maliciously publishing false information regarding the relationship between Oklahoma State University football athletes and a representative of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
by Randy Ellis Published: July 11, 2014

STILLWATER — Sports Illustrated magazine has been sued — accused of maliciously publishing false information regarding the relationship between Oklahoma State University football athletes and a representative of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Payne County District Court.

In a five-part series called “The Dirty Game,” writers for Sports Illustrated portrayed Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes representative John Talley as an “overzealous ‘booster’ who made systematic improper financial contributions to OSU’s football players,” Talley alleges in the lawsuit.

Talley claims the allegations published last September “were false, lacked factual basis and were printed and published with actual malice.”

OSU suspended Talley from outreach activities involving the university’s student athletes after the stories were published, the lawsuit states.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Sports Illustrated’s parent company, Time Inc., as well as the writers of the articles, George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans.

Efforts to reach the defendants for comment were unsuccessful Friday.

The lawsuit states Talley is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

“It will be a lot more than that,” Gary Richardson, Talley’s attorney, said Friday. “If they haven’t done any better job with the research that they wrote about OSU than they did about John Talley, they’re probably in a lot of trouble.”

Talley specifically challenged the truthfulness and context of comments attributed to former OSU football players Brad Girtman, Seymore Shaw, Aso Pogi and Fath’ Carter.

Talley denied paying Girtman “$1,500 to $2,000 every two weeks during one summer to work on his ranch.”

No athlete was paid more than $12 an hour for work on Talley’s property and no student was ever paid more than $600 for work done in any summer or three-month period, the lawsuit claims.

by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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