Angelo Drossos, who owned the San Antonio Spurs during their ABA days, was a hard-charging Greek businessman who was known to have an incredibly bluntness about him, especially when he knew he was right.
The most famous story about him, retold in his own words in Terry Pluto’s classic book “Loose Balls,” involves his purchase of future-Hall-of-Fame shooter George “Ice” Gervin. Drossos had purchased Gervin from the failing Virginia Squires, only to have the team’s owner (Earl Foreman) come down with a case of seller’s remorse. The league president, Mike Storen, sided with Foreman and demanded Gervin be returned to Virginia. He threatened Drossos with a number of unsavory penalties in a series of telegrams and letters.
Drossos responded in a telegram only he could have written:
“Fuck you. A stronger letter will follow.”
I thought of Drossos and his way with words today when I read the NY Times’ legal response to Trump’s demand that the paper retract a story that accused him of groping two women.
Trump is no stranger to the legal system, nor is he unwilling to sue at the drop of a hat. My favorite Trump suit is the one he filed against comedian Bill Maher, who accused him of being fathered by an orangutan. It wasn’t a libel suit, however, as Trump was actually suing for a breach of contract. Maher had jokingly noted that he’d give $5 million to the Hair Club for Men in Trump’s name if he could produce a birth certificate that proved Trump’s mom wasn’t fucking a simian in the zoo.
However, the concept of libel is one that scares even the best journalists. Nobody wants to be sued in general, but libel suits are often dicey because you often have legal interpretation meeting issues of “polite society.” Judges can often be offended by content and thus take it out on the messengers.
When I teach libel to my reporting kids, I often point out that truth is the ultimate defense against libel. Sure, if you report that the governor stole money from the state to buy Corvettes for underage prostitutes the guy is going to look bad and want to sue you. However, if you can prove this is all true, you should be OK in court.
Most people use the “truth shield” as the safest venue for fighting a suit like this.
David McCraw decided to go at this a different way, which is why he is now my new personal legal man-crush.
McCraw instead doubles down on the idea of libel in his letter, pointing out that “the essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation.” He then goes on to point out how there is virtually no way to ruin Trump’s reputation, because he’s such a vile, stupid, sexually fucked up nut wad. He lists a series of items that demonstrate Trump’s own statements basically paint him as exactly the kind of guy who is likely to grope women, and thus the article is essentially par for the course.
As one of my good friends pointed out, it’s not every day that a lawyer gets to write the phrases “libel per se” and “piece of ass” in the same letter.
The letter then takes on a more conventional approach, in which McCraw notes that the paper did what the law allows by publishing “newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern.” He also states that if Trump doesn’t like it and thinks he can use the law to crush his critics, “we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”
In other words: Fuck you.
And in deference to the late Angelo Drossos, I don’t think even HE could write a stronger letter that could follow this.