After North Carolina defeated Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, there were a lot of gripes about the officiating that veered into the ugly territory of referee John Higgins receiving death threats and having Weatherguard, his roofing business, bombarded with phone calls and negative online reviews.
As Dana O’Neil reports for The Athletic, Higgins filed a civil suit in federal court against popular Kentucky fan site Kentucky Sports Radio, and the site’s faces Matt Jones and Drew Franklin, for allegedly playing a role in instigating this onslaught, claiming damages in excess of $75k.
“The Higgins lawsuit against KSR is frivolous and without any legal merit whatsoever,” Jones tweeted. “We will defend it and expect a favorable result quickly.”
O’Neil covers the allegations:
The lawsuit alleges that Kentucky fans directed more than “800 threatening, vulgar, or harassing voicemail messages received on the Weatherguard phone lines,’’ and “30 such threatening, vulgar or harassing messages received on the Higgins’ family home phone line” at Higgins, his family or his business. Those threats were turned over to local law enforcement officials, and the Sarpy County sheriff determined that a “full dozen rose to the level of an actual threat of death or bodily injury and that he would pursue a criminal investigation,” according to the lawsuit.
Among the specific threats cited: ““You enjoy your life before somebody kills you,’’ and “You hear that garbage truck in the background over there? Wish you were in it personally.’’
Franklin wrote a post entitled “No More Higgins Please,” and said the official was “terrible at his job.” A video montage, which showed Weatherguard’s business contact information, did not originate on KSR but nonetheless made it there. Further:
The lawsuit also alleges that Jones and Franklin allowed commenters on KSR to post links to Weatherguard’s website on the KSR website and its Facebook page. Jones also repeatedly referenced – and even spelled out – the company’s website name on a radio show that he hosts.
Head over to The Athletic to read the full suit; we will be monitoring where this all goes from here.