The NBA was noticeably absent from referee Bill Spooner's libel lawsuit against Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski over a tweet the scribe sent during a Jan. 24 game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets. The tweet quoted Spooner as telling Wolves coach Kurt Rambis that he'd give him a make-up call after an apparently bad whistle against Minnesota.
Spooner sued Krawczynski for libel, and the NBA didn't join as a party. Today, NBA spokesman Tim Frank made a statement on the issue.
"We investigated the content of the tweet when it appeared, found it to be without substance, and informed Mr. Spooner that we considered the matter closed. We subsequently advised Mr. Spooner's lawyer that we did not think suing a journalist over an incorrect tweet would be productive. Nevertheless, Mr. Spooner and his lawyer decided to commence this litigation and any future inquiries should be directed to Mr. Spooner's lawyer."
In other words: we believe Spooner that he didn't say it, but we aren't going to start suing writers who misquote our employees, and we'd prefer our referees don't do it either, but we can't or won't stop them.
It's a bizarre situation and an incredibly tricky spot for the league to be in. Spooner really has created a tempest here.