How to Stay Out of Legal Peril as a Social Media User in the Professional Boxing World
There was a time a few years back when Twitter was primarily employed as a tool to spread news of interest from throughout the world to friends, acquaintances, and professional colleagues. More recently, however, Twitter posts themselves generate news, from Demi Moore’s recent topless photos to Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s reactions to post-fight goading by Victor Ortiz and Oscar De La Hoya. Playing on this trend, several professional boxers employ Twitter (as well as Facebook) as a method of calling out opponents, lashing out at their management, and announcing potential fights or new contractual relationships. While this may generate some intrigue and legitimate bad blood, a lot can go wrong in a legal sense if a professional boxer gets too bold, too impulsive, or otherwise too absent-minded with what he tweets. So how does one avoid being a loser by Tweet-KO? A quick look follows.
Even in the Electronic Age, Ink Still Counts for Something
When I was the manager of junior welterweight contender Ali (The Hurricane) Oubaali, I fielded offers for Ali to fight at least 20 different opponents, some of whom would have placed him in potentially game-changing fights. The details of each of the potential bouts were communicated to Ali, but most of them never materialized, much less became public knowledge. Thankfully, Ali was very patient about fielding offers and did not get into the habit of prematurely posting comments about his potential bouts on MySpace, the leading social networking site of the moment. Failure to have such patience could lead to problems between other boxers, managers, and promoters involved who may not have thought the talks were as far along as a premature tweet might suggest, or who may not have even known of such discussion at all. It could even lead to problems with a boxer’s contractual relationships if a tweet suggests that he is either not being kept informed by his manager or promoter or that he is acting as his own manager or promoter. The lesson here: Keep your mouth shut and your Twitter feed blank about fight negotiations until the ink is dry on the bout agreement.
Ink In, Blood Out?
There is a Latin term, ipse dixit, which translates as “he himself said it,” that is used in the legal context to describe an assertion not based on any proof. An ipse dixit assertion is not a legally sufficient means of terminating a contractual relationship with someone. Regardless, there is an unfortunate trend recently among professional boxers of tweeting, at times prematurely, that they are no longer contractually bound to their manager or promoter. This is sometimes done even though a particular agreement has neither expired on its terms, been declared invalid or unenforceable by a court of law, nor been cancelled by buy-out, release, or some other form of written termination. All that a boxer does with such ipse dixit tweets is generate evidence against himself and/or his new manager or promoter for a potential breach of contract or tortious interference in contract claim. Thus, if there is any question whatsoever as to the continuing validity of a contractual relationship (whether you want it to continue or not), it is recommended that you find something else to tweet about until you have had a chance to speak with an attorney and/or take legal action to terminate a particular agreement unless the manager or promoter his or herself has advised you (ideally in writing) that you are free to move on.
When Trash Talking Becomes Defamatory
You want to tweet that your prospective opponent a chump and question his ability to handle you in the ring? Go right ahead, as you are not saying anything that can be confused for a factual assertion. You want to tweet that he uses performance enhancing drugs? Well, you best be ready to prove it if the subject of your posting decides to lawyer up and combat such accusations. Boxing matches need not be hyped up by defamatory comments. Defamatory comments on Twitter, or elsewhere, will simply leave you at peril of requiring an attorney to contest a lawsuit. Just ask everyone involved in the Mayweather-Pacquiao defamation lawsuit. No fight yet, but plenty of litigation.
Since You Are Known For Your Boxing Skills and Not Your Politics…
So you are against the expansion of gay rights, but lack the tact to diplomatically tweet your opinion? Perhaps then you should keep your thoughts to yourself if you are a professional boxer with a promotional or management agreement that contains a morals clause. While boxing is not a sport known to have an appreciable homosexual fan base nor many openly gay participants, a boxer should nonetheless consider what effect his bluntly worded political banter on gay rights or other hot button political issues might have if it were to generate any press. A morals clause may allow a manager or promoter to terminate an agreement if a boxer’s statements or actions put said manager or promoter in a negative light or otherwise makes the boxer any more difficult to move. We appreciate you for your boxing ability, save your politics for when you run for a state assemblyman position after your retirement.
So what can you post about as a professional boxer with a social networking site? Well, basically anything, as long as it does not put you in peril of civil or criminal prosecution or otherwise impact your contractual relationships. Millions of us successfully do this on a daily basis. At the end of the day, the tweets and comments of our favorite professional boxers may make for a moment of daily amusement and make us feel more connected to them, but it is what happens in the ring that really makes us take notice of them. A loser by tweet-KO may only find obstacles and distractions in the way of their real source of their fan base.
Originally published on 8 Count News.com on October 9, 2011.