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Mitch Williams Files Lawsuit

Former Phillie Mitch Williams is suing his former employer MLB Network for breach of contract, wrongful termination and defamation, and Gawker Media, the company that owns the sports-news site Deadspin, for defamation, stemming from a story that Deadspin reported about Williams’ behavior at his 10-year-old son’s baseball tournament. The suit was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County.

“We are aware that Mitch Williams has filed a lawsuit against MLB Network,” a spokesman for MLB Network said in a statement. “We have not received it, but we have reviewed the reported claims in the statement issued today by his lawyer and there are inaccuracies included throughout.

“We can confirm that Mitch Williams is no longer an MLB Network analyst. We believe that the behavior he demonstrated at the youth baseball tournament speaks for itself.”

The news that Williams was no longer an MLB Network employee was not made public until the suit was filed yesterday.

Gawker Media did not return a statement by press time.

The lawsuit stems from a story posted by Deadspin’s Timothy Burke. On May 11, Burke reported, from anonymous sources, that Williams was ejected from his child’s baseball game for arguing and cursing.

Williams apologized, as ordered by the MLB Network, via Twitter: “I regret what happened at this weekend’s tournament & apologize. I love baseball & coaching.”

Another report from Deadspin followed, including allegations that Williams called a child a lewd name and ordered a 10-year-old to hit the opposing pitcher. Williams’ suit claims that there is “both written and video evidence contradicting the false and baseless accusations.”

On May 17, Williams took a leave of absence from the MLB Network, as requested by the network.

“There are people out there who love to bring down celebrities, and the Internet provides an incredibly easy and powerful forum to destroy a person’s reputation in an instant behind a veil of anonymity,” Williams’ lawyer, Laura C. Mattiacci, of Console Law Offices, said when asked about the May incident, as well as other reported incidents of similar behavior on Williams’ part. “When one’s reputation and livelihood are crushed by anonymous ‘sources,’ it is absolutely devastating, but there are legal recourses available.”

The suit alleges that the MLB Network wanted Williams to sign an amendment to his contract saying that he would no longer attend the sporting events of his five children (or as the suit says, “sign away his rights as a father”), including his 11-year-old autistic son. “As alleged in Mr. Williams’ complaint, for an employer to make a job contingent upon signing away your right to be with your children, it is crossing the line,” Mattiacci said.

When he refused, Williams said, he was fired, losing out on the approximately $2 million balance of his contract, along with positions at, the Sports Network and Fox Sports. Williams is seeking damages separately from each party.

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