Wednesday, June 6, 2007

ESPN Sportstainment Strikes Again

On Saturday ESPN is planning on airing the movie that it made about the famous filly Ruffian {spoiler alert: think Old Yeller but worse} on ABC after its coverage of the Belmont Stakes.

While Secretariat v. Man O' War will rage on infinitely,
most are in agreement that she was the greatest filly to ever race

Now comes word that the trainer and jockey of Ruffian have filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against ESPN because ESPN's depictions of them in the film are not accurate. Basically it sounds like ESPN originally went to these two and asked for the right to use their names and stories, but the two refused because ESPN would not allow either man any control over the content of their characters in the film. So ESPN came up with the idea of inserting famous horse writer Bill Nack into the movie and inventing numerous conversations between Nack and Ruffian's trainer that never took place. In fact, trainer Whiteley says that he did not speak to Nack one single time in the year leading up to Ruffian's infamous match race.

While a third party to the lawsuit, who own the trademark to Ruffian's name in books, film, and television, are fighting over money, the trainer and jockey simply want ESPN to throw up a little blurb stating that the events in the film are not the actual truth but are a fictionalized version of the truth. Says attorney A. Lee Parks trainer Whiteley:

“They wanted to use their names and depict them, but gave them no control over the content. Nobody with a reputation would sign away their life story with no input. So ESPN, rather than folding, just found another way to tell the story, and that was by using Bill Nack to write a book inserting himself into the story as one of the players. The conversations depicted in the film between Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Nack never happened, according to Mr. Whiteley. He didn’t sit around his barn chatting with reporters. What we have asked them to do is put a disclaimer on the movie saying it is a fictionalized version based on true events, and that the depictions of Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Vasquez should not be considered as being approved by them. You see those disclaimers all the time, and that would be fine. We’re big boys. They are public figures. People can make movies about these things if they don’t present it as a true story.”

Sounds fair enough to me. So go ahead and throw a 10 second disclaimer up at the beginning of the film ESPN, before the world hates you even more.

I wonder if the guy that started his own blog in an anti-ESPN EDSBS comment thread has seen this story yet...

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