Federal Appeals Court Affirms Right to Call Outfielder a “Fat Ass”

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In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reinstated a lawsuit brought by a Cleveland Indians fan, Jeffrey Swiecicki, who had been ejected from a game and later convicted of resisting arrest after he loudly referred to the size of the buttocks possessed by outfielder Russell Branyan.  "Branyan, you have a fat ass," Mr. Swiecicki was heard to say.

Swiecicki also opined that Branyan "suck[ed]," according to witnesses.

Branyan did not care, if he even heard, and he actually had three hits that night.  But an off-duty policeman who was working security objected, and when Swiecicki refused to quit he was escorted from the stadium.  The two then got into an altercation and Swiecicki (and that’s the last time I’m typing that name) was arrested.

His conviction was later overturned, and he then sued the arresting officer for, among other things, violating his First Amendment rights to free speech.  That lawsuit was dismissed, but the Sixth Circuit’s ruling reinstating the case guaranteed that it would continue to consume tax dollars as it has since it began in 2001.

In the 2-1 ruling, the court held that baseball fans are expected to be exuberant (even in Cleveland, I guess) and have a long history of hurling insults at players. These particular insults, the majority found, were protected because of that context and because they did not amount to "fighting words," which are not constitutionally protected.

Since false statements are not entitled to any First Amendment protection at all, I infer from the outcome that Branyan’s ass is, in fact, big.

Link: Cleveland Plain Dealer