It’s not often that you see a referee fight back fans or radio stations in a court of law. Those people are allowed to have their opinions of how you officiated a game after all. However, referee John Higgins is filing a federal lawsuit against Kentucky Sports Radio citing intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, tortious interference with a business, and civil conspiracy. That news comes from Dana O’Neil at The Athletic and she also reports that the claim is calling for an award of damages in excess of $75,000 with a specific number to be named later.
Higgins’ company, Weatherguard in Nebraska, was allegedly subjected to thousands of threatening phone calls and voice messages from Kentucky fans. That includes death threats against Higgins and his family. This coming after he worked the Elite Eight game this past season that saw the Kentucky Wildcats lose to North Carolina 75-73.
Are there going to be calls that one team or the other doesn’t like down the stretch of a game? Yes, of course. To take it to this level though is absolutely insane. Here’s some of what is being alleged to have happened because of actions taken by KSR. There were allegedly “800 threatening, vulgar, or harassing voicemail messages received on the Weatherguard phone lines,’’ and “30 such threatening, vulgar or harassing messages received on the Higgins’ family home phone line” at Higgins, his family or his business. Those threats were turned over to local law enforcement officials, and the Sarpy County sheriff determined that a “full dozen rose to the level of an actual threat of death or bodily injury and that he would pursue a criminal investigation,” according to the lawsuit.
The big point being made about KSR is that the two hosts in Matt Jones and Drew Franklin allowed commenters on their website and Facebook page to post links to Weatherguard’s website. Jones also repeatedly referenced and the company’s website and name on his radio show. Weatherguard had to take down its Facebook page because it got so many negative comments and posts.
The full story can be found here and that has much more detail, but this is a disturbing case for sure. While KSR will undoubtedly try to maintain its innocence it can’t deny that it made Higgins’ officiating a much bigger deal than it should have been and this is something that could ruin a man’s life and business. Some things are just way more important than basketball, unless you’re a Kentucky fan.