Major League Baseball player agent Casey Close and his agency Excel Sports Management sued sports radio host Doug Gottlieb for libel, filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Thursday.
Close formerly represented Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman, who signed a six-year, $162 million deal with Los Angeles during spring training after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Braves.
Freeman’s free agency became ripe for relitigating in June when Freeman was visibly upset during the Dodgers’ visit to Atlanta, and all parties seemed to be pointing fingers as to why the Braves didn’t re-sign the 2020 NL MVP.
Following the events of the weekend in Atlanta, Freeman terminated Close as his agent.
On June 29, Gottlieb tweeted that Close “never told Freddie Freeman about the Braves final offer,” which the lawsuit describes as “false and reckless … thereby injuring Plaintiffs’ names, businesses and reputation.”
The filing alleges that “Close has received death threats from people he believes to be Braves fans” since Gottlieb’s tweet.
“Although we gave Mr. Gottlieb an opportunity to retract his false statement, he failed to do so,” Close said in a statement. “The complaint sets the record straight as to what occurred during the negotiations with the Atlanta Braves.”
The lawsuit presents a timeline of negotiations between Freeman and the Braves, which matches up with previous USA TODAY Sports reporting.
According to the suit, on March 12, Close asked the Braves if they had any updates on contract proposals, and the organization told him they would get back to him, which Close communicated to Freeman.
“Later that day, Close presented two contract proposals to the Atlanta Braves, and the Atlanta Braves rejected both,” the lawsuit says. “Close then asked the Atlanta Braves if they had any offer that Close could bring to Freeman, and the Atlanta Braves responded in the negative. Thereafter, Close immediately communicated the final conversation to Freeman.”
“Following the March 12, 2022 discussions, there were no further discussions between Close and the Atlanta Braves regarding a Freeman contract.”
Atlanta executives say that on that day, Freeman’s agency decided to play chicken, giving the club one hour to accept a six-year, $175 million contract, or a five-year, $165 million deal. Close says no such thing occurred.
“I categorically deny that any deadline was made,” Close told USA TODAY Sports.
According to the lawsuit, Gottlieb’s tweet, essentially accusing Close of malpractice, injured the “names, businesses and reputation” of the plaintiffs.
“As a direct and proximate result of Gottlieb’s defamation, Plaintiffs have been damaged in an amount to be determined at trial but estimated to be tens of millions of dollars,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs demanded a jury trial and said “Gottlieb’s false statements were committed with wanton and malicious disregard for the truth of those statements such that punitive damages are warranted.”
Contributing: Associated Press