Fuzzy Zoeller Sues over Wikipedia Article

Professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing the owner of an IP address for controversial remarks posted on the Fuzzy Zoeller Wikipedia article.

Zoeller’s Wikipedia article provoked vandalism as a result of Zoeller’s racially charged remarks against Tiger Woods in 1997. Here is Wikipedia’s summary of Zoeller’s original racist remarks:

At the 1997 Masters tournament, Zoeller made a controversial remark regarding Tiger Woods. After finishing tied for 34th place with a score of 78, Zoeller said:

“That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?”

Zoeller then smiled, snapped his fingers, and walked away before turning and added, “or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.” Zoeller was referring to the following year’s Master’s Club Champion’s Dinner, for which the defending champion selects the menu. Incidentally, Woods chose cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, French fries and milkshakes.

Several companies, including K-Mart and Dunlop, ceased endorsing Zoeller after the incident. He later apologized to Woods.

This section is heavily referenced and factual.

But in December, an anonymous vandal posted an addendum to this Wikipedia section, provoking Zoeller’s lawsuit. The offending comments can be found in the lawsuit posted at TheSmokingGun.com. I decided not to repost the comments here. Suffice it to say they claim that Zoeller made his racist comments while drunk, and added that Zoeller has an alcohol and prescription drug problem and is regularly violent to his wife and children.

Zoeller is suing the owner of the IP address, which was tracked to a Miami-based Educational Consulting Firm named Josef Silny & Associates. Josef Silny says he is shocked anyone in his company could be responsible for the remarks, and is having his IT consultant examine the situation.

Good Lawsuit or Bad Lawsuit?

Generally, I think that anyone who resorts to a lawsuit is a weanie. Particularly when a known racist is concerned about protecting their public image.

But what I think is positive about this lawsuit is that it sets a legal precedent for not going after Wikipedia directly. And it also shows vandals that their actions have consequences. That being said, I’m not sure Josef Silny’s Educational Consulting Firm deserves to be sued for damages; there are any number of ways in which their IP address could have been used. It is interesting that Zoeller, a proven racist, draws the line at being accused of alcoholism. But it will be interesting to see if this lawsuit makes people think twice about vandalising Wikipedia.

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