Satire Site Gets Ridiculous Threat Letter From Baseball Team; cc's Barbra Streisand In Its Response

from the that's-how-you-do-it dept

The Popehat signal went up and it was for a good cause (even if it’s ridiculous that it was needed). The satirical site “Takoma Torch,” which is an attempt at being a sort of local The Onion for a suburb outside of DC, posted an article making light of the nearby town of Olney, Maryland and its new Cal Ripken Collegiate League baseball team. Playing off of the recent drama regarding the company OnlyFans, Takoma Torch’s Eric Saul wrote up an amusing article about “OlneyFans.” You can click through to read the story, but the opening gives you the gist:

Within hours of going live, ?OlneyFans,? the website for Upper Montgomery County?s new Cal Ripken Collegiate League baseball team, crashed this week due to unusually high web traffic.

?We knew that starting a new baseball team in Olney would be popular, especially with males between the ages of 13 and 55,? said marketing director Brock Jacobs. ?But when our site registration exceeded the entire population of Maryland after announcing a free footlong on opening day against Bethesda Big Train, we realized our huge oversight.?

There are a few more such paragraphs and it’s somewhat amusing. Except, apparently, to the very, very foolish people who run the Olney Community Baseball Team who found someone who is apparently a real lawyer, Andrew Schwartz, to write one of the dumbest threat letters we’ve seen in a while. Schwartz, who specializes in business law, employment law, and real estate law seems to know fuck all about how free speech works.

The letter has some real whoppers in there.

Olney Baseball has learned that The Takoma Torch has circulated communications that use the name, image, or likeness of Olney Baseball in a false, misleading, and/or defamatory manner. For instance, on September 8, 2021, The Takoma Torch published an article entitled “OlneyFans Website for MoCo’s New Baseball Team Crashes Due to Unusually High Traffic” (the “Article”). No one from or on behalf of Olney Baseball was contacted, interviewed, or consulted about the Article. The Article contains numerous false and misleading statements, and it misrepresents the Olney Baseball organization. For instance, and not by way of limitation, Olney Baseball: (i) does not have a website; (ii) the individuals purportedly quoted in the Article have no relationship with Olney Baseball and they are not in any way affiliated with Olney Baseball; (iii) the individuals quoted in the Article have no authority to comment or speak on behalf of Olney Baseball; and (iv) the Article references a purported logo for Olney Baseball; however, Olney Baseball does not have any logo at this time.

Talk about missing the joke. The letter goes on to talk about all the time and money they’ve wasted investigating this matter and demanding The Takoma Torch cease and desist “all activities, including, but not limited to, publication, dissemination, distribution, sharing, posting and all use of or reference to the Olney Baseball name, image, and likeness in connection with any article, post, communication, and/or comment in whatever medium and in any forum.” They also demand the article be taken down and all the usual legal mumbo jumbo designed to scare people.

Thankfully, the Takoma Torch and Eric Saul seem to know enough not to be intimidated, and made public their response. It’s too good.

Thank you for your recent submission of a satirical legal threat. Even though our writing team found it to be extremely hilarious, unfortunately, it did not technically meet our qualifications of containing fewer than 300 words and have a punchy headline, so we will not accept it at this time. Perhaps you could have used “Olney Makes History with First Baseball Team to Lack a Sense of Humor,” or even “Lawyers Has Ball to Make Baseless Claims Against Satirical Baseball Story.” Either one of these headlines would have been acceptable.

There’s more, but the best part, by far, is the signoff.

Why, yes, that is a “cc: Barbara Streisand” which caused half the internet to alert me to it (Psst: Eric, for future reference, her name is now actually Barbra without the extra “a”).

And, given how often I’ve seen this type story come up, it appears that the Streisand Effect is alive and well. Saul has said his traffic went up more than 10x, to the point that his hosting company even alerted him that his traffic was “booming.”

Of course, some of the backstory behind all of this makes it even crazier. According to the Washingtonian, Eric Saul of the Takoma Torch knows the owner of the baseball team and had even done him favors in the past:

Saul said he was bewildered by the letter. For starters, he says, ?The guy suing me is my friend!? Indeed, Jeff Schwaber, the managing partner at Stein Sperling, confirms that Saul and Tony Korson, the CEO of Koa Sports, an organization behind the team, have coached baseball together and that Saul designed the interior of Koa Sports? facility for free. Korson called Saul about the article on Friday, Saul says, and he agreed to remove the original graphic for the story, which showed an artist?s rendering of the team?s potential field, and replace it with an aerial photo. ?I thought that was the end of it,? he says.

Some thanks he gets for designing the interior of their facility for free!

Incredibly, rather than backing down, the lawyers at Stein Sperling seem to be doubling down. Again from the Washingtonian:

Schwaber says the problem, from his client?s point of view, is that the baseball team is a new organization whose name is being ?deliberately confused? with a site known for adult content. But Takoma Torch is clearly a humor publication, I said. Doesn?t the precedent in the Supreme Court case Hustler Magazine, Inc., v. Falwell?which found that the First Amendment protected even offensive speech as long as ?that speech could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts??protect this sort of joke?

?Look, there is a lot of humor that?s protected speech,? Schwaber replied. ?But there are also lines that get crossed.? For instance, he says, Washingtonian could not write an article that accused Schwaber of molesting children and be protected by labeling it satire.

Um. That’s just dumb, Jeff. That’s not how any of this works. This did not cross the line and it was clearly satire. Schwaber kept on going and said even more stupid stuff to the Washington Post:

?Of course we support the First Amendment and the right of the Takoma Torch or anyone else to use satire as a medium,? wrote Stein Sperling?s Jeffrey M. Schwaber in an email.

No you don’t, Jeff. You sent him a fucking cease-and-desist that threatens litigation for his satire. So you do not support the 1st Amendment.

?Our concern is that our client has worked very hard to create an opportunity to bring a community oriented, children and family friendly baseball team to Olney, and now is faced with the challenges posed by having their new brand deliberately confused with an exploitative site filled with graphic and explicit content.?

No one is confusing anything, dude. Except you. Everyone got the humor. Except you. Either way, the Streisand Effect has claimed another victim.

Update: And… not surprisingly, it appears that the lawyers and the Olney baseball team realized that at some point you stop digging, and have agreed not to pursue legal action here:

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: olney community baseball, onlyfans, takoma torch

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Satire Site Gets Ridiculous Threat Letter From Baseball Team; cc's Barbra Streisand In Its Response”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Thad (profile) says:

Well that was quick.

1) I am happy to confirm that the OlneyFans drama has been resolved entirely in the Torch’s favor! Thanks to everyone for your support, but a few extra special thanks are in order…

2) Legal powerhouse @popehat took up our cause and found numerous fantastic attorneys who offered to represent us for free. The GOAT @gross_jennie signed on to be our official pro bono counsel and did a kick ass job…

3)…And finally, the First Amendment did what it was always meant to do: protect the right of a smart ass with a satire website to make all of the baseball/pornography jokes he wants.

4) As promised, all of the money raised through the OlneyFans t-shirt sales – $500 and counting – is being donated to the Olney Boys and Girls Club. Now go watch some live baseball in your community!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Sometimes I wonder if someone did the math and decided "I can spend $300 and get a lawyer to write a really dumb letter, or I can spend $30,000 on advertising."

Streisand Effect can work two ways — and in this case, it’s resulting in actual monetary gain for the ball club, as well as increased readership for the satirist — who admitted that he’s friends with one of the organizers of the ball club.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If the goal was to help the baseball team I’d chalk that up to a hefty faceplant as they came out of this looking bad and people who might not have even heard of them before had this as their first experience with the team.

You only get one first impression and this one did not help them out.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Bobvious says:

I can't wait

until the borders open up again and I can attend one of their games. I just hope the weather holds out and doesn’t Rain on their Parade. If so we’ll probably say, Dammit. Here’s That Rainy Day. You’ll Never Know, but maybe I can attend On a Clear Day When the Sun Comes Out.
Please, Luck Be a Lady.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Leave a Reply to Justin Trouble Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
09:32 Why Moderating Content Actually Does More To Support The Principles Of Free Speech (76)
09:30 Trumpists Admit That Their Own Social Media Platforms Aren't Much Fun When They Can't Use Them To Own The Libs (79)
15:36 On Elon Musk And Free Speech (164)
12:12 The 'Culture Of Free Speech' Includes Criticism Of Others' Speech; Get Over It (284)
13:30 Cops Who Sued Journalist For Reporting On Their Poor Handling Of A Rape Case Lose Their Defamation Lawsuit (40)
10:48 Jehovah's Witnesses Abusing Copyright Subpoena Process To Unmask Critics (16)
15:35 Devin Nunes Loses Appeal Of SLAPP Suit Against Liz Mair (16)
13:33 First Amendment Group Tells Appeals Court University Officials Shouldn't Have Access To Qualified Immunity (15)
09:32 Appeals Court Smacks Down Unconstitutional Injunction Obtained By A Lawyer To Silence Someone Who Left A Negative Review (13)
10:45 Senator Klobuchar's Next Unconstitutional Speech Control Bill: The NUDGE Act (37)
09:30 EARN ITs Big Knowledge 1st Amendment Problem (40)
13:31 Court (For Now) Says NY Times Can Publish Project Veritas Documents (43)
10:49 Terrible Vermont Harassment Law Being Challenged After Cops Use It To Punish A Black Lives Matter Supporter Over Her Facebook Posts (14)
10:43 UK Government Refreshes Its Terrible 'Online Safety Bill,' Adds Even More Content For Platforms To Police (43)
09:37 Court Grants Qualified Immunity To Officer Who Told Couple To Take Down Facebook Post About Off-Duty Cop Who Shot Their Dog (18)
10:50 Tenth Circuit Tells College Administrator That Ordering A Student To Stop Talking About An Instructor Clearly Violates The First Amendment (28)
06:07 Small Alabama Town's Overzealous Traffic Cops Also Monitored Internet Traffic To Threaten Critics Of The Corrupt PD (43)
10:53 Explainer: The Whole Spotify / Joe Rogan Thing Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Section 230 (56)
10:56 Governor Inslee Wants To Jail Politicians Who Lie? What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (39)
10:41 Georgia Sees Florida & Texas Social Media Laws Go Down In 1st Amendment Flames And Decides... 'Hey, We Should Do That Too' (65)
13:40 Harrison Greenbaum Latest Trick: Having Paul Levy Respond To Criss Angel's Thuggish Legal Threat (10)
12:12 Small Nebraska Town Pays $16,000 To Resident It Attempted To Sue Into Silence (19)
11:18 Pennsylvania Court Reverses Student's Expulsion Over A Snapchat Post, Reminds School Students Still Have Rights (27)
09:35 Sculptor Of Pillar Of Shame Announces It's Now Public Domain So That Anyone Can Make A Copy, As Chinese Authorities Seek To Destroy It (14)
09:23 Klobuchar's Silly Letter To Facebook Raises 1st Amendment Issues And Only Gives Ammo To Misinfo Peddlers That Facebook Is A State Actor (27)
10:40 Confused Judge Grants Project Veritas' Prior Restraint Against The NY Times (67)
09:31 Robert Reich Loses The Plot: Gets Basically Everything Wrong About Section 230, Fairness Doctrine & The 1st Amendment (95)
11:58 No, The Arguments Against Florida's & Texas' Content Moderation Bills Would Not Block All Internet Regulations (27)
09:33 Canada Strikes Again: Allows Lawsuit Against Twitter To Proceed Over Speech Of Twitter Users (43)
09:20 Rep. Thomas Massie Seems To Have Skipped Over The 1st Amendment In His Rush To 'Defend' The 2nd (95)
More arrow