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
20 Comments
Thadsays:

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! https://takoma-torch.creator-spring.com/listing/olneyfans?product=369

Anonymoussays:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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 Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
15:51 [UPDATED]: Myanmar's Military Junta Sentences American Journalist To Eleven Years In Prison (8)
12:01 Hong Kong Government Now Directly Censoring Films In Hopes Of Shutting Down Protest-Related Documentaries (21)
10:50 Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Strips Immunity For Officers Who Arrested A Journalist For Asking Questions (16)
10:44 Why Falsely Claiming It's Illegal To Shout Fire In A Crowded Theater Distorts Any Conversation About Online Speech (85)
05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (144)
16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (28)
12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (385)
11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (24)
12:10 Court Tells Arkansas Troopers That Muting Anti-Cop Terms On Its Facebook Page Violates The 1st Amendment (37)
13:43 Right-Wing Commentator Dan Bongino Runs Into Florida Anti-SLAPP Law, Now Owes Daily Beast $32,000 In Legal Fees (14)
20:41 North Carolina Sued By Flying Dog Brewery Over Regulatory Body Refusing To Allow Sales Due To 'Offensive' Label (19)
09:59 Now Josh Hawley Is Threatening Google Over 1st Amendment Protected Expression (44)
12:08 PETA Sues NIH And HHS Directors For Blocking Comments With 'PETA' And '#StopAnimalTesting' (59)
10:57 Appeals Court Says The First Amendment Protects Minnesota Woman's Right To Be Super-Shitty About Nearby Islamic School (68)
12:00 Elizabeth Warren Threatens Amazon For Selling Books Containing Misinformation; Perhaps Forgetting The 1st Amendment (49)
09:26 8th Circuit's Bizarre Ruling In Devin Nunes' SLAPP Suit Against Reporter Ryan Lizza (13)
10:43 Satire Site Gets Ridiculous Threat Letter From Baseball Team; cc's Barbra Streisand In Its Response (20)
12:12 Commentator Insists That Fact Checking Is An Attack On Free Speech (163)
13:34 Court: Just Because An Anonymous Yelp Reviewer Is Mean, Doesn't Mean You Get To Unmask The Reviewer (26)
12:06 Computer Repair Shop Owner Has To Pay Twitter's Legal Fees Over Bogus SLAPP Suit Regarding Hunter Biden's Laptop (108)
13:36 Report Shows DOJ Engaged In Selective Prosecution To Maximize Punishment For 'Black Lives Matter' Protesters (22)
16:02 Appeals Court Shuts Down Kansas' 30-Year-Old Ag Gag Law (23)
13:39 Ninth Circuit Affirms MSNBC's Anti-SLAPP Motion Against OAN Network's Bullshit Defamation Lawsuit (102)
10:51 Appeals Court Says Iowa's Ag-Gag Law Is About 50 Percent Constitutional (15)
13:45 Nassau County Executive Vetoes Bill That Would Punish People For Making Cops Feel Bad (15)
12:24 Shiva Ayyadurai Drops His Potentially Interesting Lawsuit About Massachusetts Officials Complaining To Twitter About Tweets (33)
12:03 President Of France Sues Citizen Over Billboard Comparing Macron To Hitler (20)
10:44 Top German Court Says Facebook Must Inform Users About Deleting Their Posts Or Suspending Their Account, Explain Why, And Allow Them To Respond (17)
10:44 Superior Court Dumps BS Charges Brought Against New Jersey Homeowner For Her 'Fuck Biden' Signs (20)
03:27 Appeals Court Denies Immunity To University Officials Who Apparently Banned A Christian Student Group Just Because They Didn't Like It (33)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it