Let's say I bash a NBA player based on his performance on my twitter/facebook saying,

"his shooting s****"

"he is garbage at defense"

"he needs to get out of this team because he is f****** awful"

and I do this almost every time he plays, for the entire season.

And let's just say that player happened to see my tweets about him.

If that happens, would it be possible for that player to sue me for Defamation or Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Because such NBA player may be a public figure and the criteria may be different for such a figure, I also wanted to ask: what if someone that I curse to is NOT a public figure?

I am not saying I do this, but I had an argument with my brother regarding free speech vs defamation/Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

And I got really curious.

  • 2
    You need to specify a jurisdiction. The law is different in Germany and England-and-Wales and Texas and California (although the last three are probably more similar). Jan 6, 2020 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


would it be possible for that player to sue me for Defamation or Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

No. All the examples you mention are statements of opinion. Only statements of fact are actionable under defamation law.

For instance, the meaning of being "f****** awful" or "garbage" are too unclear, subjective, vague, and/or hyperbole. That kind of statements are not susceptible of corroboration because there is no objective standard to prove or disprove them. As such, they contain little-to-no "information" for others to dissociate from the referred individual.

The standard for awarding damages in counts of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) is much higher than targeting someone in the way you mention. Counts of IIED are intended for situations involving severe suffering, perhaps comparable to torture. Many lawyers waste their clients' money by pleading IIED despite the well known fact that counts of IIED typically fail the standard of severity for the law intends to remedy.

Courts are selectively less tolerant to vulgarity if the target thereof is an individual in a situation of heightened sensitivity, or a privileged individual such as a judge or a king, notwithstanding that sanctioning the vulgarity is likelier to bring more attention thereto in the case of public figures.

As an example, in Morris v. Schnoor (May 29, 2014) (see section "IV. Appellate Sanctions"), the Michigan Court of Appeals sanctioned attorney David Charron for bashing a judge with statements such as "When the judiciary acts as the b---- for complainant, we get rulings like this" (I'm adding dashes here). As was very obvious and predictable, the sanction gathered the attention of the media to the attorney's statement of opinion. Other than that, in many jurisdictions it is extremely unlikely that calling a basketball player or an average civilian the b-word would prompt a court to address the vulgarity at all.

  • Great answer. Just wanted to display the statement of opinion. The NBA player will still beat me in a 1v1 game any day of the week and twice on Sunday, but his performance in last night's game was dreadful in my opinion of what constitutes quality NBA player performance. Hence the subjective nature of my opinion... it's factually true that he has more game than me, but it's not so clear where I set my calibration, thus it's not factual.
    – hszmv
    Jan 6, 2020 at 14:07
  • @hszmv Thank you! The law does not require being more skilled than the person at issue (here, the NBA player) in order to express an unfavorable opinion about him or his performance. Jan 6, 2020 at 14:23
  • Or any skill for that matter. Again, I'm no good at Basketball, but if Lebron trips 20 times in a game, and misses 30 shots, I feel qualified to say he was playing a sh-[expletive deleted] game that night. Now... I need to be able to identify sight unseen Lebron... It's also a lot harder to prove defamation or IIED for public figures who lose some of the protections afforded to private citizens once they "enter the arena" if you pardon the pun.
    – hszmv
    Jan 6, 2020 at 14:27

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