Stemming from the publishing of a series of tweets that call into question LaMichael James’s commitment to the 49ers, James has filed a lawsuit against Twitter for libel. James’s lawyer, Liam Boutler, says his client believes he was maliciously targeted by the San Francisco-based social media company.
Though Boutler wouldn’t give specifics as to how Twitter was responsible, he did say there is significant evidence showing that Twitter “deliberately used their fame and influence to reach millions of people in attempt to cause irreparable damage to the plaintiff’s name and reputation.” Boutler pointed to a handful of tweets that mysteriously made their way onto James’s account as possible evidence of Twitter’s harassment.
In October, James appeared to tweet: “Some things I just don’t understand at all. I don’t work at State Farm, I’m not trying to be insurance.” Almost immediately following its publishing, the tweet was deleted, and James claimed to be unaware of where such a sentiment would have originated, tweeting: “I don’t tweet bout football or anything related to my team.”
Boutler claims that after the first incident, James reached out to Twitter, thinking that his account had been hacked. “My client immediately sought assistance from the Twitter security team,” Boutler said. “After talking with an associate my client has identified as named either Samir or Sandeep, he was told there was no evidence of his account being hacked. Despite this, he was told to change his password, which placed an unfair burden on my client, particularly in the middle of a grueling NFL season. Having yet another password to keep track of significantly handicapped my client’s job performance.”
A member of the Twitter security team, speaking on the condition of anonymity, claims his department does not and has never employed anyone named Samir or Sandeep. “I’m guessing,” the source said, “he just picked random Indian-sounding names. You know, we do employ Indians here, but their names are Gary, Alex and Julie.”
While the name of the Twitter security team member did not match up, the protocol did. “It’s pretty commonplace for our representatives to suggest that a user change his password,” the source said. “Listen, most of our users don’t understand the concept of a password. I’d say nearly 70% of people use their first name followed by the number one.”
James did change his password, but that didn’t stop the abuse. Almost four months later, James’s account curiously tweeted, “I’d rather they just let me go,” a veiled criticism of James’s role with the 49ers, which has mostly been relegated to special teams and gadget plays.
Yet again, James was forced to take the offensive, as he quickly tweeted, “No one has any idea what I’m tweeting about not even me.”
All of this, according to Boutler, has significantly impaired James’s job performance and security. In addition to the strain caused by having to remember a new password, Boutler claims the tweets have caused considerable amount of stress, which have affected James’s ability to concentrate during games. The greater issue, however, is just what the tweets have done to James’s reputation.
“Now, the message of these tweets have pervaded locker rooms and coaching offices,” Boutler said. “Though he has clearly shown a knack for the duties incumbent to a professional running back, these tweets have diminished his role with the team, while also affecting how James has been accepted by teammates and coaches.”
Boutler said the next step will be to take James’s lawsuit in front of a Santa Clara judge, who will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed. But, beyond the legal ramifications, Boutler believes the ultimate step will be in the 49ers granting his client his release.
“Unfortunately, it appears as though Twitter has conspired to drown out client’s on-the-field talk using their social media platform to launch their smear campaign,” he said. “In this sense, the damage done is irreversible. Even if we win our case, which I’m confident will happen, I don’t think my client and the 49ers will be able to reconcile. It would really behoove both parties to move on.”
This story is likely to continue into the offseason, and we’ll closely monitor James’s reps during mini-camps and Offseason Training Activities. Should James lose reps to Marcus Lattimore, Jewell Hampton, or some other running back who is not yet on the roster, then it would appear as though Boutler was right: Neither party could reconcile with the other. If that’s the case, then regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, Twitter will have been victorious in reversing the career trajectory of the once promising James.