LaRussa takes his Twitter case to court

By Derrick Goold/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Tony doesn’t do Tweets.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa used a little legal muscle to halt what he argued were unauthorized and unflattering statements made under his name at the social networking internet site Twitter.com. In a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court in May, La Russa stated that he had “suffered significant emotional distress (and) damage to reputation” because of a fake page established under his name at the Web site. He is suing for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and misappropriation of name and likeness.

The Web site removed the false page shortly after the lawsuit was filed, and La Russa said Wednesday he thought the “issue was done.” He declined to elaborate, calling it “ARF business,” a reference to his charity, Animal Rescue Foundation.

Twitter has become a raging phenomenon for its use of micro-blogs (140-character entries) to pass along anything from recipes to news reports to vanity license plate-like updates about breakfast decisions. Many news organizations have adopted Twitter as a way to connect with readers and promote online coverage. Professional athletes have embraced the social aspect of it as well, with basketball star Shaquille O’Neal and New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia each updating fans with “Tweets” throughout the day.

O’Neal has advertised on Twitter that he had tickets to give away for that evening’s basketball game and invited “citizens of Twitteronia” to introduce themselves.

The terms of service agreement posted at Twitter.com prohibit what it calls “non-parody impersonation” and offers a way for the person to report an impersonator. In the lawsuit, La Russa asserts that attempts to have the San Francisco-based Twitter, Inc., remove the fake page were not successful until the suit was filed in early May. Attached to the suit is a screenshot of the page, including several “Tweets” attached to La Russa’s name, a couple of which made distasteful references to the two Cardinals’ pitchers who died while active in recent seasons.