ICYMI: Kai Spears Releases Statement, Sets Up for Libel Suit
An update has been added to the bottom of this story as of 2:25 p.m. CST on March 16.
Shortly after the father of freshman Alabama walk-on guard Kai Spears, Marshall athletics director Christian Spears, released a statement vehemently denying Wednesday's New York Times report that Kai Spears was the unnamed passenger in Brandon Miller's car the night of the Jan 15 shooting, Kai Spears himself released his own statement.
"I have one thing to say - the report in the New York Times was 100% inaccurate and the writer had complete disregard for the truth. I am trying to process and cope with these false statements that somehow have been published and then seen by so many. So thankful to Alabama Athletics for refuting it on my behalf. More than anything... I remain completely heartbroken by the tragic death that occurred that night," said Kai Spears via his personal Instagram account.
Christian Spears had released a statement just over an hour earlier.
“I am just incredibly disappointed in the irresponsible and demonstrably false reporting by the NY Times. We are exploring all legal options at this time. I will have no further comment, instead deferring to the University of Alabama’s statement on the matter.," said Christian Spears.
The combination of "we are exploring all legal options at this time" from Christian and "the writer had complete disregard for the truth" from Kai indicates that the family is preparing to bring a libel suit to the New York Times.
The standards of libel are high for a public figure, which it isn't clear that Kai Spears is. He is on the No. 1 college basketball team in the country, but hasn't seen the floor according to ESPN. Nevertheless, the Spears family's statements indicate that they think the report meets those standards
The New York Times posted a note regarding the circumstances in which they will use anonymous sources at the bottom of their original report. This is not a common practice for the outlet.
"What we consider before using anonymous sources. Do the sources know the information? What’s their motivation for telling us? Have they proved reliable in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with these questions satisfied, The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source," read the footnote.
Update: Tide 100.9 received a statement furnished on behalf of the Spears family by The Law Offices of New, Taylor, and Associates
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Law Offices of New, Taylor & Associates represents Kai Spears, a student athlete at the University of Alabama, as well as his parents, Marshall University Athletic Director, Christian Spears, and his wife, Dr. Julia Spears. The article in the New York Times, dated March 15, 2023, identifying Kai as a fourth person at the scene of a shooting is demonstrably false, as we can demonstrate Kai was not in the car, nor near that vicinity at the time in question.
This irresponsible journalism has harmed Kai and his family, as well as the University of Alabama and Marshall University. I have reached out to General Counsel for the New York Times, with no response. As you can imagine, the Spears family has been incredibly impacted by this harmful and false article, as is clear in Mr. Spears’ own words: “I am furious at the completely erroneous article(s) placing my son in the car at the scene. It is absolutely false; Kai was not there. I am grateful to the people who are supporting our family. We all must hold irresponsible journalists and their publications accountable.” -Christian Spears.
We are exploring all legal options available to the Spears family. Please direct any questions to my attention at (304) 250-6017, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sincerely, Stephen P. New"