A South Carolina judge has ruled in favor of Jones Street Publishers, owners of the Charleston City Paper, in the case surrounding the publication’s coverage of controversial post-game celebrations by the Academic Magnet High School football team in 2014 and the subsequent firing of the team’s coach:
In fall 2014, Academic Magnet became the focus of intense scrutiny and national media attention when details emerged of a post-game celebrations that many found to be inappropriate. At the time, Charleston County Schools Superintendant Nancy McGinley stated that players would gather in a circle and smash a watermelon while others gathered around making “monkey sounds,” according to court documents. McGinley also stated that players named the watermelons after Bonds-Wilson, the formerly segregated African-American school that once stood on the campus where Academic Magnet is now located. The failed lawsuit against Jones Street alleged that two opinion articles appearing in the City Paper, as well as a story detailing the press conference during which Walpole’s termination was announced, were defamatory in nature because they “imply that the football team and the head coach are racist.”
According to Toal’s ruling, the news article cited in the suit was a fair and accurate summary of statements made by McGinley and other district officials. The judge also found that the views expressed in the opinion articles related to the team’s post-game behavior were protected by law.