T.J. Simers, a well-known former sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is suing the Times for age and disability discrimination and is seeking $18 million. We’re providing regular coverage and analysis of the jury trial, which has been going on for several weeks. If you are just joining us, you can find the links to my prior coverage of the trial at the end of this post.
Whatever happened to those all-star sports figures who were supposed to testify for T.J. Simers? As far as I know, only Tommy Lasorda actually showed up, and although he’s not too shabby, we were led to believe there would be a lot more.
Well, anyway. Mr. Simers rested his case on Monday, and the Times has filed a motion to dismiss his discrimination and “harassment” claims, among others. The judge said he would take that under advisement, and the defense case is proceeding in the meantime.
The last witness for Mr. Simers was his wife, Ginny, who testified that he wasn’t the same after he stopped being a columnist for the Times. He “sometimes” doesn’t shower, and sometimes he doesn’t have anything to talk about. (Sounds like me on a Saturday.)
The Times reportedly asked Mr. Simers in 2013 to cut back from three columns a week to two, work at the general assignment desk, and work under a contract . . . but at no cut to his $234,000 a year salary. Instead, Mr. Simers quit and went to work for the Orange County Register. He lasted one year at the OCR, and then took a voluntary separation package. Apparently, he hasn’t worked since.
Mrs. Simers testified that her husband refused to sign a contract with the Times because he knew they’d just find an excuse to get rid of him anyway. He didn’t feel that the editors “had his back,” she said. Mrs. Simers testified that her husband’s pension from the Times is $24,000 a year.
Testifying for the Times, Deputy Sports Editor John Cherwa said that he encouraged Mr. Simers to write for the web – recognizing that print wasn’t going to be around forever – but that Mr. Simers declined, saying, “I’m a print guy.”
Mr. Cherwa also testified about Mr. Simer’s coverage of an LA Clippers game in Memphis. Apparently Mr. Simers doesn’t care for Memphis, so he gave his column the dateline, “Rathole, Tenn.” Mr. Cherwa thought it was amusing the first time, but Mr. Simers referred to Memphis as “Rathole” throughout the column.
Mr. Simers indicated that he agreed that he’d overdone it, but he submitted his column with all of the “Rathole” references, and Mr. Cherwa had to edit them out before publication. Mr. Simers sent an email to Mr. Cherwa saying, “I’m officially pi**ed off.”
I’m officially beginning to think that Mr. Simers was not discriminated against. It sounds to me like he may have been a victim of his own pride and stubbornness – so much so that he couldn’t even act in his own best interests. I can’t wait to see whether the judge and jury feel the same way.
Many thanks to Matt Reynolds of Courthouse News Service for this week’s trial news.