Gilbert Arenas failed in his attempt to obtain an injunction to stop the airing of reality TV show Basketball Wives: Los Angeles featuring his ex-fiancée and mother of his four children.
NBA star Arenas filed suit against the production company behind the VH1 reality show, seeking to halt its airing because it allegedly violated his right of publicity and diluted his trademark.
But a federal judge disagreed.
U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled that Arenas’ claims were blocked by the First Amendment – in part because of his own sharing of “mundane” details of his life via Twitter.
While Judge Gee said that on-air conversations about Arenas or future promotional materials for the show would constitute the use of his identity as a celebrity, she ruled that the First Amendment protected the defendant.
“It appears that any references in [the show] to Arenas will be incidental to the show’s plot as a whole. At its core, the show is about the women who have or have had relationships with basketball players rather than the players themselves. Thus, the show appears to be transformative,” the court said.
Further, despite Arenas’ argument that a discussion of his family life wasn’t a matter of public concern, the NBA star’s use of Twitter to talk about “mundane occurrences” to his tens of thousands of followers belied that argument, the judge ruled, citing examples like “don’t u hate waking up doing the same thing…wash face…brush teeth…pee…take shower (well sum of us)…put on clothes…eat…etc.”
The court also said Arenas was unlikely to succeed on his trademark infringement claim, given that his ex-fiancée had a nominative fair use to talk about her relationship with him, which in no way would suggest his endorsement of the show.
In addition, given Arenas’ own past, the court said he was unlikely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction. Judge Gee cited a “treasure trove” of newspaper articles about and tweets by Arenas that convinced her that his reputation “will suffer no serious blow if [the show] airs as scheduled. For example . . . it is difficult to see how an association with ‘cat fights’ will tarnish Arenas’ reputation when he has been publicly associated with potential gunfights,” the court said, noting a well-publicized incident where Arenas pulled a gun on a teammate over a gambling debt in the locker room.
Judge Gee denied Arenas’ motion for an injunction and granted the defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion, dismissing Arenas’ right of publicity claim.
To read the order denying an injunction in Arenas v. Shed Media, click here.
Why it matters: Arenas’ complaint represented yet another step in the recent trend of celebrities trying to broaden their right of publicity. While the court recognized that mention of Arenas on the reality show would implicate his celebrity, he was not able to overcome the production company’s First Amendment defense. And the court was quick to note that Arenas’ own behavior – in particular, his activity on Twitter – undermined his claims by drawing attention to his activities, placing him in the public eye.