Adrian Griffin Mounts His Defense Against #MeToo Lies

Audrey Sterling may not have been able to dribble or shoot, but she enjoyed the prestige and privilege of being an NBA wife, basking in the reflected glory of her husband, former player and now lead assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors, Adrian Griffin. Until she didn’t, when the couple divorced in 2015.

While Griffin’s star continued to rise as his combination of skill as a coach and ability to work with players made him as sure a bet for a head coaching position as could be, Sterling no longer was part of that world, and she was pissed. But what could she do to improve her circumstances, or at least bring her ex-husband down in jealousy and revenge?

Enter #MeToo, the opportunity to do no more than level outrageous accusations against Griffin on Twitter and bask in the new prominence of victimhood, as set forth in a defamation action* in the Southern District of New York.

Plaintiff Adrian Griffin brings this libel action as the victim of a vicious campaign of lies by the Defendant, his ex-wife, Audrey R. Sterling. Her attack was launched by a Tweet on August 13, 2020, in which Defendant falsely accused Plaintiff of failure to pay child support and vivid accusations of horrifying physical abuse by Plaintiff. These were all lies, completely fabricated to take advantage of the current online climate where a woman’s unsupported accusation would be inherently believed, no matter how false or far-fetched. Sterling knew her accusations to be false. She made them anyway, and persisted in making them, using the now-common trope that athletes can get away with anything.

In a twit, as Sterling was about to lose the support payments she was getting from Griffin after she moved in with her boyfriend, she seized the chance to turn herself into the new status hero by the potent weapon of a social media accusation.

spent 22+ years keeping the abuse under wraps. I’ve lived within the realm of the nba for 20+ years. There is no desire for clout from me. Before breaking my silence I privately went to the NBA and the Raptors in October and November of 2019 about my ex-husband continual abuse and nothing was done. But enough is enough. Everyone has their breaking point, and with his recent actions I had to come forward.

Would anyone doubt her, challenge her? So what if Griffin denied it, as that’s exactly what you would expect an abuser to do. The #MeToo climate dictated that accusation, whether real or the lies of a woman scorned, be believed. The only two people who refuted Sterling’s claims were the couple’s two eldest children, both of whom backed their father. From his daughter:

I see that my mother’s story of lies has caught your eye. Please stay blessed and highly favored, not all you read on the internet is true…I have been dealing with my mother’s shenanigans for years now. Constantly having her back even when she’s in the wrong, I have always stuck up for her. In fear that every time my dad left on the road my life would be hell…I am grateful and beyond blessed. I could not have asked for a better father, dad, mentor spiritual guider. [Plaintiff’s social media handle] you did one heck of a job raising me as a father and I hope you know I am proud to call you my father.

From his son:

I’m not here to choose sides I’m here to speak the truth about my father. My father has never told any of us to hate our mother. My father has payed child support for over the past 5-6 years. My father has never done anything to harm us children. He has always been a father to us children no matter what. From the time we were kids and now as young adults he has never been abusive towards any of us. All he wants from his children is for us to do things the right way. My father is a hard-working man. It runs in the family as all of us GRIFFINS are.

His current team, the Raptors, didn’t fold in the heat of the moment, but the damage was done. While Griffin still held his position as lead assistant coach, his chance to break into the ranks of an NBA head coach evaporated. Nobody needed to take the risk of hiring an accused abuser.

Plaintiff was a leading candidate for multiple head coaching positions in recent off-seasons. He would have obtained a head coaching position, he was informed, if not for the publicized attacks by Defendant.

Was it just about an ex-wife bringing down her husband with weaponized lies on social media? Not exactly.

Plaintiff contacted Defendant in an attempt to peacefully request that Defendant refrain from making false accusations and creating social media drama. Plaintiff urged Defendant to consider the Parties’ children, the effect her lies had on his career and his ability to further support their four children. Defendant’s response revealed her true motivation behind her libelous attacks: Defendant told Plaintiff he would have to pay her $500,000.00 to secure the peace he sought for his family and their shared children.

Griffin had two choices, suffer the taint that would end his ascent to a head coaching position or pay off Sterling to stop the lies, although paying for silence doesn’t guarantee future silence when the money runs out.

It seems unlikely that Griffin’s suit will bring him a damage award of much consequences. Sterling doesn’t have the ability to pay, and it’s likely not about money at all. Rather, Griffin found himself in the untenable position of being falsely accused of heinous conduct at a time when a million unduly passionate zealots will believe any accusation by a woman against a man, and there is no means by which to challenge the lies. What else could Griffin do but sue and put the falsity of Sterling’s accusation before a court where he could get a chance to vindicate himself and remove the taint?

Will it work? Is it a sufficient remedy for bald accusations? Even if Griffin wins, the taint of having been accused will still emit an unpleasant smell, because who can be sure? There is no burden on Sterling to prove that there is any truth to her claims; the burden in social media is on the accused to prove the negative, that these accusation didn’t happen. That, of course, is hard, if not impossible, to do.

But what of Adrian Griffin’s years of hard work to reach the pinnacle of NBA coaching by maintaining a reputation as an outstanding coach and human being? Tough nuggies, the unduly passionate respond. So what if some innocent men are ruined by lies. That’s the price of #MeToo, where revenge demands neither proof nor process, and if innocent men’s lives and careers are wrongfully ruined in the process, that’s just the way it goes. For Adrian Griffin, he’s not going down without mounting the best defense possible, just as he does as a coach.

*At Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene wrote of this case using the originally filed complaint, which has since been replaced with an amended complaint.

22 thoughts on “Adrian Griffin Mounts His Defense Against #MeToo Lies

  1. Guitardave

    It seems no one ever asks why, if it was so bad, she didn’t leave him shortly after the so-called abuse started….oh, yeah, i forgot, ‘I stayed FOR THE CHILDREN!’…more virtue points. No winning that game.

      1. RTM

        It’s amazing how Joe’s accusers simply varnished into the ether from the get go without him even having to launch any sort of real defense. The #MeTooers were silent and our Governor is left scratching his head.

        1. SHG Post author

          It’s not amazing. Tara Reade’s accusation lacked credibility when put to the test. The difference is that many others do as well, but while they were tolerant, if not acquiescent, in challenging Reade’s, they have no similar tolerance when others are frivolously accused and are outraged that any man would challenge false accusations. It’s not that Joe got away too easy, but that others similarly falsely accused are condemned no matter what.

          1. RTM

            I’m not aware of any full evidentiary hearing on the various allegations against Joe, notwithstanding the White House’s recent claim they were heavily litigated. Stale yes, but certainly not litigated. Well, except in the fickle court of public opinion. Andrew wasn’t so lucky.

            1. SHG Post author

              You don’t get to trial if you can’t make it past probable cause. Them’s the rules.

              Biden’s position was hypocritical, but not wrong.

        2. Bryan Burroughs

          Nah. The accusations against Biden just didn’t pass the sniff test.

          I’ll see my way out.

  2. Hunting Guy

    W. C. Fields.

    “No doubt exists that all women are crazy; it’s only a question of degree.”

    1. SHG Post author

      This is part of the problem that gave rise to this gross overreaction. No, all women aren’t crazy. But some are, just as some men are, and both need to be held to account.

  3. John Barleycorn

    Adrian’s lawyers have coined, or may break through, a new term:

    “Twitter jihad”

    How come you didn’t think of that one esteemed one?

    P.S. Since when do people pay attention to divorce battles?

  4. B. McLeod

    As uses of the #MeToo device for simple extortion are publicly exposed, perhaps that will help bring it down.

    1. LY

      On this note, I would presume that he has some type of evidence (a written response, or verbal recording) of the shakedown, would this not open the door to a criminal prosecution for extortion? How would such a prosecution affect the online campaign were it to become public knowledge?

  5. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    You often, and rightly in my view, say that one shouldn’t pre-judge a legal dispute based on what’s leaked onto the internet. That America has an adversarial fact-finding process for a reason, and that ignoring it is an invitation to (twitter) mob justice.

    So why should it be different this time? All we currently have to go on is a complaint – whose only valuable assertion if we did want to pre-judge the case is that Griffin can prove Sterling’s allegation about missed child support to be false – plus the two tweets by the kids. And as you know, there are some additional hurdles to be overcome before Griffin, a public figure and plaintiff in a NY-law defamation suit, can win in court.

    It’s perfectly plausible that Sterling is lying, just as it may turn out that she wasn’t, or at least that Griffin can’t prove libel. But it seems to me you’re rushing to judgment here, in a manner you’d condemn if it came with a #BelieveWomen hashtag.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re quite right that it’s only a complaint. But sometimes there are so many “tells,” acts and omissions, external evidence, objective evidence, clear motivations, that proves one side to be lying, that the case is overwhelming. This is such a case.

      This isn’t really about Griffin getting a damage award for libel from his ex-wife. This is about Griffin doing the only thing possible to remove the assumed taint of social media accusations. Where else does he go to get the taint removed? That’s where we are now.

    2. Sgt. Schultz

      Your dedication to fairness is admirable, but your analysis misses a critical point. In a functional adversarial system, the defendant’s accusation would be made in a suit, where the plaintiff would be able to defend, and where a conclusion would ultimately be reached. But the burden would be on the accuser to prove her allegations.

      That’s no longer the way accusations are made and punishment is imposed. Once the system is turned upside down, and accusers need do nothing more than accuse, and there is no system by which to challenge a bald accusation, does fairness mean that the burden now shifts to the accused to prove the negative? If not, why have you given the accuser a free pass and not only put the burden on the accused, but ignored that there is very strong behind his proving the negative?

      Fairness is great, but it’s not always a matter of equivalencies. Sometimes, one side has the goods and the other has nothing. That’s what’s happening here.

      1. SHG Post author

        I was forewarned before #MeToo happened that a new tactic was coming, where “victims” would no longer try to use official channels of redress and would make their accusations on social media, thus forcing their accused to disprove them. I was dubious that it would work, as it conflicts with every premise of our jurisprudence and reason. Obviously, I underestimated the effectiveness of the unduly passionate.

      2. David Meyer-Lindenberg

        That’s a really good point. Of course, a defamation suit always requires the plaintiff to prove a negative, but you’re right that this case only happened because Griffin was himself extrajudicially accused (and, if he’s to be believed, executed without trial). I don’t know if that makes him qualitatively different from the defamation plaintiffs of yore, but what’s new is the mainstreaming of this type of accusation. I think you and SHG are right, a bit of skepticism is probably healthy at this stage, and maybe generally when people make their claims on social media instead of in court. Thanks.

        1. SHG Post author

          While the case sounds in defamation, is it really, or is it just a defense against the accusations of various forms of abuse claimed except with a shifted burden of proof?

          1. David Meyer-Lindenberg

            Like I said, I don’t even know if Griffin’s case is qualitatively any different from defamation cases from before social-media accusations became a thing. In fact, I think just about any defamation case could be described as “a defense against the accusations of various forms of abuse claimed except with a shifted burden of proof.”

            What seems to be different is an increased cultural willingness to make public, unsubstantiated, and hard-to-test claims and to buy into them. But do you have a legal remedy in mind for that that both doesn’t fit into today’s defamation rubric and isn’t some Trumpian “open up the libel laws” thing?

            1. SHG Post author

              Before social media accusations were weaponized, defamation was more about characterizations, such as an unchaste woman or man with a loathsome disease. Accusing someone of a crime happened, but it wasn’t taken seriously enough to cause harm and damages until it proceeded to the official stage, at which point it was no longer a defamation problem but a criminal problem, as it should be. #MeToo changed that, not only because of the evidenceless social media accusations but because people believe them and acted (or demanded action) upon them. This was a new phenomenon.

              Is there a “legal remedy”? Better to “fix” the root cause of the problem, the public acceptance as sufficiently conclusive of belief and punishment for unproven and undefensible criminal accusations. If a crime has been committed, we have a mechanism to address it. If it’s not used, then the accusation should not be blindly believed.

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