TOKYO (TR) – The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of the Yomiuri Giants baseball club in a libel suit against a weekly tabloid over articles appearing three years ago that claimed the team bribed young players and maintains ties to organized crime groups, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 17).
Presiding judge Masako Ishikuri ordered Nihon Journal, the Tokyo-based publisher of Shukan Jitsuwa, to pay 2.2 million yen in compensation to the Giants, which had sought 33 million yen.
“Without any substance in the coverage, it can not be said that (the articles) have a reason to be believed,” said Ishikuri.
The content of the three articles, which ran in the magazine between November of 2011 and April of the following year, indicated that the Giants paid bribes of between 1.8 billion and 3.6 billion yen to top picks in the amateur draft to encourage them to sign with the club. The magazine also claimed that the team holds relationships with gangsters in order to prevent internal scandals from surfacing.
An article appearing in the November 24 issue specifically mentions Tomoyuki Sugano, the number-one pick by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the 2011 draft. The right-handed pitcher sat out the 2012 season and re-entered the draft that November, in which he was selected by Yomiuri.
The same story specifically mentions the involvement of manager Tatsunori Hara, who is Sugano’s uncle. (In 2012, a different tabloid alleged that the skipper paid off a gangster to quash a story about an adulterous relationship.)
A representative of the Yomiuri Giants, which is owned by media conglomerate Yomiuri Group, applauded the judgment.
“We do not accept the ruling of the court,” said an editor at Nihon Journal, according to the Asahi Shimbun (Dec. 17).