The Sun had reported in August 2011 that soccer player Tom Cleverley “repeatedly badgered [a woman] for sex.” However, while the event apparently happened, the man in question wasn’t Cleverley but instead “someone who was impersonating him.” Cleverly is a midfielder for UK team Manchester United.
According to the Guardian, Cleverley’s attorney claims that “on the night of the alleged incident he was at home with his girlfriend.” The BBC added that the man posing as Cleverley also “sent repeated text messages” to the woman.
Therefore, the Sun could easily have checked out its story before publication and saved itself this error and the fee it has been ordered to pay Cleverley in damages. If the Sun was so certain of its story, they could have taken the text messages to Cleverly as evidence, iMediaEthics notes. The Sun could have avoided this whole incident by just asking Cleverley for comment before accusing him of this incident, which the Guardian says the newspaper never did.
The apology, published Oct. 5, reads:
“An article on 16 August reported that Manchester United footballer Tom Cleverley had begged a girl for sex after meeting her at a night club, even though he was dating a Page 3 model. In fact, entirely unknown to the girl it now transpires that the man involved, who looked like Tom Cleverley, was impersonating him. We apologise to Mr Cleverley for any embarrassment caused.”
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The Irish Times noted that Cleverley “does not know” the man posing as him. Cleverley is at least the thrid Manchester United player to be in a high-profile lawsuit against UK newspapers this year, iMediaEthics notes.
Cleverley’s teammate Rio Ferdinand recently lost a privacy lawsuit against the UK Sunday Mirror over the newspaper’s April 2010 “kiss and tell” story claiming Ferdinand had an affair, as iMediaEthics has written.
Another teammate, Ryan Giggs, made headlines earlier this year after it was revealed he took out an injunction to prevent the UK press — specifically the UK Sun — from naming him in stories alleging he had an affair with former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas.
The court ruled in May 2011 that the Sun couldn’t name Giggs because it would violate his privacy. Scottish newspaper the Scottish Sunday Herald published a front page photo of the married Giggs in May 2011 to defy the injunction and UK Parliament member John Hemming later named Giggs during Parliament because of a legal loophole. While Hemming named Giggs as the man holding the injunction blocking the media from naming him in stories about an alleged affair with Thomas, Hemming did not confirm if the affair was true.
iMediaEthics has written to the Sun for comment and will update with any response.