HBO Dodges Mitre Sports Defamation Suit

Jury Finds Net Did Not Defame Soccer Ball Maker in Report

After a month-long trial, it took a jury less than six hours to decide that Home Box Office did not defame Indian soccer ball manufacturer Mitre Sports International in a 2008 report that the company had regularly used child labor.

The report – Children of Industry -- appeared on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in 2008. The 22 minute report, which aired on the network about 100 times since 2008, showed children stitching soccer balls for five cents per hour or nothing at all, sometimes to repay loans given their parents to the company, according to the original complaint. Mitre Sports, which says it is an international advocate against child labor, had claimed that it did not make soccer balls in the two locations in India the HBO report reports claimed – Jalandhar and Meerut – and that the report hurt its standing in the community. The company also claimed that although HBO said it had found at least 10 companies that had used child labor to stitch soccer balls, only Mitre was identified by name.

Mitre sued HBO in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in October 2008.

According to reports, the jury found that HBO did not act irresponsibly.

“We are delighted with the jury’s decision, which confirms what we have said since the beginning of this legal proceeding in the fall of 2008: this case was without merit and the Real Sports reporting was unimpeachable,” HBO said in a statement. “We couldn’t be prouder of the Real Sports franchise and the award-winning work done over the past 20 years. We are grateful to the jury for their careful consideration of the evidence.”