Brandon Dyson, who played guard during the 2001 season, says his professional career and personal life have been ruined by negative comments from The Sports Network crew of John Wells, Chris Schultz and Glen Suitor.
Winnipeg lawyer Alex Arenson, who is representing Dyson, said it may be a legal first to have an athlete going after a sportscaster through civil courts.
Dyson, 27, is seeking unspecified financial damages from TSN and its crew for comments he said were false, malicious and made with a "deliberate intention of discrediting his reputation and holding him up to public scandal, ridicule and contempt."
"There is room for legitimate criticism, but they went far beyond that," Arenson said yesterday.
"Linemen like Mr. Dyson have, by their very nature, to be rough and tough. This is not a Sunday School picnic we're talking about."
Dyson was singled out for criticism and analysis during an October 2001 CFL game between the Bombers and the Edmonton Eskimos, according to his statement of claim.
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound behemoth was monitored for much of the game by a TSN camera that isolated his on-field actions.
Suitor, Wells and Schultz then took turns commenting on Dyson, suggesting he wasn't popular with his teammates, that he was dirty and that his tactics were "cheap and cowardly".
They showed the alleged video proof to several hundred thousand viewers at home, claiming Dyson's reputation as a "dirty player" was well deserved.
"See, Mr. Dyson, our eye in the sky is watching tonight," Suitor said at one point in the broadcast, according to the lawsuit.
Wells was quick to mention Dyson was voted by media and his fellow players in NFL Europe as the "dirtiest player in the league" when he played for the Scottish Claymores the previous season.
Dyson signed with the Bombers for the start of the 2001 campaign and quickly made enemies with his aggressive style of play.
He was fined twice early in the season for hits the CFL perceived as dirty. But his teammates came to his defence, taking up a collection to cover one of the $1,000 penalties.
A third CFL investigation was launched after the TSN broadcast in October 2001. The league was looking at an illegal chop block (cutting at a player's legs while he is already engaged with another) that was caught on camera by the television crew.
Wells even suggested many of Dyson's teammates had grown tired of his act. "Well, I said not many people like him and that would include some of the guys who wear blue and gold as well. Because I mean, just realistically, you don't like to see somebody injuring their opponents on purpose," he said during the broadcast.
Dyson claimed he had a bull's eye on his back after the broadcast.
"I've got officials, I've got the league office, I've got everybody against me," Dyson told the Free Press at the time.
"Controversy is good at times, but this is getting a little ridiculous. For me, the worst thing was after I watched the TV version of last week's game was knowing that my wife was sitting at home watching."
The Bombers also accused TSN of assassinating Dyson's character by isolating his play. Many players said Dyson played the game hard, but within the rules and shouldn't be singled out for criticism.
"Every offensive line in this league does the same thing that Brandon Dyson does. Maybe they should start looking at everybody's films," coach Dave Ritchie said at the time.
According to his lawsuit, Dyson sent a notice to TSN under the Defamation Act of Manitoba in January 2002. He told the network to retract the defamatory comments or face legal sanctions.
No action was ever taken, Dyson claims.
Dyson fell out of favour with the Bombers in the summer of 2002 when he refused to report to training camp, demanding more money. Ritchie abruptly cut him loose.
TSN, which is also named in the lawsuit, didn't return calls yesterday seeking comment. They have one month to file a statement of defence.
Dyson, who lives in Kentucky and has retired from pro football, couldn't be reached for comment.
PHOTO BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS