Broadcaster and commentator George Hook has threatened to sue Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton and The Irish Times for defamation over comments made about him in an interview.
A request for an apology, the withdrawal of the article, and a "proportionate donation" to the IRFU Charitable Trust has been rejected by The Irish Times. Sexton is understood to be consulting his solicitors.
The broadcaster has alleged that comments made by Sexton in the interview meant that Hook does not believe what he writes and broadcasts, and has generated controversy over player welfare, including Sexton’s, to further his career.
In an article on February 27th last entitled "Full steam ahead;: Johnny Sexton speaks his mind", Sexton spoke of his frustration with commentary about whether he might have been suffering from concussion and hiding it.
In relation to Hook, the article states: “‘He thinks I should have retired when I was 21,’ says Sexton, laughing. ‘He’s still in the O’Gara camp even though Rog has retired. Look, what can you say to that? I don’t know if he actually believes that. You’ve got to take it with a pinch of salt, and people have to promote themselves, they have to sell papers. People look after themselves at the end of the day.’”
In a letter addressed to Sexton at
Rugby, solicitors acting for Hook said their client deeply valued his good name and honesty and had worked tirelessly to promote player welfare in rugby.
“He has, as have many sports broadcasters and journalists, expressed their concern about your welfare in light of the number of head and upper body injuries you have suffered from.”
The article, it said, “very clearly questions our client’s integrity and objectivity; that our client does not believe what he writes or broadcasts about nor cares about the accuracy and that he is generating controversy over player welfare, including yours, from brain trauma arising from concussion in order to further his own career and to sell newspapers.”
The Irish Times, in a response to Hook's solicitors, said he might not like Sexton's views but as a person who expressed his own opinions in a deliberately robust and provocative style, Hook must recognise Sexton's right to respond.