Reuters (US), September 6, 2001

Judge Denies Motion to Block 'Hardball' Premiere

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday rejected a little league baseball coach's effort to block next week's opening of the movie "Hardball," starring Keanu Reeves, which depicts coaches bullying players and players cursing.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kocoras said free speech rights trumped the temporary restraining order sought by coach Bob Muzikowski, who has brought a defamation suit against Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, the studio that made "Hardball."

The movie, based on a former coach's nonfiction book of the same name, depicts the culture clash between poor, black children from Chicago's infamous Cabrini-Green public housing project and their mostly white, middle-class adult coaches.

Muzikowski's suit against Paramount argues the gambling and alcoholic coach played by Reeves -- which is based on Muzikowski's real-life role -- defames him. The suit claims scenes of Reeves' character pushing players, and the 9- to 12-year-old players' cursing, was defamatory because such behavior was not allowed by the league.

Muzikowski has written his own book about the league, "Safe at Home," that bills itself as the "true and inspiring story of Chicago's field of dreams."

Paramount's attorney argued that "Hardball" is admittedly fictional, and is only inspired by a true story.

The judge ordered Paramount to provide Muzikowski's lawyers with a copy of the movie as part of the discovery process for the lawsuit.

The movie opens Sept. 14.

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