The Tennis Channel provided television coverage of the 2013 French Open.… (Julian Finney / Getty Images )
Ken Solomon, chief executive of the small Tennis Channel, regrets the 4 a.m. email blast he sent staff members of the Santa Monica-based network.
Solomon composed the email last month from his Paris hotel room, hours after the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia delivered a crushing blow against the independent Tennis Channel in a long-running legal dispute with cable giant Comcast Corp. The three judges who heard the case sided with Comcast.
In a lengthy rant, Solomon compared Comcast to a "brutal captor" that committed a sexual assault on the Tennis Channel for nearly a decade. He described the judicial panel as a "Mad Hatter of a court" and "three Lone Ranger judges."
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The court decision, Solomon said, was "a travesty of justice, wholly wrong and unfair and just plain hard to believe."
Solomon's email was first reported Wednesday by Deadspin.com, the salacious sports news website owned by Gawker Media.
Late Wednesday, Solomon apologized.
“I regret several ill-chosen, excessively colorful and inappropriate words in a private email to colleagues a few weeks ago reflecting my disappointment with a legal decision," Solomon said in a statement. "The email dealt with an issue that we are obviously passionate about, but the words do not accurately reflect my thoughts about the case or those involved, and I am very sorry that I used them.”
At the time he lobbed the email, Solomon -- a prominent fundraiser for President Obama -- had put in a long day overseeing the Tennis Channel's coverage of the French Open in addition to dealing with fall-out from the ruling.
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Last month, the three judges on the appeals court set aside the Federal Communications Commission's determination that Comcast had discriminated against the independently owned Tennis Channel.
Comcast provides wider distribution to the sports channels it owns, the Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network. However, the court disagreed with the FCC and said there was not enough evidence that Comcast was guilty of discrimination.
"Even Ray Charles could see the shameful way they treat those they do not own," Solomon wrote in the email. "It’s like being raped for a decade by a brutal captor, finally winning in a long and painful public court trial (while you can’t get work because of your Scarlet Letter), and then on appeal years later from a pre-decided Mad Hatter of a court asking you, the victim, to produce a video to prove that it ever happened. Forget the scars, bruises and painful clarity with which everyone knows that your story is simply 100% true, where is your proof dear Alice???"
Comcast declined to comment on Solomon's email.
The two sides have been wrangling for more than three years. Comcast makes its two sports channels available to all of its 22 million cable TV customers. In contrast, Comcast has placed the Tennis Channel in a higher-priced package of channels with about 5 million subscribers. The more limited distribution has crimped Tennis Channel's revenue, and its prospects for growth.
Last month's court ruling was seen by analysts as a blow to the Tennis Channel's prospects to sell itself to a major media company.
The email could hamper the Tennis Channel's chances for a favorable ruling from some of the same judges should Tennis Channel ask the full panel of appellate court judges to reconsider the case.
The Tennis Channel has not decided whether to ask for a rehearing at the appellate level or petition the U.S. Supreme Court.
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