Former Navy SEAL Don Shipley is outraged. Barry “Bear” Silverman has been running a business called “Tactical Deterrence” in Broward County that allegedly sells SEAL training by people who falsely claim to be former SEALs. Such profiteering on the SEAL experience should go to . . . well . . . Shipley who runs his own faux SEAL training camp in Virginia. Shipley has filed a lawsuit that is basically Stolen Valor meets Stolen Value on who gets to sell the SEALS.
Shipley runs Extreme SEAL Experience, which pretends to train weekend warriors like SEALs, but not quite. Here is the description of the “hell” to mimic the long-training of a SEAL:
They run more than eight miles, carry a 200-pound log above their heads, get sprayed in the face with cold water and have someone scream in their ear that their “man card” is being taken away because they are “doing push-ups like a girl.”
Wow, so that is what gets you into SEAL Team Six. This article describes who guys in their fifties take their midlife crisis to an absurd point — and give Shipley roughly $2000 for the abuse.
Yet, Shipley is disgusted by the likes of Silverman. He is quoted as saying “There are guys out there who climb ladders at work, based on SEAL credentials they don’t have.” Hmmm.
Shipley is being assisted in this effort by Tampa attorney Gene Odom who is filing other lawsuits of this kind. The lawsuits read like the civil version of the Stolen Valor Act.
Shipley claims Silverman is hurting his business by devaluing the status of being a former SEAL and even claims that Silverman is using the likeness of the SEAL trident without permission. He has filed claims under interfering with a business relationship, violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act and Unauthorized Publication of a Likeness for Advertising Purposes. I have no problem in people being sued for fraudulent representations that they are former SEALS, though it should be the customers not competitors who should sue over such claimed injury. I would applaud such lawsuit from customers and there are criminal fraud charges that can often be brought in such cases.
The lawsuit claims that “[t]he number of new customers has decreased as a result of prospective customers associating the quality of plaintiff’s business with the Defendant’s illegitimate knockoff.” That is a pretty speculative claim. It may be that people are realizing that all of these camps are cheap “knockoffs.” It reminds me of Disney’s proposal to have a theme park where visitors “experience slavery” by going into a field briefly while white men yell at them.
Odom argues that, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in the Stolen Valor Act case this term, he is doing more to protect the value of being a SEAL by helping those who want to market its name and training. He has also filed a questionable defamation lawsuit against William Brockbrader for writing an article titled “More Truth Revealed.” In the article, Brockbrader stated that Extreme SEAL Experience “only pretends to provide actual SEAL instructor training.” Odom reportedly admits that he is using defamation to punish Brockbrader for falsely claiming to be a SEAL. That raises the question of whether this is not a real lawsuit but a cheap knockoff of a lawsuit that devalues all lawyering.
The NAVY has denied that Brockbrader was a SEAL from 1992 and 2000 as well as his claim that there are no records because he worked on classified programs. If true, that would make Brockbrader a terrible person and a liar. However, the claim of defamation is basically an absurd claim that his alleged lie is harming SEALs everywhere in a legally cognizable fashion. I fail to see the good-faith basis for such a claim under defamation.
I confess to an obvious lack of sympathy for Shipley marketing the SEAL experience as a private venture. It certainly brings a new meaning to the SEAL motto “It Pays to be a Winner.”