A months-long legal dispute between two University of Montana football fans flared up last week, when Mike Schlosser appealed court-ordered protections imposed on him at the request of Lisa Davey.
These tensions began in November 2017, when the University of Montana was preparing to rehire Bobby Hauck as head football coach. Hauck's previous stint in this role, from 2003 to 2009, saw a string of criminal cases and misconduct allegations against UM football players.
Davey started an online petition asking the university not to rehire Hauck. Schlosser promptly posted several vile, menacing comments and memes — along with the physical address of Davey’s boyfriend — on his UM online fan forum, MaroonBlood.
In June, Missoula Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Jenks granted an order of protection requiring Schlosser to stay at least 1,500 feet away from Davey and locations she frequents, and not to post about her online.
This dispute took its latest step last week, when Schlosser appealed the order in Missoula County District Court, arguing that it violated his rights to free speech.
“Mike Schlosser’s comments on fan forums and social media were brutish, cruel, and protected by the First Amendment,” wrote his attorneys, Nick Brooke and Colin Stephens of Smith & Stephens in their appeal.
Schlosser’s postings mentioned Davey in connection with rape and other harmful acts. But these weren’t personal threats, Brooke and Davies argued. They were protected political statements.
“Although the comments were often offensive, inappropriate, or controversial, they were all targeted at Davey’s political opinions or her role in organizing against Hauck. Even references to rape or violence were used as a direct commentary on Davey’s political activism.”
One instance they discussed at length was a meme featuring Davey’s photo and the text “I rape,” followed by the name for a food item that’s also slang for a sexual act. (Schlosser, they wrote, said he intended this as a commentary on her weight).
Statements like these, the lawyers claimed, ”were not direct threats or attempts to contact Davey."
Citing Davey's public involvement with issues at UM, the technicalities of the online animosity and prior rulings, they argued that they were instead "hyperbolic, vitriolic messages. … This speech is undeniably grounded in First Amendment interests” — interests that the court had failed to consider in issuing the order, they wrote. Brooke had raised similar arguments when the order was granted in June.
Lisa Davey disagrees.
While “a lot of people agreed with me and lots of people disagreed with me” about Hauck's rehiring, she said, “the difference is that Schlosser actually threatened me.”
In her view, the posting of her boyfriend’s address online rose to the level of a threat. So did his calls for “doxxing,” or sharing personal information online. Davey also said that comments Schlosser made in a June hearing on the order left her unnerved.
“We obviously think that the order of protection is necessary for my safety,” said Davey. “Having an order of protection should not be a burden on him, and just gives a reason for me to call the police” if she sees Schlosser nearby.
As Davey sees it, “the fact that he’s continuing to appeal it, that he’s hiring an attorney to fight it, shows that he’s obsessed … and it isn’t a political issue, it’s a personal issue for him.”
Davey said that she and her attorney, Josh Van de Wetering, plan to respond. She said the case could reach the Montana Supreme Court, and voiced optimism about its prospects. Van de Wetering did not respond to a voicemail left seeking comment.
Through this all, she said, “the football community has been fantastic." Davey has also continued to engage with the issues surrounding the school's football program, taking part in a February forum on sexism and sexual assault with Hauck, UM President Seth Bodnar, and others.
"Really it’s been great to be involved in community discussions about how we move our community forward," she said.
Brooke declined to discuss the case on the record.