Minnesota Vikings Backtrack – Running Back and Alleged Child Abuser Adrian Peterson Placed On Exempt-Commissioner’s Permission List

The Minnesota Vikings have reversed its previous position regarding running back Adrian Peterson and have decided to place him on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list. What this means it that Mr. Peterson will not be allowed to participate in team practices or play on game day while he addresses child abuse charges stemming out of Texas regarding his four year old son.

After the indictment was handed down, the Vikings organization initially deactivated Mr. Peterson for its game this past Sunday, which turned out to be a 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots.

But losing wasn’t acceptable to the Vikings’ owners, Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf, so on Monday they released a statement saying that Mr. Peterson will be allowed to fully participate in practices and meetings this week and will play Sunday against the Saints.

So what happened ? Why the change of position by the Vikings’ organization? Why have the moved from deactivation, to reinstatement, to now placing Mr. Peterson on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list?

According to the ownership – “While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian,” owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said in a statement. “We want to be clear: We have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community.”

Well that is all nice but the real reason is easy – the Wilfs and the NFL have heard from their corporate sponsors and several have announced that they were suspending their deals with the Vikings while others have decided to sever any and all ties with Mr. Peterson.

Specifically, the Radisson hotel chain suspended its sponsorship with the Vikings, while Castrol Motor Oil, Special Olympics Minnesota and Mylan Inc. have all severed ties with Peterson, and Twin Cities Nike stores pulled Peterson’s jerseys from its shelves.

In addition, Anheuser-Busch issued a strongly worded statement that said it was disappointed in the way the NFL was handling all of the negative attention surrounding former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s assault of his then-fiancée, and Mr. Peterson’s arrest for child abuse.

So again, instead of the Minnesota Vikings owners doing the right thing for the right reasons, they are only doing the right thing after learning that they could lose coveted sponsorship revenue by doing the wrong thing.

Romano On Radio: News Radio 1140 WVRA – Richmond, Virginia

Attorney Robert J. Romano will be a guest on WVRA News Radio 1140 AM  – Wednesday morning, September  17, 2014 at 7:30 a.m. est to discuss the current legal issues involving the NFL such as the Ray Rice Appeal of his Indefinite Suspension, why Adrian Peterson has not been Suspended for the Minnesota Vikings, and whatever else happens in the NFL and the Sports Industry between now and tomorrow morning.


In the NFL – Is Winning More Important Than Doing the Right Thing? Apparently, the Vikings Will Allow Adrian Peterson to Play Next Sunday.

In the National Football League is winning the game more important than doing the right thing? Apparently for the Minnesota Vikings and its millionaire owners, Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf, it definitely is.

As most of the sports world is aware, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges after he brutally punished his 4-year-old son with a switch. The Vikings initially did what was right and deactivated Mr. Peterson from last Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. However, it seems that the Vikings’ owners, the Wilf brothers, will be changing course. Owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf released a statement saying that Mr. Peterson will be allowed to fully participate in practices and meetings this week and is expected to play Sunday against the Saints.

Per the Vikings’ statement, “To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.
We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support Adrian’s fulfillment of his legal responsibilities throughout this process.”

What happened over the last few days that would call for a change of stance by the Minnesota Vikings’ ownership? It’s simple: the Vikings got beat and beat badly Sunday by the Patriots 30-7. Let us be perfectly frank here. The Wilf brothers may, for public relations reasons, take seriously issues involving the welfare of children. But it is without question that these two greedy millionaires take more seriously the issue of winning football games on Sunday. See, a winning team translates into more revenue generation by a NFL franchise and if Adrian Peterson, one of the NFL’s most productive running backs, can help put more money into the Wilf’s pockets, who cares if he is a child abuser. The bottom line is the bottom line!

I perfectly understand, and actually agree in most cases, of the NFL’s longstanding policy in criminal matters involving its player — that being where there is a criminal investigation being directed by law enforcement and prosecutors the NFL will allow for due process and will do everything to cooperate with law enforcement and, in accordance with such, will take no action to interfere with the criminal justice system.

Such a policy makes sense when the alleged crime affects only the players themselves, like a drug possession charge, weapons charge, or DUI. But in situations where there are victims, i.e. domestic abuse and child abuse, the NFL and its owners should forgo its policy of allowing for due process and cooperating with the legal system and do the right thing on behalf of the victims and automatically suspend the athlete. It is the right thing to do and would act as a deterrent for other players who find themselves in such situations. A player make think twice before hitting a defenseless child with a tree branch if he knows that he will have to forgo collecting on a large part of his playing contract. Especially in this case since the details of the beating by Mr. Peterson on his own son are so disturbing, there is no question that the right thing to do is to suspend Mr. Peterson indefinitely from the game of football.

What I find disturbing, but apparently the Wilf brothers don’t, is that Mr. Peterson admitted the he did “whoop” the 4-year old boy with a switch, in additon to the investigator’s report which found the following:

  1. a)  The doctor told investigators that the boy had a number of lacerations on his thighs, along with bruise-like marks on his lower back and buttocks and cuts on his hand.
  2. b)  The police report says the doctor described some of the marks as open wounds and termed it “child abuse.” Another examiner agreed, calling the cuts “extensive.”
  3. c)  In addition, the four-year-old boy reportedly told authorities, “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.”
  4. d)  Peterson reportedly told police during the investigation, “To be honest with you, I feel very confident with my actions because I know my intent,” and said he’d reconsider using a switch but wouldn’t “eliminate whooping my kids.”

So to the millionaire Wilf brothers – isn’t doing the right thing the right thing to do? I know you only generated $250 million dollars in revenue last year and that the Vikings franchise is only valued at $1.150 million dollars, but come on, a helpless four year old child was beaten by one of your players. If the player in question were a third string defensive end and not the leading rusher for your team for the past 7 seasons, would he still be on the team. You don’t have to say anything, we all know the answer would be no – that third string player doesn’t generate you any revenue, but a child abuser who can lead the league in rushing does.

The only thing we as true sports fans can hope for is that Commissioner Goodell steps in and does the right thing this time. Commissioner – do you read romanoonsports.com? You should.

Ray Rice Files an Appeal of His Indefinite Suspension from the NFL

Former Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice filed an appeal of the indefinite suspension imposed upon him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for Rice’s connection with a domestic abuse charge involving his then fiancée last spring. The appeal will be handled on behalf of Ray Rice by the both the NFL Payers’ Association and by an outside counsel recently retained by Rice.

Ray Rice will contend that the indefinite suspension is arbitrary and capricious because he told the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL the truth about the incident.  Whether or not such a fact matters is left to be seen because under the terms of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy the Commissioner has the power to discipline a player when he, and he alone, determines that such player exhibits conduct that is detrimental to the league.

The Personal Conduct Policy grants the Commissioner the “full authority to impose discipline as warranted when he learns of a player who does not conduct himself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.”  The terms of the Personal Conduct Policy expressly allow for the Commissioner to discipline players in the form of “banishment from the League.”

Commissioner Goodell, who imposed the indefinite suspension upon Ray Rice, will have the ultimate authority over the appeal as well.  This is because the indefinite suspension, imposed per the terms of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, allows for the Commissioner to retain jurisdiction over such matters. Yes, Commissioner Goodell in this case, together with most cases involving the NFL, is the prosecutor, jury, judge and appeals judge.

Ray Rice, his legal team, and the Players’ Association will more than likely ask the Commissioner’s Office and the League to designate a hearing officer who has no current connection to the league office. The reason for this is because Commissioner Goodell and other League Office personnel will most likely be called as witnesses during the appeal since Ray Rice’s position is that he should not be subject to such a harsh ruling because he was honest with both the Baltimore Ravens or the Commissioner about the events that occurred between his fiancée and himself on the evening in question. Again, whether or not such a fact is relevant per the terms of the Personal Conduct Policy will be seen.

Requesting an outside hearing officer is the correct thing to do in this matter and should ultimately be granted. Such a request isn’t without precedent since it is what Commissioner Office did in the appeal of the players suspended in connection with the Saints bounty case.

Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Now Child Abuse –NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Needs to Suspend Adrian Peterson Immediately – No Questions Asked.

Minnesota Vikings’ running back, Adrian Peterson, has been arrested and charged with abusing his four-year-old son. The child abuse charge alleges that Mr. Peterson used a branch, or switch, to spank his son sometime last May while the youngster was visiting him in Texas.

Mr. Peterson’s attorney stated, “Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas. Adrian has never hidden from what happened. He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours,” he said. “Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning. It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”

It is great that Mr. Peterson can hire a well-paid and articulate attorney, but the details are disturbing. Apparently Mr. Peterson admitted the he did “whoop” the boy with a switch, and an investigator’s report described the boy’s disturbing injuries:

a)  The doctor told investigators that the boy had a number of lacerations on his thighs, along with bruise-like marks on his lower back and buttocks and cuts on his hand.

b)  The police report says the doctor described some of the marks as open wounds and termed it “child abuse.” Another examiner agreed, calling the cuts “extensive.”

c)  In addition, the four-year-old boy reportedly told authorities, “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.”

d)  Peterson reportedly told police during the investigation, “To be honest with you, I feel very confident with my actions because I know my intent,” and said he’d reconsider using a switch but wouldn’t “eliminate whooping my kids.” –

“BUT WOULDN’T ELIMINATE WHOOPING MY KIDS“– is he crazy, idiotic, or just delusional. The child is a mere four years old. What egregiousness could he have done to deserve a WHOOPING? A WHOOPING OF THIS MAGNITUDE:


The allegations against Mr. Peterson follow a week wherein the NFL, and specifically its Commissioner Roger Goodell, has been under heavy criticism and scrutiny for the way the domestic violence case involving Ray Rice was handled. Commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games, but he was suspended indefinitely this week after a longer version of security video surfaced showing Rice punching her in the face.

Neither the NFL nor the Commissioner has responded to the Peterson situation, however, Mr. Peterson will not play in the Minnesota Vikings game against the New England Patriots this upcoming Sunday.

My question is – why hasn’t Roger Goodell responded yet? I understand all too well that Mr. Peterson is innocent until proven guilty and that the NFL’s position has usually been to allow for the criminal case to come to conclusion before they initiate punishment. That is all well and good for DUI cases, possession cases, and weapons charges. But this case involves a child – an innocent 4 year old, who, by Mr. Peterson’s own words, was Whooped. (And will whoop again if need be – according to Mr. Peterson’s statement)

There is enough evidence between the police reports, pictures, and Mr. Peterson’s own statements (and state of mind) for the NFL and the Commissioner to implement some form, albeit, maybe even temporary punishment of Mr. Peterson immediately. Mr. Peterson should not be allowed to participate or even be affiliated with the NFL until these charges against him are resolved. Commissioner Goodell needs to do the right thing this time, not often does some one get a second chance. He should take the appropriate action based upon what proof has been presented and INDEFINITELY SUSPENDED MR. PETERSON FROM THE NFL – HE ABUSED A CHILD – A FOUR YEAR OLD CHILD. ENOUGH SAID.

In the meantime, send the young four year old over to LIFE HAVE – it would be my honor to read him a story this upcoming Thursday.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Indefinitely Suspends Ray Rice for Domestic Abuse. Is the Punishment Fair? Yes. Is it Legal? Yes.

In July of this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell disciplined Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice with a two-game suspension for assaulting his then fiancée’ and current wife Janay Palmer. After the penalty was widely criticized as too lenient by women’s rights advocates, academics, and yes, even the media, Commissioner Goodell acknowledged he had mishandled the situation and announced he would toughen the league’s policy on domestic violence.

Subsequently, additional, more graphic footage emerge of the altercation between Ray Rice and Janay Palmer which prompted the Baltimore Ravens to release Rice and the Commissioner to increase the two-game suspension to that of an indefinite suspension.

“Our longstanding policy in matters like this — where there is a criminal investigation being directed by law enforcement and prosecutors — is to cooperate with law enforcement and take no action to interfere with the criminal justice system,” Goodell commented. “As always, we will continuously examine our procedures. I believe that we took a significant step forward with the enhanced policies on domestic violence and sexual assault that were announced last month.”

The question now being asked is whether Commissioner Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens can rightfully take additional steps, which they have, to punish Ray Rice since the Commissioner had previously disciplined him? Or to put in the way – can Ray Rice be punished twice for the same conduct?

The Commissioner’s powers to discipline NFL players are articulated in Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which states in part, that “[a]ll disputes involving a fine or suspension . . . involving action taken against a player by the Commissioner for conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football, will be processed exclusively as follows . . .” and thereafter explains the process by which Rice and the NFLPA would be informed of the discipline and have the ability to appeal same.

In addition, the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy grants the Commissioner the power to discipline a player when he determines that such player exhibits conduct that is detrimental to the league. The Policy grants the Commissioner the “full authority to impose discipline as warranted when he learns of a player who does not conduct himself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.”  The terms of the Personal Conduct Policy expressly allow for the Commissioner, and grants him the power, to discipline players in the form of “banishment from the League.”

Read together, neither the NFL Personal Conduct Policy nor the NFL CBA explicitly bar the Commissioner from changing the length of a suspension. However, Article 46, Section 4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement bars the Commissioner and a team from both disciplining a player for engagement in the same act or conduct.

Therefore, the first question becomes whether or not the Baltimore Ravens’ release of Rice should be considered a form of discipline, and if determined such, whether this act violation since the League has already disciplined Ray Rice with an indefinite suspension?

The answer is no simply because any NFL team can release a player at any time and for any reason, lawful or not. Releasing a player involved in a domestic violence matter such as this is definitely a lawfully good reason. The fact that the Ravens originally supported Rice does not bar the team from changing its mind.

The second question is whether or not Commissioner Goodell is barred from instituting multiple penalties against Rice under a theory widely recognized in the criminal context and known as double jeopardy?

Again, the answer is no. The Commissioner has broad legal authority to suspend players under the Personal Conduct Policy, including the ability to modify penalties. The Policy itself does not include a “double jeopardy” provision like one found in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Player suspensions are not criminal sanctions so therefore a player cannot claim protection under the Fifth Amendment to avoid NFL penalty. Additionally, players have contractually assented to the NFL’s disciplinary authority through the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by their union, the National Football League Players’ Association.

So, will Ray Rice ever play in the NFL again? That is up to him. He needs to get professional help to make sure that something as egregious as what happen between his finacee’ Janay Palmer and himself never takes place again. Then, and only then, will the Commissioner and the League entertain the notion of allowing him to play in the NFL again.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Fines Dan Snyder $500,000.00, Suspends Him Indefinitely Because He Refuses to Change the Name of His NFL Franchise. Just Kidding.

The owner of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Irsay, pled guilty to one count of driving while intoxicated and was pro forma sentenced by an Indiana State judge to one year of probation. Per the terms of his probation, Mr. Irsay will be subject to monthly drug testing, his driver’s license will be suspended, and he is to pay court imposed costs of $168.50 and a $200.00 alcohol countermeasure fee. This is a typical resolution to a typical first time DUI offense (with no accident or injury) that happens every day in courtrooms throughout the United States. So this must be the end of the story, right? Not so fast.

 Because Mr. Irsay is the owner of an NFL franchise he subjects himself to a higher standard than those of an average American citizen. Being part of the NFL he is held to standards established by the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. Therefore, he exposes himself to additional punishment by deferring to the jurisdiction of a whole different prosecutor, judge, and jury – that being NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.

Mr. Irsay surrenders himself to the jurisdiction of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy and Commissioner Roger Goodell even though his DUI charge did not stem from an NFL sponsored event, nor did it occur when Mr. Irsay was working within his official capacity as an NFL owner. Mr. Irsay is subject to the terms and conditions of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy because he is affiliated with the NFL – that’s the only reason. This is equivalent to your average worker being punished by his or her employer for ‘something’ done while he or she was on their own time and this ‘something’ had nothing to do with nor directly affected the employer itself. But this doesn’t concern Commissioner Goodell.

Commissioner Goodell, always seriously committed when it comes to protecting the image and brand of the NFL, ruled that Mr. Irsay, in addition to the punishment he received from the Indiana court, will be suspended for six-games and fined $500,000.00; the maximum amount allowed under NFL rules. Yes, that is correct – a fine of half a million dollars. The Indiana court thought the appropriate monetary punishment for the first-time offense should be $368.50, but this wasn’t enough for Judge Goodell. For him, a fine of $500,000.00 is more fitting. Keep in mind that the punishment Mr. Irsay received at the hands of Commissioner Goodell exceeds and is far tougher than what an NFL player would have been subjected to under the same circumstances. Per the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are no suspensions for a player receiving his first DUI and a player cannot be fined more than $50,000.00.

So why is Mr. Irsay’s punishment so sever? Because Commissioner Goodell believes, and in fact articulated in a letter he wrote, “that owners, management personnel, and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players.” So that is it. Commissioner Goodell believes, as per his letter, that owners are more important than players regarding the NFL brand and therefore are held to a higher standard. This would seem to infer, and one can only conclude, that Commissioner Goodell is serious when it come to social issues, such as drinking while driving and domestic violence, and that he is adamant that the NFL brand is not to be tarnished in any way by the negative actions or inactions of its leadership.

Do you really believe that the Commissioner is serious about protecting the NFL brand? I do, but only when it comes to the easy, media-driven issues. When protecting the brand necessitates handling something with serious or difficult social implication, Commissioner Goodell is hands-off and silent. If a complicated or intricate issue presents itself with regards to the NFL, its owners or players, Commissioner Goodell will not tackle it nor will he employ his inherent powers of handing down severe suspensions or fines. He saves this for the simple things like PED violations ala Wes Welker and Robert Mathis, or other high profile, front page titillating issues.

A real issue that Commissioner Goodell has failed to correctly handle involves Washington team owner Dan Snyder and his position to continue calling his NFL franchise the derogatory and stereotypical name of Redskins. Mr. Snyder calling his team by such a name has serious social consequences that directly affects, derogates, and insults nearly 2 percent of the population of this country. Not to mention, indirectly affecting a whole other segment of our country’s population who are sympathetic to the subject.

By way of background, the Washington name situation involves the use of the term Redskins by the franchise. In addition to Native Americans, numerous civil rights advocates, educators, and sports fans consider the use of Native American  names and symbols by non-native sports teams be a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping. The Washington team maybe only one example of the larger controversy but receives significant public attention due to the name itself being defined as derogatory or insulting in modern dictionaries, and the prominence of the team being located in this county’s nation’s capital.  Those officially censuring and demanding the name be changed include 23 Native American tribes and more than 50 organizations that represent various groups of Native Americans. In addition, on June 18, 2014, the Tradmark Trial and Appeal Board  (TTAB) of the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) voted to cancel the Redskins federal trademark registrations, considering them “disparaging to Native Americans”.

So, the United States Patent and Trademark Office found the use of the term disparaging to Native Americans, but Commissioner Goodell and Dan Snyder don’t seem to think so and allow for the name to continue to represent the Washington franchise and the NFL.

In fact, Dan Snyder told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that he is adamant he doesn’t have to bow to pressure to change the team’s nickname because, in his opinion, it’s not disparaging to Native Americans. (This in light of the fact that the USPTO said it was).

Mr. Snyder mentioned William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz, the team’s first coach whom the Redskins were named after to honor his “Native American heritage,” and Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, a former president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Blackfeet Nation, who helped design the team’s logo as examples of the positive history of the team’s nickname.

“It’s just historical truths, and I’d like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor, respect,” Mr. Snyder told ESPN. “We sing ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ We don’t say hurt anybody. We say ‘Hail to the Redskins. Braves on the warpath. Fight for old D.C.”

Mr. Snyder responded to the question ‘What is a Redskin’ by stating “A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning.”

This is where the disconnect happens and the issue of the name gets complex, to complex and multifarious for Commissioner Goodell to take action. See, the use of the term Redskins does not symbolize what Dan Snyder thinks it symbolizes; that being a football player or a football fan. The name is a derogatory stereotype that a significant segment of our population finds offensive. Furthermore, the use of the name, in contrast to what Mr. Snyder feels, does indeed ‘hurt somebody’; it hurts a whole nation of very proud and dignified people.

The nickname being a negative, offensive stereotype, that indeed does ‘hurt’ a large demographic of our society, Commissioner Goodell has the obligation and responsibility as the head of the NFL to take action by forcing Mr. Snyder, through fines and suspensions, into changing the offensive name. Fines and suspension more severe than the ones he imposed upon Mr. Irsay. See, Mr. Irsay’s action, for all intent and purpose, only affected him. Mr. Snyder’s actions, or inactions of not changing the franchise name to something more appropriate, affects the NFL, the other NFL franchise owners, NFL fans, Native Americans, and our society as a whole.

But do you see Commissioner Goodell fining Mr. Snyder $500.000.00 or suspending him for his insensitive, thoughtless, and ignorant actions? The answer is no – but this only leads us to a second question – why not?

One of the reasons articulated by the league office is that the name of the Washington franchise is based upon tradition in that it has been the nickname of the Washington franchise for over seventy years.

 Who cares? The sports industry is always evolving and changing. Franchises have routinely changed their names when they moved locations and sometimes even when they didn’t. (The New York Yankees were once known as the New York Highlanders).

Instant replay and interleague play were never the custom in Major League Baseball – now they both are the norm. A football goalpost use to be at the front of the end zone – not the most convenient place – so they smartly moved them to the back of the end zone. Thirty-five years ago there was no three-point line in basketball. And most significantly, it was a long-time tradition in MLB and the other major sports properties not to allow African-Americans or other minorities to play in their leagues. Really? Was this a good tradition? No, so it changed, it evolved as the county evolved. In fact the sports industry is a continually evolving entity that is usually at the forefront when it comes to issues that have an important social significance.

 The country has evolved again and now it is time for the Commissioner’s office to evolve. Commissioner Goodell should be committed to his own words – “owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players” and take the responsible position as the figurehead of the NFL to do whatever is necessary, i.e. fines and suspensions, to make sure that the Washington franchise’s name is changed and changed immediately.

From Jackie Robinson to Cobb County: Has the Sports Industry Stopped Leading the Way?

Jackie Robinson shattered the “color barrier” existent in Major League Baseball for approximately a half of a century. Robinson’s, together with Branch Rickey’s, courageous actions exemplified how the sports world has continually been at the forefront of racial issues in this country, leading the way as to the ridiculousness of judging someone based upon the color of his or her skin. Sports have united the masses, while at the same time opening doors of opportunity. A sports fan, from casual to fanatic, can take pride in the fact that sports world has time and time again led the way regarding social injustices.

This is not to say that things are perfect in the sports industry but at least they are moving in the right direction. Take for example how quickly last spring new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver brought the hammer down on Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his recorded racially charged comments. As a sports fan, the swift and decisive actions of the new Commissioner fill you with hope and optimism. You trust that racial issues are being taken seriously by all of those involved in the sports industry, from the players, to the unions, to the leagues and team owners themselves. You find comfort in Commissioner Silver’s ruling and believe that the leagues and team owners take this issue seriously and will do whatever is necessary to make ensure that race is not a concern when it comes to their sports properties.

Or do they? Do they, the leagues and owners, take racial issues seriously? Are the owners and league leaders such as Adam Silver and previous Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig serious about racial injustices in the sports industry or are they just playing to the masses when the issue just cannot be ignored or when it suits them otherwise?

Take for example Major League Baseball’s franchise the Atlanta Braves. The Brave’s current home is Turner Field located in Atlanta, Georgia. Turner Field was built in 1996 and the Braves started playing at the facility in 1997. Turner Field is only 17 years old and by all accounts is in great shape structurally and can continue to house the Braves baseball team well into the future. Additionally, Turner Field was built for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games with taxpayer money. Yes the taxpayers, not Major League Baseball nor the owners of the Atlanta Braves, paid for the stadium.

But see, Turner Field, (and I mean the field itself through luxury suites, higher end concessions, and VIP seating) does not generate enough revenue for the Braves’ owners. This is not to say that they are losing money; they aren’t. In 2013, the owners of the Braves generated $253 million dollars in revenue and the team is currently valued at $730 million dollars. The owners just want to generate more revenue and therefore put more money in their pocket. But how can they do this; how can they increase their revenue? The answer is easy – move the team to another more modern, revenue-generating facility built at taxpayer expense.

 And this is exactly what the Braves have decided to do. In fact they have announced that for the 2017 season they will leave Turner Field for a new 42,000-seat, $672 million dollar stadium northwest of downtown Atlanta in Cobb County, Georgia. The owners of the Braves only agreed to such a move after the municipal leaders of Cobb County voted to approve $392 dollar million in public funds, in other words – taxpayer money, to construct a new stadium for the Braves.

Previous Commissioner Bud Selig backed the Braves’ move stating, “Major League Baseball fully supports their decision to move to a new ballpark in Atlanta for the 2017 season, and we look forward to their continued excellence representing their community, both on and off the field.”

Former Commissioner Selig agreeing that the Braves move out of Atlanta to Cobb County is the right thing is interesting in light of the fact that Major League Baseball, under the directive of Bud Selig himself, recently convened a 17-member diversity task force to study the issue of African-American players in the league. This was done since African-Americans only account for 8.5 percent of the league’s rosters, down from the high in 1986, when African- American players made up 19 percent. In fact recent statistics have indicated that the level of African-American baseball fans has fallen in the last 20 years as well.

“As a social institution, Major League Baseball has an enormous social responsibility to provide equal opportunities for all people, both on and off the field,” Selig said, in a statement. “It’s not a quick fix situation,” said Wendy Lewis, senior vice president of diversity and strategic alliances for Major League Baseball “It’s a long-term issue and one that is very important to the commissioner.”

Lewis further stated that the diversity panel is likely to recommend the expansion of diversity programs and, in addition, the league is sponsoring a diversity business summit where representatives for all 30 clubs will look into how to attract a more diverse population and increased supplier diversity. 

Therefore, the question becomes, how is Major League Baseball looking to attract a more diverse population when at the same time they are agreeing with the Braves move out of Atlanta to Cobb County? See, Atlanta, whose population is just shy of 500,000, is 54% African-American. In addition, Fulton County itself, whose population is approximately 1 million, is 44% African-American. This is in stark contrast to Cobb County, Georgia, whose population is approximately 700,000, wherein only 25% of which are African-American.

So is Major League Baseball sincere when they set up its diversity task force or are they ‘just playing to the masses” or “putting on a good show”? Where is the social responsibility for equal opportunities for all people, both on and off the field, when condoning a franchise to take flight out of a predominately African-American area to a less diverse, suburban location – all at the expense of taxpayers? In addition, with the Cobb County stadium located outside of the downtown area, inner city baseball fans will have a difficult time finding their way to a baseball game since Cobb County is in no way conveniently located nor is there sufficient public transportation to get them there.

Doesn’t it seem apparent to the Major League Baseball hierarchy that this move would lead to a continued disenfranchising of African-Americans to America’s great pastime? Doesn’t it seem in contradiction to Major League Baseball’s position of providing equal opportunities to all, both on and off the field? Is such a move in line with what Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey stood for when they, together, courageously broke down Major League Baseball’s color barrier over sixty years ago?

Major League Baseball has chosen to breach its own self-proclaimed responsibility to provide equal opportunities at a time in our country when things like Ferguson are occurring; where an unarmed 18 year old black male is gun-downed by a white police officer and as a result, more than just a township is divided along racial lines. At a time when racial disparities in our criminal justice system are so one-sided that it is hard for minorities, especially African-Americans, not to feel that they are being targeted. Based upon these injustices that are felt by a large segment of our country’s population, it is imperative that the sports world step up again, to take the lead – ala Jackie Robinson. One must understand that Ferguson is no longer the name of a town in Missouri – it is an eye opener that provides us with a stern lesson on the value of public trust, a public trust that the sports industry needs to again take seriously to ensure that African-Americans and other minorities are not disenfranchised.

Robert J. Romano, Esq.

September 2, 2014