Posts Tagged ‘Football’

The Federal Department of Education has recently initiated a Title IX investigation into the manner in which Florida State conducted its inquiry of the alleged sexual assault involving Jameis Winston and a female Florida State student back in December 2012. As a result of the DOE investigation, Florida State, who has previously stated that the matter was closed, has decided that Jameis Winston will now face a disciplinary hearing to determine whether he violated FSU’s code of conduct in relation to the incident.images

Jameis Winston, who, as its quarterback, led FSU to an undefeated season and national championship last season, was never charged with a crime when a state investigation into the matter ended in late 2013.

That being said, Jameis Winston has now been notified by a letter received from Florida State that “he might be charged with one of four violations of FSU’s student conduct code regarding sexual conduct.” Included in the letter, Florida State detailed a timeline of its handling of the case, breaking its silence on the matter that dates back to December 2012.

Per the school’s student conduct policy, Winston has five days to schedule “an information hearing” wherein he will be presented with his rights and learn more about the forthcoming conduct hearing. The conduct hearing will also determine whether or not Winston will be actually charged with breaching the school’s code of conduct. If he is found to have violated the student conduct policy he can be disciplined, with such discipline ranging from a verbal reprimand to expulsion.

Three individuals independent of the university have been selected by the Florida State to hear the case, though both Jameis Winston and his accuser will be able to “strike one of the people from hearing the case.”

The attorney for the accuser commented that the university going with a third party is a “highly unusual process,” but it does address “some concerns” about the school’s ability to effectively and fairly come to a decision amid months of intense media scrutiny.

As I opened up my Sports Law class to the Graduate Students at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, last evening, one of my most inquisitive students spoke up, and in an evaporative manner asked, “Before we start professor, I need to ask you, how can Andrian Peterson plead not guilty, we all know he did it.”

Seeing this as a teaching opportunity, and of course wanting to live up to my reputation as ‘the obnoxious professor’, I responded, “You tell me – why do you think he plead not guilty?”DownloadedFile-1

After a few minutes of thought, and some discussions with other classmates, the light bulbs went off and the answer was obvious: Adrian Peterson plead not guilty because, at this stage of the proceedings, he IS NOT GUILTY.

Adrian Peterson, like every American, is innocent until the State (in this case Texas) proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty for the crimes for which he has been charged.

A defendant who enters a not guilty plea is refuting the charges that have been brought against him or her. There are reasons why a defendant may choose to do such: (1) an innocent defendant may choose so in order to have the opportunity to have his or her case tried before a jury, as a guilty plea will not go to trial; (2) as a legal strategy where the defendant feels that the state has a week case or protest the type of charge being brought, seeking to have it reduced to a lesser charge; and (3) defendants may also choose to enter not guilty pleas because they have a defense to the criminal charge.

Obviously, anyone who contests an accusation and wants their day in court will enter a plea of not guilty regardless of whether or not he or she is guilty. Many convicted criminals have pled not guilty, even though evidence showed they committed the crime.

Additionally, a defendant can revoke a not guilty plea during the course of the proceedings. In fact, this is sometimes why a defendant may choose to enter a plea of not guilty at first. Changes to not guilty pleas often occur when a plea bargain is made. The defendant may change a not guilty plea to a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser charge associated with a lighter sentence.

It is interesting, however, that Adrian Peterson never entered a plea during his first court appearance with a spokesperson stating, “I don’t think the judge ever asked for a plea. As we said yesterday, if the judge asks, Peterson will plead not guilty.” And as of today, it’s not clear when he will enter such a plea.

What was accomplished at the hearing was that Peterson’s defense attorney accentuate three talking points about the case:

  1. Peterson’s trial can’t get here fast enough.
  2. Peterson is having his name/reputation unfairly smeared as he awaits trial.
  3. Peterson is a good family man with the support of his community, who made a parenting decision that is open to interpretation.

This strategy makes sense. The faster this trial arrives, the less chance of tainting a jury pool. The faster it arrives, the less time the prosecution has to gather additional information against Peterson. And the faster it arrives, the less time the media has to dig further into Peterson’s life for unflattering stories.

The bottom line involved in this case lies in the difference between “punishing a child” and “abusing a child.”

The “abuse” term will be the centerpiece of the trial. Corporal punishment is legal in Texas, but standards are nebulous. For example, a belt is allowable, but not an extension cord. Striking a child as a form of reprimand is allowable, but leaving a mark on a child is not. Somewhere in between the line is blurred and that’s where a jury comes in to decide, decide with one question in mind: Was punishment specifically excessive enough to be considered abuse?

According to Texas law, a defendant can be convicted of injury to a child if he or she causes bodily or mental injury “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence” or cause such harm by omission. The crime is punishable by up to two years in a state jail and a $1,000 fine.

The prosecution has made it clear that it wants Peterson to be recognized for having “abused” his child. Any plea out of that phrase would be seen as a failure.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, when asked about the Adrian Peterson plea hearing, commented that administering punishment to a player who is waiting for his legal case to move forward after an arrest can be complex.

“The league and owners obviously understand the balance between due process and protecting the integrity of the game,” he said. “Sometimes that puts you in a difficult position.”

Commissioner Goodell said there were discussions whether or not to implement a new, interim step — such as paid leave — to the process. The Commissioner then reiterated that domestic violence and the league’s discipline for violators of its conduct policy are serious issues, stating, “A majority of our players are great people and men. Domestic violence is not just an NFL issue, it’s a societal issue.”

The NCAA will move forward with plans to restructure the current Division I system and allow the so-called  “Power Five Conferences” greater autonomy because an override period for the Division I Board of Directors’ decision to restructure how member institutions govern themselves ended and the legislation did not acquire enough override requests to require the board to reconsider.images

As per the NCAA: “The override period for the Division I Board of Directors’ decision to restructure how members govern themselves ended today, and the legislation did not garner enough override requests to require the board to reconsider.

Of the 345 schools in the division, 27 schools requested an override of the legislation that finalized the restructuring plan, less than the 75 required.

The new governance structure provides student-athletes with a vote at every level of decision-making in Division I and will preserve and improve college sports, which has helped millions of student-athletes gain access to higher education and pursue a degree.”

The new model will allow the 65 schools in the top five conferences:

  • ACC,
  • Big Ten
  • Big 12
  • SEC
  • Pac-12

greater autonomy to determine their own rules concerning, among other things:

  • Meals and nutrition.
  • Financial aid.
  • Health and wellness
  • Expenses and benefits for student-athletes.
  • Expenses and benefits for prospective student-athletes.
  • Insurance and career transition.
  • Career pursuits.
  • Time demands.
  • Academic support.

The new model becomes effective for the 2015-2016 academic year, though the 65 schools have already begun developing their agenda for discussion at the 2015 NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C.

What does this mean for student-athletes? Is this a good thing for the athletes involved in college sports? We can only wait and see. The good news, the new governance structure provides student-athletes with a vote at every level of decision-making in Division I, something student-athletes have never had previously.

University of Michigan head football coach, Brady Hoke, decision to allow quarterback Shane Morris to continue playing after he took a violent hit to the head in his team’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota is inexcusable, and in my opinion a dismissible offense.

The play occurred in the fourth quarter when Shane Morris took a hard hit and was visibly dazed, so much so that he needed assistance in standing up. Despite needing to lean on teammates in order to maintain his balance, Morris was allowed by Coach Hoke to stay in the game for one more play.

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ESPN’s Ed Cunningham called the decision “appalling”:

“I got to tell you right now that No. 7 is still in this game is appalling. It is appalling that he was left in on that play to throw the ball again as badly as he was hit by [Minnesota]. To have No. 7 in the game on a gimpy leg after a hit like that, that is terrible looking after a young player.”

Coach Hoke compounded the issue two plays later when he decided that instead of using the third string quarterback, he would put Shane Morris back into the game after the quarterback who replaced him had to leave the field because his helmet fell off. Shame Morris was later carted off of the field of play.

After the game, Coach Hoke said he didn’t know if Shane Morris got a concussion and that he didn’t see that he was wobbly. He stated that Morris is tough and if he were concussed he wouldn’t have wanted to go back in the game:

“I don’t know if he had a concussion or not, I don’t know that. Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn’t want to be he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.”

Coach Hoke, you may not have known if Shane Morris was concussed or not, but you should have. You are his coach, his leader and his guardian – and as such are responsible for looking out for his safety. Coach Hoke, your blindness if the form of a win/loss record allowed you to ignore the obvious to the point where you put a young player at risk of serious injury: injury that could have resulted in his death. What football player, or parent of a football player, would now want to play for you after seeing what you just put Morris through?

Especially since Michigan Athletic Director, Dave Brandon, confirmed that Shane Morris did, in fact, suffer a concussion in a statement wherein he apologized for miscommunications that allowed Morris to continue playing.

Luckily the University of Michigan and Coach Hoke’s actions have not gone unnoticed. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., has contacted Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delany, requesting that he begin an investigation into how the matter was handled.

Congressman Pascrell is the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force and in his letter to Commissioner Delany stated; “allowing a possibly concussed player to determine whether or not he is fit to return to play not only violates common sense, but is also an egregious violation of standard concussion protocol.”

Congressman Pascrell’s letter then cites head coach Brady Hoke’s comments about the situation from Monday.

“During a press conference on Monday afternoon, Michigan coach Brady Hoke initially stated that he “[didn’t] know if [Morris] has a concussion or not.” Hoke also stated that “Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn’t want to be, he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.” Allowing a possibly concussed player to determine whether or not he is fit to return to play not only violates common sense, but is also an egregious violation of standard concussion protocol, including protocol set forth by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Big Ten Conference.”

Congressman Pascrell asks for Commissioner Delany to investigate the matter and “reexamine the protocols in place and what changes can be made to improve them” while also establishing “penalties for violations of concussion protocols.”

Additionally, University of Michigan students turned out Tuesday evening for a massive protest against Coach Hoke’s actions, chanting on the center of the campus before ultimately marching to the Michigan president’s house. This protest spotlights how times have changed and the issues of concussions and player safety have taken a backseat as to whether or not a team wins on Saturday.

While fans continue to love the physicality of the sport, in seems now that many are now becoming vocal guardians for their players’ safety.  But in all honesty, fans are not the player’s guardian – that role lies with the Head Coach.  Coach Hoke, as Shane Morris’ guardian,  you failed miserably.