Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

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.”

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Last week FIBA would not allow the Qatari Women’s Basketball team to compete at the Asian Games if they wore their traditional religious head scarves.  During a Monday Night Football game, the NFL penalized a Muslim player who knelt in prayer after scoring a touchdown.  Sports, which has traditionally taken a leadership role on social issues such as race and sexual orientation, is taking a backseat when it comes to concerns over religious freedom

The Kansas City Chief’s defensive back, Husain Abdulla, was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after he kneeled in Muslim prayer in the end zone after scoring a touchdown in a Monday Night Football Game.

Perhaps the official who threw the flag on the Abdullah play was unfamiliar with Muslim custom. Perhaps it was something else because there are numerous occasions where an NFL Player of Christian faith marks his score with a sign of deference, reflection, or tribute to their higher power without incident.

In other words, Brandon Marshall can get on knees and raise his hands to Jesus after touchdown with no penalty, but Husain Abdullah bows his head to mecca and its fifteen yards.

 

Abdullah took the high road after the game and said he thought he was penalized for sliding into the prayer, though the head referee cited “falling to the ground on the knees” in announcing the infraction.

The excessive celebration rule in which Abdullah allegedly violated states, that an NFL player is “prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground.” Prayer is never specifically mentioned, though NFL officials usually take a permissive view towards religious exhibition.

To use an example, Greg Jennings was not flagged for this prayer during Super Bowl XLV 48a01bf0-4855-11e4-acdc-77beb4cd7bd6_108869462-1

It is now time for NFL officials to take a permissive view towards all exhibitions of prayer, no matter what religion the prayer originates from.

DownloadedFile-1FedEx has rejected a proposal from the Oneida Indian tribe to “drop or distance” the company from the NFL franchise in Washington, whose stadium, FedExField, it sponsors, until its ownership agrees to change the name of the mascot.

The proposal was led by the Oneida Trust of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, together with other supporter such as broadcasters and congress men and women, who argue the franchise’s name is deeply offensive.

“We consider the Washington team name a racial slur, tracing back to colonial times when bounties were paid on a sliding scale for the skins of Native men, women and children, and traded like animal hides,” Susan White, trust director stated. “The term did not describe actions that honored Indian peoples then and it still represents racism and genocide today for Native peoples. We are the only race of people dehumanized by an NFL team. Washington Redskins is the most egregious.”

FedEx, a multi-billion dollar company, didn’t seem to fazed or even care about the Tribe’s position, stating, “We highly value our sponsorship of FedExField, which not only hosts the Washington Redskins, but is home to a variety of major entertainment and sports events and multiple community activities.” (This from senior vice president for marketing and communications Patrick Fitzgerald).

I take exception to FedEx’s comment for two reasons: a) it contains the team name that everyone finds offensive within it, b) everyone knows that FedEx gets its return on its sponsorship investment from the association it has with the NFL franchise, not from other entertainment events or community actives. I am sorry Mr. Fitzgerald, but your statement is insensitive, disgusting, and insulting.

The Osage Nation, an 18,500 member Native American tribe based out of Oklahoma, has initiated a boycott of FedEx since it owns the naming rights to the stadium where then Washington NFL football games are played.

The Osage Nation has instructed its employees to not use FedEx when an alternative service is available until the Washington team adopts a “less inflammatory and insulting” name. The Nation has also called upon other tribes throughout the country to follow suit.

FedEx has pointed out that it is closely followed the “dialogue and difference of opinion” regarding the team’s name but have made no indication of terminating the naming rights agreement it has with the franchise.

In addition, FedEx CEO, Fred Smith, when asked, declined to say whether or not he believes the team’s name should change.  This may be because Mr. Smith also owns a piece of the Washington based franchise.

In supporting the Osage Nation, RISE International vows that it will no longer use FedEx services. Hello DHL.