Posts Tagged ‘Sports Law’

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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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.

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.

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.