Attorney, Don Dennis, discusses various legal issues that pop up in the world of sports. From the NCAA to the NFL. FIFA to Nike. We discuss issues that impact the world of the sports fan, from a legal point of view.
Let’s set aside political platforms and voting records for a moment. If you are an undecided voter could you really support a candidate that doesn’t have the political common sense not to alienate the fan base of one of the two main universities in your home state? Everyone knows that Florida is a football mad state and “fan” is short for fanatical so it really makes you question Senator Marco Rubio’s decision, even though it was most assuredly was in jest, to dig at alumni and fans of Florida State University.
“Look, I don’t have anything against Florida State, I think there has to be a school where people that can’t get into Florida can go to college. And that’s why we have Florida State,” said Rubio to KNXO 1460 AM in Des Moines, Iowa last week.
If you are a Florida fan this is what you think yourself. If you are an FSU fan you say the same thing about UF grads. It’s what makes a rivalry a rivalry. But when you are a candidate running for office one of the qualities potential voters look for is the ability to make sound decisions and develop a strategic plan to accomplish desired objectives. You certainly don't expect your candidate to Unless his objective was to infuriate a large segment of the electorate this has to go down as an epic fail.
Perhaps Senator Rubio thought he was running for the Mayor of Gainesville or President of UF. His comments would be a touchdown if that was the objective. But when you are running 4th in your home state in the latest primary polls, Mr. Rubio clearly fumbled the ball.
Two of the world’s most valuable teams, Real Madrid & Manchester United, collectively worth over $6B with a “B” had a deal collapse yesterday when they couldn’t manage to get the paperwork filed in time. Madrid and United seemed to have a deal worked out sending Manchester keeper, David De Gea to Madrid for a fee of over $40M but the two clubs couldn’t get the paperwork filed in time.
In soccer, as opposed to most US sports, players are routinely bought and sold outright for a transfer fee. The best players can force a move and with De Gea’s contract expiring at the end of the current season, speculation all summer was that United would sell the Spanish keeper to Real Madrid rather than risk him becoming a free agent. However, the two clubs could not agree to the fee or the details until the last day, leaving the two sides without enough time to get the transfer documents submitted.
If ever there were an example of the importance of getting your paper work prepared and ready ahead of time this is it. For more on the story here.
The past year there has been an increase focus on the intersection of athletes and the criminal justice system. Whether it be Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, Jameis Winston of Florida State and now the Tampa Bay Bucs or any number of other athletes it seems that you can’t turn on the TV without hearing a story of where an athlete has been arrested. In the today’s age of social media the news cycle is nonstop. As a fan of any college or professional sports team you cannot shield yourself from the fact that at some point in time a member of your team will be the one making the news. But it has forced us to really examine what we are willing to tolerate as a fan and society as a whole.
Often times when that athlete is a member of a competing team or rival the inclination is to cast blame on the team and claim that any punishment that does not involve jail time is the result of some type of preferential treatment. When the accused is a member of our team then the response takes a dramatic change and the attitude of circle the wagons emerges. Those views are virtually polar opposites yet they are shared by fans involving the very same incident. Is there any objective way to weigh these perspectives?
I think that there is no debate that information is much more prevalent and easily attainable now then say a generation ago and certainly two generations. The heroes of our fathers undoubtedly could not get away with what they did in the 50s, 60s or even the 70s. But do today’s athletes really get preferential treatment in the criminal justice system?
Most people have luckily never had any interaction with the criminal justice system. Sadly, they might be surprised to find out how “routine” most of the offenses that make news because they are committed by an athlete are. For example, in Bay County Florida, with a population of roughly 168,000 in 2010, based on the census there were over 8,300 misdemeanor cases and 5,000+ criminal traffic offenses (these include driving with a suspended license and DUIs). A quick run of the numbers shows reveals that is roughly one misdemeanor/criminal traffic offense per every thirteen (13) individuals. Meaning you are far more likely to know someone that has been charged with such a crime than you are to know an athlete at all.
But what about all the deals that athletes get when they are charged with an offense. Surely, when the State Attorney’s Office drops charges or offers community service hours they are letting the athlete off easily? Actually no. The truth is that most people are offered the same deals. A quick search of the various SAO offices throughout the state show that most, if not all, have some type of diversion program that is designed to allow someone charged with a crime to do some community service, pay fines and then have the case dropped. Here are a few examples:
Jacksonville area – 4th Judicial Circuit
Broward County/Ft. Lauderdale – 17th Judicial Circuit
Orange County/Orlando – 9th Judicial Circuit
In actuality, it is quite possible that many athletes are actually given a bit of a harder time by the criminal justice system in that a diversion program might ordinarily be offered to a similar defendant charged with a near identical crime, but because of public pressure they do not offer that to the star athlete. Dalvin Cook, running back for Florida State, might have been in such a position. He was acquitted on August 24, 2015, after a jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes returning a verdict of not guilty. He was alleged to have committed a battery. Every circuit has a different set of rules, but if Mr. Cook were not an athlete he would undoubtedly been offered at most probation that most likely would have been completed in 6 months. More likely, he would have been offered something similar to one of the diversion programs mentioned above and he would not have had to run the risk of trial or the cost of trial preparation to defend himself.
The truth is that these diversion programs and “deals” where the prosecution drops charges happen every day. These same programs are also available for many that are accused of felonies. This is not to try to excuse the behavior of athletes that have broken the law. But the reality is that while it is definitely true that they have the means and resources to defense themselves that the average citizen does not possesses, the justice system does not appear to give them any preferential treatment.
Nick Symmonds, an American track star, is standing up against the giant that is Nike. Symmonds won the 800 meters at the US Trials, earning himself a spot on the USA World Championship Team which would pave the way for his third US Olympic team. But before that could happen the USA Track & Field (USATF) required Symmonds sign a mandatory "statement of conditions" which he refused to do. The USATF then replaced him on the roster.
What does this have to do with Nike? Part of the statement of conditions is a clause that requires all athletes wear designated team uniforms at official functions. The official sponsor being Nike per the contract between USATF and the corporate giant. Unfortunately for Symmonds, his sponsor is Brooks Running, and his personal contract has put him at odds with the requirements for being on the US national team.
Symmonds is not trying to fight his requirement to wear official Nike gear in competition, but it is being alleged that the USATF is telling him to not even pack his Brooks gear. That calls into question how broad is Nike’s reach and can sponsorship contracts creep into the personal lives of athletes that haven’t even signed on with the company. Can Nike require this of athletes on teams where the individuals have not signed on with the corporate giant? Does the USATF want to put its corporate sponsors ahead of its athletes? Or should athletes accept that this is how the sporting world works in the 21st Century? For more see here.
Have a sports law question you want answered? Shoot us an email and we might post your question online. firstname.lastname@example.org
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