Stat Counter

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mike Piazza and Murray Chass' Recklessness

I am probably doing Mike Piazza a disservice by addressing Murray Chass’ recent blog post on Piazza’s alleged steroid use, as it continues the dialogue, but his post screams for a rejoinder. As most of you know, Murray Chass was a respected baseball writer for the New York Times for decades until he was unceremoniously “laid-off” in an apparent cost-cutting move. Following his dismissal, Chass started a blog that addresses various baseball and baseball-related issues. I had the greatest respect for Chass while he was at the New York Times. Our paths crossed a few times, mainly with respect to clients of mine who were accused of performance enhancing drug use (and some other baseball-related issues). I found his reporting to be fair, balanced and thoughtful. Chass’ writing for the Times (not his blog) eventually landed him in the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Regrettably, now free from the shackles of editorial contraints, Chass fills his blog with reckless vitriol. His most recent post on Piazza is a prime (if unfortuante) illustration of Chass’ willingness to throw journalistic principles to the wind. In the post, Chass takes Piazza to task for refusing to make himself available to the press on Piazza’s most recent visit to Citi Field. Chass writes that its “obvious that that Piazza’s rendered himself invisible so that none could ask him the steroids question”. Chass conveniently leaves out the fact that Piazza flatly denied steroid use in a 2009 interview with the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Evidently, Chass left the notion of "fair and balanced" at the Times. Sherman asked the “steroids question”, and Piazza answered it. Piazza was under no obligation to answer the question in 2009 (but he did), and he’s certainly under no obligation in 2010 to answer a question he’s already answered. (And Chass fails to indicate how or why the question or answer would change in 2010.)

Prior to his most recent post, Chass penned a 2009 blog entry titled “Mike Piazza: His Bat and His Back” in which, on the basis of back acne alone, he accused Piazza of steroid use. To buttress his "acne-sation", he then claimed that Piazza's back acne "cleared up" when testing was introduced in 2004, confirming the inextricable connection between acne and steroids. Yep, you read it correctly: Chass’ reckless allegation concerning Piazza’s steroid use boils down to the appearance and disappearance of back acne. In defense of his “back acne” theory, Chass flippantly writes, a “district attorney could probably get a murder conviction on circumstantial evidence of similar strength”. I am grateful that I have never appeared in whatever courtroom Chass is describing. I am equally grateful that Chass is not my dermatologist.

I do not know if Mike Piazza used steroids (nor, quite frankly, do I care). Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. What I do know is that on the basis of: (a) refusing to make one’s self available to the media as a retired player; and/or (b) back acne (or absence thereof), a reasonable person would not accuse someone of steroid use. Allegations such as these are irresponsible, indecent and lack journalistic integrity. History may bear out Chass’ iniquitous allegations, but that will not vindicate his gratuitous accusations of today. I expect more from a Hall of Fame writer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm featured in "The Sports Commentary" (Comment Communications) this week discussing crisis management with respect to professional athletes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Potential Impact of Arizona SB 1070 on Professional Baseball Players

The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Arizona SB 1070) was signed into law in Arizona by governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. SB 1070 makes it a misdemeanor crime for an alien (note – not “illegal alien”) to be in the state of Arizona without possession of proper immigration documents.

The most frightening aspect of this law is that it obligates law enforcement officials to make an attempt to determine a person’s immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien during a police stop for any other offense or suspected offense. Law enforcement may arrest a person if there is probable cause that the person is an unlawful alien. A legal alien, who doesn’t have a passport and visa in his possession during a law enforcement encounter can be arrested. The “I’m sorry, but I left my passport and visa at home” defense will not prevent one from being detained.

This law, which is scheduled to go into effect on July 28, 2010, can, and most likely will, have a disproportionate impact on Latin baseball players. The Arizona Rookie League will begin in a matter of months. Approximately 150 Latin players will arrive in the greater Phoenix area to participate in the league. These Latin players are young, usually teenagers, with limited command of the English language. Under SB 1070’s nebulous “reasonable suspicion” standard, these young Latin players are prime targets for this “legalized racial profiling”. Under almost any interpretation of SB 1070’s reasonable suspicion standard, these players can be asked to produce their passports and visas if there is a suspicion regarding his immigration status because of their skin color and/or English language command. If they don’t have their passports, even though here legally, they can be incarcerated.

SB 1070 doesn’t only affect legal aliens, it can affect U.S. citizens. Under SB 1070, if an American born Caucasian player, who speaks perfect English, is asked to produce his driver’s license or other identification, and he does not have it, is he incarcerated? The answer is no. If an American born player of Hispanic decent, who speaks perfect English, is asked to produce the same identification, and does not have it, is he incarcerated? The answer is he could be under SB 1070’s reasonable suspicion standard. This is a clear equal protection violation.

I am of the opinion that SB 1070 will not withstand constitutional challenge. There have already been two lawsuits filed seeking to have the bill declared unconstitutional. In the unlikely event that legal intervention is unsuccessful, a referendum to overturn the law (in a state where the population is 30% Hispanic) is expected to be on the ballot no later than 2012. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both denounced the bill and questioned its constitutionality. Given that the federal government has the primary responsibility to deal with immigration matters, federal intervention is likely.

The Major League Baseball Players Association and the National Basketball Association Players Association have voiced their opposition to SB 1070, and should be lauded for wading into the political arena on such an important issue. The Phoenix Suns are wearing “Los Suns” jerseys in their playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs tonight in protest of the law. Both the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks, as organizations, have issued statements in opposition to SB 1070. It will be interesting to see what position Major League Baseball takes, if any, as they have not commented publically on the issue as of this date. MLB’s position will be of some import, as many opponents of the law have called upon MLB to move the 2011 All-Star game, currently scheduled for Phoenix. As an aside, the National Football League pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix as a result of Arizona’s failure to recognize Martin Luther King Day as an official state holiday. Tempe was selected as the host of the 1996 Super Bowl, only after Arizona finally recognized MLK Day as an official state holiday.

As Billy Hunter, the NBAPA executive director said:

“Any attempt to encourage, tolerate or legalize racial profiling is offensive and incompatible with basic notions of fairness and equal protection. A law that unfairly targets one group is ultimately a threat to all.”