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Monday, November 21, 2011

Second International Conference on Sports Arbitration

I had a fantastic experience at the Second International Conference on Sports Arbitration that took place in Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia on November 1, 2011.  I discussed relevant American sports arbitration cases and the role that arbitral precedent plays in professional and amateur sports in the United States.  There were many great panelists, including Roman Khodykin (Clifford Chance – Moscow), who represented French tennis player Richard Gasquet in his doping appeal.  We were also joined by Elena Migunova, the 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medalist in the 4x400 relay.

I would like thank Vadim Chubarov, Vice-President of the CCI of the Russian Federation, Shamil Ageyev, Chairman of the CCI of the Republic of Tatarstan, Thomas Firestone, Resident Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State, and the many other panelists and guests of the conference for welcoming me so warmly.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kazan, and it will make a great host for the 2013 University Games.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Open Letter to Mt. Lebanon's Commissioners

As a lifelong resident of Mt. Lebanon, I strongly urge you to support Commissioner Dan Miller’s resolution on the pool and athletic fields improvement and development.  Very little has been done to improve and/or increase our athletic facilities since I graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 1987.  In the years since my 3 brothers and I were participants in Mt. Lebanon athletics, we have seen participation in youth athletics skyrocket, and there are simply not enough fields and facilities in Mt. Lebanon to accommodate this increase.  Further, the facilities and fields that we currently utilize are substandard.

My wife and I are the parents of 3 children, all of whom participate in Mt. Lebanon athletics.  As a result of their participation on travel teams, we have had the opportunity to personally witness what other municipalities have done with their athletic facilities, and most, if not all of these other municipalities have facilities far superior to ours.   It didn’t use to be this way.

Athletics have always been part of the fabric of Mt. Lebanon.  Athletics are an integral part of the sense and feeling of “community” that has always set Mt. Lebanon apart from other municipalities.  Further, the success that Mt. Lebanon has enjoyed in interscholastic athletics has raised the profile of Mt. Lebanon, which only serves to make our community a more attractive place to live and raise children.  Without improvement to our athletic facilities, we jeopardize our tradition of athletic success.

You have the opportunity tonight to make Mt. Lebanon a better place to live and raise children, and I strongly urge you to support Commissioner Miller’s resolution.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Second International Conference on Sports Arbitration - Kazan, Russia

I have been invited by the U.S. Embassy to the Russian Federation and the U.S. Department of Justice to participate as a panelist at the Second International Conference on Sports Arbitration in Kazan, Russia on November 1, 2011.  The conference is being hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tatarstan.  I will be joined by 2 time Olympic champion and 2 time Stanley Cup champion Vyacheslav (Slava) Fetisov, who is now the Chairman of the Russian Federation Council Commission for the Olympic Movement Development, and many other outstanding international panelists.  I sincerely appreciate the invitation, and I look forward to an informative and exciting conference as well as my first trip to Russia!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Suffolk Law School

I would like to thank Gary Langlais, Vice-President of the Suffolk Law School’s Sports Law Association and the students of Suffolk Law for inviting me to participate on the October 12, 2011 panel discussion on Major League Baseball salary arbitration.  I was joined on the panel by Brian O’Halloran, Vice-President of Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox.  The moderator was Professor Roger Abrams of Northeastern University School of Law.  I truly enjoyed the opportunity and the experience.

University of Pittsburgh Law School

I would like to thank Professor Larry Silverman, the students of the University of Pittsburgh’s  School of Law and Pitt’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society for inviting me to participate in the October 5, 2011 panel discussion Representing Athletes and Coaches: The Myriad of Roles of the Lawyer/Agent.  I was joined by an outstanding group of panelists including Ralph Cindrich, Eddie Edwards, Steve Reich and Jim Zeszutek.  It was a lively and entertaining discussion with great input from the students.  Thanks again!

Duquesne University Law School

I would like to thank Professor Larry Silverman, the students of the Duquesne Law School, and Duquesne’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society for inviting me to speak on the topic of Major League Baseball salary arbitration on October 4, 2011. I had a great time, and truly enjoyed the student participation.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Jim Bowden is Wrong About DUI’s in Major League Baseball

I read with great interest Jim Bowden’s May 10, 2011 article on ESPN in which he expressed his thoughts on increased penalties for MLB players convicted of DUI. In his article, Bowden cited the fact that since January 1, 2011, 6 current MLB players, Miguel Cabrera, Coco Crisp, Austin Kearns, Derek Lowe, Shin-Soo Choo and Adam Kennedy have all been charged with DUI (keep in mind that to my knowledge, none of these players have been convicted). Without expressly stating so, Bowden intimates that there appears to be a DUI epidemic affecting Major League players.

True to his provocative nature, Bowden proposed the following draconian penalties for MLB players convicted of DUI as a means of “curing” the “epidemic”:

1. If convicted of a DUI, you receive the same punishment as testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs: a 50-game suspension without pay the first time; 100-game suspension for the second violation; and if there’s a third offense, you are banned for life. That is more than fair in an effort to save lives.

2. Bring parents who have lost their children to drunken driving accidents into each of the 30 clubhouses. Show the players pictures and videos of the 8-year-old children playing baseball the night before they were killed. Let the players see the parents crying while telling the story. Let them feel the lifetime of pain and agony that they have to live through.

3. Provide players with the phone numbers of cabs, town car or limo services in every city.

4. Implement a club rule: No drinking and driving, period. No exceptions.

I have a great deal of respect for Jim Bowden, having had a number of dealings with him while he was in the baseball industry. Baseball is in his blood and he cares deeply for the game, having served as general manager for both the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals. However, on this subject, he’s injudicious.

As an initial proposition, there are 1200 players on MLB teams’ 40-man rosters, and 750 players on MLB teams’ 25-man active rosters. 6 DUI’s among 40-man rosters equates to .05% of 40-man players who have been charged with DUI, and 6 DUI’s among 25-man rosters equates to .08%. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, 1 in every 139 licensed drivers in the United States is arrested for DUI, or .07%. Therefore, the number of recent arrests of MLB players for DUI is right in line with the national average. 6 arrests does not an epidemic make.

With respect to Bowden’s proposed penalties, I highly doubt that even the most hawkish owners and/or MLB Labor Relations Department attorneys would agree to anything like Bowden’s structure. A 50 game suspension for a 1st time DUI, 100 games for a 2nd DUI and life for a 3rd? Simply preposterous. Bowden attempts to link these penalties to the performance-enhancing substance penalties. The performance-enhancing substance penalties are in place (at least in theory) to maintain a competitive balance among players and to, in theory, protect the integrity of the game of baseball. A DUI is an off-field matter that does not directly affect the competitive nature of the game of baseball (and thus the “integrity” of the game), and any linkage between performance-enhancing penalties and DUI penalties is nonsensical.

With respect to his point 2, bringing parents “who have lost their children to drunken driving accidents into each of the 30 clubhouses . . .". I was almost at a loss for words. Does XM Radio, ESPN or any other employer require such a program? Is this Bowden’s version of a “scared straight” program? In fact, there is little evidence that DUI scared straight programs work. I don’t take issue with Bowden’s points 3 and 4, and in fact, players are already given the names of car services.

I would agree that a DUI (or any MLB player arrest for that matter) does generate unwanted negative publicity for the player, his club, and MLB in general. However, that is the nature of the MLB beast. MLB players are in the spotlight 24/7, and their mistakes, gaffes and legal transgressions get a significant amount of attention in our controversy-hungry society compared to the mistakes and gaffes of the general public. However, the accompanying negative publicity of a DUI arrest does not warrant Bowden’s proposed discipline.

Bowden also seems to disregard the legal penalties that are customarily imposed by courts upon a finding of guilt in a DUI. Generally, a 1st DUI results in entry into a 1st time offenders program, wherein the person must attended alcohol awareness classes, pay significant fines and court costs, and have his license suspended from 30 days to 1 year. A 2nd DUI almost always results in some type of incarceration (jail, house arrest, electronic monitoring), usually from 30 days to 6 months, and a more significant license suspension. A 3rd DUI will certainly result in incarceration, usually 90 days to 5 years in jail. If a MLB player misses a game (or games) as a result of DUI-related court appearances or incarceration, he can be docked pay under his current Uniform Player Contract. These are stiff penalties, and are growing stiffer every day as a result of successful lobbying by groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

According to published reports, MLB and the MLBPA are currently discussing an alcohol policy as part of their new Collective Bargaining Agreement. A more reasoned approach (from both a player and a club perspective) to a new MLB alcohol policy would be to utilize the evaluation and treatment protocols already set forth in the existing MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Under this approach, any player who is convicted of a DUI would be evaluated by a medical professional with respect to his alcohol use, and based upon that evaluation, treatment would be provided (if warranted). Subsequent violations could also be dealt with under the Treatment Program, and discipline, if warranted, could be meted out in accordance with the discipline structure already in place under the Drug of Abuse section of the Treatment Program. In fact, the Program is ALREADY utilized to evaluate and treat players who have alcohol-related issues.

Bowden’s media-driven and reactionary DUI penalty proposition is untenable, from both a club and a player perspective. It disregards some very simple facts: 1. Major League Baseball players are arrested for DUI at the same rate as the American public, and thus there is no “DUI problem” limited to baseball; 2. Penalties imposed by courts in the United States for DUI offenses are sufficient (at least in the minds of our elected lawmakers) to punish transgressors and prevent recidivism; and 3. MLB and the MLBPA already have a program in place to deal with players who have issues with alcohol abuse. Bowden’s DUI proposals make for good headlines and copy, but they are gelastic.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Interview with KDKA-TV on the NFL Lockout

On April 26, 2011, I was interviewed by KDKA-TV’s Money and Politics editor Jon Delano regarding Judge Susan Nelson’s decision enjoining the NFL’s lockout in Brady, et al vs. NFL. I will be blogging on Judge Nelson’s decision and the recent Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to grant a temporary stay of Judge Nelson’s order this coming week.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I will be speaking at Yale Law School's Sports Law Symposium on April 4, 2011. Topics to be discussed (among others) will be the upcoming labor negotiations in Major League Baseball, along with the representation of professional athletes in legal matters. Panelists include Mike Zarren (Boston Celtics), Christopher Park (Major League Baseball), Eric Nyquist (NASCAR), Alan Milstein (Sherman Silverstein), and Brad Ruskin (Proskauer). The panel will be moderated by Sports Illustrated’s Mike McCann. Its a great panel and I look forward to spirited discussion on sports law matters.