Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Sports Illustrated column: Legal Fallout of Saints Bounty Scandal

Is it a crime or tort to pay someone to injure another person? Sure. But how about if it the crime/tort happens on a football field? Check out my column for Sports Illustrated | on the Saints bounty system.

Here's an excerpt:
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The bounty system implicates at least two types of criminal charges: battery and conspiracy. Battery, which under Louisiana law is punishable by up to six months in jail, refers to the intentional use of force upon another person without that person's consent. Here, a Saints player who intentionally tried to injure another team's player could have battered that player. In response, a Saints player might argue that offensive players assume the risk of serious injury on every play, especially since defensive players are rewarded for stopping the advancement of the ball. That rationale would be deeply flawed, however, because while offensive players assume the risk of injury on a tackle, they do not assume the tackle is intended to injure them. The Saints' "pay for injury" model is clearly outside the boundaries of the game and an assumption of risk defense holds little weight. ...


While the above provides a road map to criminal prosecutions of Saints players, coaches and front office personnel, prosecutors seldom seek charges for incidents that occur on the field. This is true even for on-field incidents that would clearly be crimes if they occurred on a public street. Prosecutors and judges generally defer to leagues to enforce their own rules and assign their own penalties. While this deference makes sense on some levels, one may wonder whether an NFL penalty provides adequate deterrence for preventing future bounty systems: even the most serious NFL fine -- banishment from the game -- could never come close to the threat of a judge sentencing someone to jail or prison. Besides, in the rare instances when criminal charges are brought by authorities, they are often brought outside of the U.S. (such as when Vancouver authorities charged Boston Bruins defenseman Marty McSorley for his vicious slash of Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear).

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To read the rest, click here.