Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Monday, June 07, 2004
Sports and Criminal Trials: Bob Cohn of the Washington Times takes an interesting, if not somewhat apparent, look at the impact of celebrity in the criminal trials of professional athletes.
Perhaps money can't buy happiness. But it can buy good lawyers. Beyond that, there is a widespread perception that because of the fame and adulation they often receive, athletes are afforded special treatment by the legal system.
In many cases, the perception is the reality.
"I think we're a society where everybody is struck by celebrity," said Rich Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. "No matter how thorough the pretrial questioning, there are people who will be dazzled in the courtroom, whether it's O.J. Simpson or Jayson Williams or Kobe Bryant. Maybe their jaws won't be open, but they will be thinking of their athletic feats."
Of course, the arguments made are not unique to sports. Movie stars have the same, if not more, celebrity status than do their sports counterparts. And all wealthy people, including CEOs accused of corporate fraud, Martha Stewart, and politicians, can afford high-priced legal counsel.
Is this right? Even putting aside the celebrity issue, something smells when the level of representation you receive depends on the amount of money in your bank account. What makes an indigent person less worthy of a legal defense than a millionaire? But on the other, we live in a free market, supply and demand, system. Those that can afford the price of the "best" get just that, and the rest of us are left with the services of those we can afford. The same is true in health care, food, cars, and almost anything else you can think of.
"Sports law" is often derided by people that think it is nothing more than athletes being acquitted of criminal charges merely because they are athletes. But, as I hope this blog shows, sports law means much more than that. And, the issue of the well-to-do buying justice is not unique to sports, nor should it be treated as such. So long as we live in a free market society, this practice will continue, for better or for worse.