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.


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Anonymous fantasy football draft -- 2/01/2006 8:09 PM  

Do we have to read one more article on why blacks are not playing baseball? Why do we have to endure the racist charges again. Blacks prefer to play basketball & football and if they don't play baseball its white racism again. STOP.

How about devoting your wasted time writing about how do we get more blacks into swimming? Bob Cohn, You moron.

Anonymous KTP -- 8/15/2007 10:41 AM  

Bob Cohn;

Your comments on Black Baseball is short sided, Yes city baseball for blacks at the lower levels is limited but lives in other less urban parts of the country, but this is also true for white baseball. Organized ball in general has taken a back seat to other more active glamorous sports. Baseball in general is less interesting to the average spectator than basketball, football and other team sports. Also the problem with baseball in the urban neighborhood has to do with a field with spectator stands, where as kid soccer, lacrosse and the likes the fans stand around the open field.

We must remember that Black Baseball has a long history beginning with the first successful organized Negro League established on February 13, 1920, at a YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri. Andrew "Rube" Foster was the driving force behind the organization of this league and served as its president. As a result of his leadership in the early years of the leagues, Foster is known as "the father of black baseball." This first league was known as the Negro National League with member teams in the South and Midwest. The NNL operated successfully until 1931.
Three years after the founding of the NNL, the Eastern Colored League was formed on December 16, 1923, with Edward H. Bolden serving as chairman. In 1924, the very first Negro World Series was played between the ECL and the NNL champions. The ECL collapsed in the spring of 1928 but the member teams reemerged in 1929 as the American Negro League.

The depression years were especially difficult times for black baseball. In 1932, the East-West League was formed, but folded before the season ended. The Negro Southern League was the only black professional league to survive the 1932 season. The NSL was a minor league before and after the 1932 season.

In 1933, a second Negro National League was formed, and was the only black professional league operating until 1937. The league included teams from the East and the Midwest through 1935. By 1936, the NNL was operating exclusively in the East.

In 1937, teams in the South and the Midwest formed the Negro American League. The NAL and the NNL coexisted through the 1948 season. In 1949, the NNL was absorbed in the NAL, which operated as the last black major league through 1960.

As in the white major leagues, the Negro leagues had their own World Series. Over the years, eleven inter-league Black World Series were held. The NNL and ECL played from 1924 through 1927. Champions from the second NNL and the NAL competed from 1942 through 1948. Also in 1933, the black teams began all-star game competition. The game was known as the East-West game and was played each summer at Chicago's Comiskey Park. This game was considered more important than the World Series and annually attracted between 20,000 and 50,000 fans

The first black to make it to the then all white leag was not Jackie Robinson but was MOSES FLEETWOOD WALKER. He was born: October 7, 1856 in Mt.Pleasant, OH and died: May 11, 1924 in Cleveland, OH
Moses Fleetwood Walker, who along with his brother, Welday Walker, became the second and third U.S. Negros to play in a white league (Bud Fowler was first) and the first black players to play in the major leagues.

Moses Fleetwood Walker attended Oberlin College where he had studied Greek, French, German, Latin, and math, then attended the University of Michigan law school.

In 1881, Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Welday joined Oberlin College's first varsity baseball team.

In 1883, Fleetwood, a catcher, signed with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League. A year later the Blue Stockings join the American Association, which was considered a major league. Fleetwood played in 42 games in 1884 and hit .263; while his brother, Welday Walker played in six games. Until 1947, the Walkers were the only black players ever to play in the major leagues.

In 1891, Fleetwood Walker was assaulted outside a Syracuse bar on a Sunday afternoon as he returned home from church. He killed his attacker with a knife in self-defense. A jury acquitted him to the cheers of the spectators. Sebsequent to this event, Moses retired from playing baseball and returned to his home in Steubenville, Ohio.

The black participation in the current Major League is sufficient and a number of the players hold significant titles.

There are a number of very good documentary books on the subject, two of which I would recommend.
Only the Ball Was White, by Robert W Peterson - probably the best of all
Life in the Negro Baseball Leagues, by John G Wukovits
Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms, by Elden Auker with Tom Keegan
Another issue which discourages nearly all of baseball is the excitement in the game, it's really dull, and I am a big baseball fan. I grew up in St Louis attending the Cardinals and Brown games and having traveled a lot have been to all of the ballparks (only Monopolies, its indoors did not excite me).

I love baseball but forced participation does not work, there are much more things an athletic kid can do.

Robert W Peterson

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