Sports Law Blog
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Sunday, August 19, 2007
Thoughts on Michael Vick, Tim Donaghy, and Baseball Umpires' Implicit Attitudes
Here are some thoughts I have on new developments concerning Michael Vick, Tim Donaghy, and Baseball Umpires' implicit attitudes:
Various articles today indicate that Vick and his legal team are debating whether he should accept a plea deal that would call for a 12 to 18 month sentence in a federal prison, or go to trial. There are myriad factors for Vick to consider, including that his co-defendants have already agreed to plead guilty, but also that it can be hard for the government to convince every member of a jury that a defendant is "beyond a reasonable doubt" guilty, particularly when the defendant has almost limitless litigation resources at his disposal and a top legal team to utilize them. And, as we have discussed on this blog, there are potential questions as to how the evidence against Vick was obtained.
Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News has an interesting take on Vick's trial: Were the NFL and the Falcons in any way aware of Vick's association with dog fighting, and if so, should they also bear responsibility? Purdy wonders if this was a case of "see no evil, hear no evil," with Vick's employers tacitly acquiescing to the dog fighting, only to feign surprise and outrage when Vick was charged. In developing that argument, Purdy quotes Deion Sanders, who claims that many NFL players have a passion for dog fighting. If Sanders is telling the truth, I question why the NFLPA, in addition to the NFL and its teams, hasn't (apparently) sufficiently tried to dissuade its members from engaging in that behavior. I know it is difficult for unions to impose behavioral restrictions on their members, but sometimes eliminating a nefarious hobby is in both the individual and collective good.
The Austin Statesman examines how Vick's personal situation, and especially the lifelong friends he took care of but have now betrayed him, contributed to his legal problems. Along those lines, it's easy to look at Vick in the abstract and savage what appear to be terrible and disgusting decisions--I admit to doing that at times over the last couple of months--but his good guy/bad guy rating seems more complicated when considering his extraordinary loyalty to those who may have led him into a bad situation. That's obviously not to say he doesn't deserve an appropriate punishment if guilty, but there's a part of me who sympathizes with someone who didn't ditch his childhood friends or abandon his past just to become a "mainstream" American star--a mainstream that is probably more tolerant of certain types of childhood friends than those who Vick grew up with. And Vick has employed many of those friends in various capacities, providing them otherwise unavailable employment opportunities. But unfortunately for him, his loyalty wasn't reciprocated, and in hindsight, it may prove to be his undoing.
Gary Myers of the New York Daily News assesses Vick's prospects for future NFL employment. Some have argued that Vick's future in the NFL is over. I couldn't disagree more, and Myers lays out why Vick will almost certainly play again in the NFL. I think he sums it up best with this exchange:
Here's how one GM predicts a conversation would go with his coach if Vick was a free agent after getting out of jail:
Chris Mannix over on SI.com outlines how new information provided by Donaghy, who apparently is prepared to name as many as 20 referees who have been involved with some of form gambling, could prove disastrous for David Stern. Will Stern have to suspend or fire 20 referees? Will he have to retract his brazen "rogue, isolated criminal" characterization of Donaghy? When does Congress get involved? At what point are there too many individual wrongdoers who work for the NBA for the NBA to pass all of the blame on to them?
Joe Duffy on Eye on Gambling questions how many are using data about point spreads in Donaghy's games. Interesting piece, as Duffy believes that no empirically-valid connection has been shown yet.
If you are interested in legal issues concerning Tim Donaghy and the NBA, I will be guest tonight on Celtics Stuff Live between 7 and 9 p.m. EST. I look forward to being on the show, and more details about listening to the show are available here (and thanks to JB for the kind write-up of Sports Law Blog and me).
Implicit Attitudes and Baseball Umpires
Over on The Situationist, we examine a new study indicating how baseball umpires may alter their strike zones based on the race or ethnicity of the pitcher. Previous Situationist posts have discussed the significance of implicit associations (a key feature of the human animal’s “interior situation”), including “Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas,” “Race Attributions and Georgetown University Basketball,” “Black History is Now” and “Implicit Bias and Strawmen.” Our new piece collects summaries of a number of recent studies suggesting how routinely implicit associations may bias decision making even among those individuals presumed to be least biased.