Sports Law Blog
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Thursday, August 23, 2007
Thoughts on Michael Vick, Ruben Patterson, and Lawrence Pedowitz
Some thoughts on new developments concerning Michael Vick, Ruben Patterson, and the NBA's hiring of Lawrence Pedowitz:
On ABC News, Russell Goldman examines Michael Vick's future in his extensive piece, "In The Dog House: Will Michael Vick Ever Play Again?" In addition to UMass sports management Professor Stephen Jefferson and public relations guru Alan Caruba, I was interviewed for Goldman's story (related aside: I was interviewed on MVN's Outsider Radio to discuss Vick, thanks to Brandon Rosage for having me on). I emphasized that Vick's best approach from this point on is to appear apologetic and contrite, rather than defensive and argumentative. Granted, for reasons that we've discussed on this blog, I believe that circumstances and persons around Vick have contributed to his bad decision-making, but I recognize that many people don't like dispersing blame like I do, and thus Vick needs to tailor his message to the audience. Here are some of my comments from the story:
Mississippi's McCann agreed that it was best to be contrite rather than try to offer justifications.
After Vick gets out of prison, he will likely be 28- or 29-years-old, and will then face a lengthy suspension from the NFL. What should he do while suspended by the NFL? Unfortunately for Vick, playing in the Canadian Football League won't be an option. Rick Matsumoto of the Toronto Star reports on what might be called the Ricky Williams Rule: "Criticism over last year's signing by the Argonauts of running back Ricky Williams, who was under suspension by the NFL for drug use, led the league's board of governors to pass a bylaw that prohibits an NFL player who is currently under contract or is serving a suspension from signing a CFL contract."
There is no question that 32-year-old Ruben Patterson is a good, maybe very good, NBA player. Last season, he averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in 31 minutes a game for the Milwaukee Bucks. Even better, he shot 55% from the field, which is outstanding for a 6-5 guard/forward, particularly one who is also known for his excellent defense on some of the NBA's top scorers. And he's now a free agent. You might think there would be serious interest in the swing man, but his phone hasn't been ringing off the hook.
It's not entirely clear. One reason may be that he recently turned 32, but he's still likely young enough to have at least a couple of more good seasons--and it's not like there are many guys, of any age, in the NBA who can neutralize the other team's starting 2 guard and also shoot 55% from the field.
A more explanatory reason may be that Patterson is a registered sex offender, and he must register himself as a sex offender in any state he lives, in accordance with his guilty plea stemming from an attempted rape of his child's then 24-year-old nanny in 2000. Patterson avoided prison time through the plea. Since then, as noted above, he has had a solid NBA career, with last season being his best yet. But I could see some teams weary of signing a player with that background and condition. Patterson, however, would like to play for the potentially championship-bound Boston Celtics, and Celtics fans are now debating the wisdom of signing him (check out heated debates on Celtics Blog and Real GM).
It's interesting to consider Patterson in the context of Michael Vick, as some fans seem willing to forgive a player's mistakes, while others believe that certain crimes are so egregious that no amount of time should lessen them. That legal debate is certainly not confined to sports, but it's interesting when it comes up in this setting, and will likely come up again when Vick returns to football.
8/24/07 Update on Patterson: Check out these comments by Jeff Clark on Celtics Blog. Jeff examines the different free agent and trade options for the Celtics in light of 42-year-old Reggie Miller saying "no thanks" to a comeback. Also check these comments by Darren Heitner on I Want to Be a Sports Agent. Darren examines Patterson's situation in the broader context of character in sports.
NBA Hires Lawrence Pedowitz
Henry Abbott on True Hoop explores the merits and drawbacks of the NBA hiring someone to conduct an internal review relating to gambling and NBA officials. The NBA has retained Lawrence B. Pedowitz, a former Chief of the Criminal Division in the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and current partner at law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, to review of league rules, policies, and procedures relating to gambling and its officiating program. I agree with Henry that Pedowitz is well-regarded and highly-qualified to conduct a review, and also agree that Pedowitz working directly for the NBA might influence or perhaps limit how he conducts the investigation.