Sports Law Blog
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Legal Fallout of New York Times story on Sammy Sosa
I have a column up on SI.com on the legal fallout of news that Sammy Sosa was--according to the New York Times--one of the 104 names on the list of steroids users. Here's an excerpt.
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Regardless of the Ninth Circuit's forthcoming decision (or of an unlikely review by the U.S. Supreme Court), a number of people are aware of the remaining 102 names. Any of those persons has the capacity to leak the names, which they might be tempted to do for a variety of reasons. They may, for instance, dislike one or more of the named players and want to settle a score. Or perhaps their intentions are more sinister: they could threaten to disclose a name or names unless compensated in a blackmail scheme.
Officials at the MLBPA and MLB are most likely aware of the names, as are various federal officials, including the agents who seized the computers, as well as judges, clerks, prosecutors and their assistants. Certain player agents and attorneys may also be aware of the list. In short, a lot of people have probably seen the list.
Granted, all of these persons "in the know" are bound by professional duties of confidentially, violations for which can trigger civil consequences. A baseball agent, for instance, could risk fine, suspension, or even decertification by the MLBPA, which certifies agents who have clients on 40-man rosters. The union itself is dissuaded from disclosing the names. Under federal labor laws, the MLBPA and its officials owe duties of trust and competence to each of its players. Should the MLBPA disclose the 104 players' names, the named players would be entitled to sue the MLBPA for breach of duties; they could also file a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board. Players' damages could be shown through reputational harm and potential loss of endorsement deals.* * *
. . . Sosa is viewed favorably for his charisma and charm. He has also been praised for his community service and generosity, particularly for his charitable work after Hurricane George decimated parts of the Dominican Republic in 1998. Never underestimate the power of reputation to influence whether one is selected for prosecution.
Second, although a person can commit perjury through a written statement, the government may place significance in the fact that Sosa did not verbally make the potentially-incriminating comments. Sosa, in fact, claimed he did not feel comfortable speaking because of his command of the English language. If Sosa's English was not perfect, then did he fully understand the meaning of the written statement? If not, could he have "knowingly" lied?
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To read the rest, click here.
I was interviewed on the Dan Patrick Show this morning to discuss Sosa, along with legal issues concerning Plaxico Burress, Donte Stallworth, and Michael Vick. To listen to the interview, click here.