Sports Law Blog
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Friday, May 06, 2011
New Sports Illustrated on whether Bud Selig can punish players for alcohol & DUI related issues
I speak with Maggie Gray of Sports Illustrated Video to discuss whether Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig can sanction players for alcohol/DUI related offenses.
To summarize and elaborate on my video remarks:
1) GENERAL COMPARISON WITH STEROIDS
Driving under the influence, as a form of human conduct, is much worse than using, buying or even selling illegal steroids or other illegal performance-enhancers. If you drive drunk, you directly can kill or maim others, along with directly cause substantial property damage; if you use steroids, in the vast majority of cases you can only directly hurt yourself (if in fact steroids are really harmful, a point that has drawn debate).
Now, some have written about "roid rage" and people on steroids acting violently, and families/employers of those who commit DUI or use steroids are indirectly impacted by the abusers' conduct.
But I think it's pretty clear that driving under the influence is way worse than using steroids.
2) BASEBALL COMPARISON WITH STEROIDS
But when viewed purely from the lens of baseball, are steroids worse than DUI? Steroids are about cheating, DUIs are about off-field conduct. There's some merit to that. But that logic hasn't stopped the NFL, armed with its Personal Conduct Policy, from strictly regulating off-field conduct on grounds that certain misbehavior harms the league image.
3) DO NUMBERS ACTUALLY INDICATE A PROBLEM?
While 6 players committing DUIs in the first five weeks of the season is alarming in some media-noteworthy way, keep in mind that a) the 6 DUIs are not connected to each other and occurred in different circumstances; and b) at any given time, there are 750 players on the 30 MLB rosters - 6 out 750 is less than 1%. Is there really an epidemic of MLB players committing DUIs? Could the level of misconduct be the same as previous years, but only this time a few more players than normal were caught for an offense that culprits often get away with?
4) THEORY AND BEST INTERESTS OF THE GAME CLAUSE
In theory, Bud Selig invoke his Best Interests of the Game authority to sanction players for the DUIs. The DUIs have clearly embarrassed the game and the collectively-bargained Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment does not mention alcohol, an omission which he could interpret to mean he is not limited by the Policy.
5) REALITY AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
In reality there are at least 3 reasons why Selig will wait on sanctioning until there is collectively bargained language:
i) The Players Association would greatly resent him acting unilaterally and that could cause labor negotiation problems for Selig and the owners in their discussions with the PA on a new CBA (the current one will expire on December 11, 2011), or at least in terms of developing an alcohol/DUI policy.
ii) The Players Association could file a grievance with an independent arbitrator (under the terms of the CBA), arguing that Selig has overstepped his authority and that alcohol and related arrests need to be mentioned in the Policy.
iii) Selig has to be careful not to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which regards alcoholism as an impairment and, in certain situations, can empower an employee for seeking redress when an employer punishes him/her for matters related to alcoholism. See our discussion on Roy Tarpley for more.