There is a need for the NFL to modify one of its policies. It took me a while to understand how the NFL could penalize the Miami Dolphins and the team owner, Stephen Ross, for tampering without punishing someone else. Here is the source of my problem:
- In order for there to be a “discussion” or a “conversation” that might run afoul of the league’s tampering rules, there must be at least two parties involved. If what Stephen Ross had done was to say aloud in the shower that he would really like to have Tom Brady on his team with Sean Payton as his coach, I doubt that would count as “tampering”.
If the facts of this case are as have been reported, Ross and one of his associates had rather extensive and repeated contacts with the agents for Sean Payton and Tom Brady between 2019 and 2022. That is tampering; the Dolphins deserve to lose those draft picks as punishment – a first-round pick in 2023 and a third-round pick in 2024. However, the agents are equally culpable here. Even if I grant that they did not know beforehand what the “first discussions” were going to be about, they surely knew the improper nature of those “repeated discussions”. So, why stop the punishments with the team and the owner here?
You may argue that agents speak with teams all the time and do not necessarily keep their clients abreast of every detail that arises in those exchanges. You are going to have to do a lot of hypothesizing to get me to believe that nothing about discussions of that sensitivity ever slipped from agent to client over a 2-year period. So, where is the punishment for Brady and/or Payton?
It took a while to dig up the NFL rule that governs punishment for “tampering”
“If a club is contacted by a player (or his representative) who is under contract to or whose negotiating rights are held by another club, and such player has not been given permission to negotiate with other clubs, or such player is not in a permissible negotiating period under the terms of an operative collective bargaining agreement, then the contacted club is prohibited from:
(i) negotiating with the player or his agent;
(ii) discussing even in general terms the player’s possible employment with the contacted club; or
(iii) discussing the player’s contract or his potential or ongoing contract negotiations with his current club.”
The rule only pertains to the situation where the player or his agent makes the initial overture that leads to tampering. Since the Dolphins initiated the discussion, the rule here simply does not pertain. And even if a player, a coach or an agent for one of them did the initial outreach, it is not clear how the rule would be used to levy punishment because in such a circumstance the onus is on the club to comply with the itemized conditions of the rule. If the team does not do that, then it is the team that runs afoul of this rule. Got that?
Strange as that outcome may seem, there was no real surprise that the NFL investigation into Brian Flores’ charges that owner Ross offered him $100K per game to lose games so the Dolphins could get a higher draft pick found nothing nefarious. That had to be the outcome save for “indisputable video evidence” to the contrary because had there been a finding that it did happen, the league would have to have forced a sale of the team to preserve the integrity of the games. The NFL – and all major pro sports – always trumpet the importance of game integrity, but now that legalized gambling represents a huge new revenue stream for the NFL, that stance is not just a philosophical nicety; that stance is now a core value of the league and a load-bearing member of its foundation.
Switching sports – but staying with rules and policies and punishments – Phil Mickelson and 11 other golfers who have signed on with the LIV Golf Tour have filed suit against the PGA alleging anti-trust violations. The complexities of the assertions here by both sides make my teeth itch; so, this is one of those situations where I would prefer for both sides to lose.
- Of course, the PGA is a monopoly in the professional golf “industry”; and it uses exclusionary rules and tactics to keep competitors out and it forces players to abide by the rules that it makes. Any assertion by the PGA to the contrary is bullsh*t.
[Aside: The PGA assertion of the primacy of its rules extended all the way to the Supreme Court of the US when the PGA asserted that its rule against golfers using a cart had higher standing than the Americans With Disabilities Act. SCOTUS set them straight on that issue.]
- The LIV golfers were warned that they would be suspended by the PGA if they played in an LIV event. They made a choice to play; that choice should have consequences because every one of those golfers is an adult.
If you want to take a deeper dive into some of the issues involved, here is a link to a report at ESPN.com that might help.
Next up … In all the hullabaloo about the Juan Soto trade earlier this week, I neglected to mention that the Orioles traded Trey Mancini to the Astros for 2 prospects. That deal was clearly under the radar amongst all the player movement at the trade deadline; Mancini is a nice player but if anyone is beating a drum for him to go to the Hall of Fame someday, I have not heard that sound. But that trade is interesting for a couple of reasons:
- The Orioles were at .500 when they made the deal and were only 3 games out of the final playoff slot in the AL. No one has them penciled in as a playoff team or as a serious threat if they manage to get in, but for a team that has lost more than 100 games frequently in recent history, this is a “magical season”.
- Trey Mancini is a fan favorite and one of the better players on the team. Oh, and did I mention that he is a cancer survivor too having missed an entire season fighting the malignancy?
In a world of “bad optics” this one holds a special place…
Finally, since today began with punishment meted out and punishment avoided, let me close with this adage:
“Capital punishment really means that those without capital get the punishment.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………