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Crime, player rights, and the NFLPA

I'd like to note a few odd features of the Haynesworth-Gurode incident discussed in EclectEcon's post below.

Needless to say, kicking someone in the head with a set of cleats is a dangerous and despicable act. And as Rod's comment to EE's post makes clear, players are liable in a significant monetary sense for maiming other players in sporting contests. The law is crystal clear on that.

One purpose of law is to act as a deterrent to harmful acts. It is not the only incentive-based tool in use however - organizations fine and punish in the private arena as well, and dismissal is a common sanction. The NFL's 5 game suspension - a weak form of dismissal - is viewed by many as insufficient, but not by the NFL Player's Association. They urged Haynesworth to appeal the suspension. I find this puzzling on several counts. First, Haynesworth and just about any other player have their own private agents, and presumably these agents are enough to look out for a player's individual rights. Second, should not the NFLPA's objective be protection of the entire group of players? Or do they prefer that players be given a license as headhunters of their fellow players? To me, the NFLPA looks very silly masquerading as the "players' rights advocate" in objecting to the league's sanction in this case. But I suppose this is just par for the course, in a repeated game in which the NFLPA conceives of itself as a perpetual adversary versus the league office.

The second odd feature is a comparative one. In this case we have a clear attempt to maim (mindless or not), and we've barely heard a peep out of the police. The police have said, quite sensibly, that the issue is in the hands of Gurode and the Dallas Cowboys. If they wish to press charges, the police will move forward with a case. But criminalization seems an unnecessary route to take - the two players, teams, and the league should be able to take action which effectively manages the problem without recourse to the courts. Credit to Haynesworth for understanding this implicitly, and shame on the NFLPA for acting like buffoons.

In contrast to the Haynesworth case, trivial matters are referred to the police in British soccer as a matter of routine. Ten days ago at Old Trafford, Jens Lehman impetuously kicked a water bottle into the crowd after taking some pretty vicious stick from the fans. Result: a police inquiry. This weekend, Man City's Joey Barton did a Randy Moss impersonation to the fans at Everton, with the added bonus of exposure rather than simulation. Result: another police investigation. This is commonplace, though for the most part the "inquiries" merely lead tabloid headlines, as convictions are rare. Still, I wonder why these matters lead to at least an initiation of criminal proceedings in Britain, when again, it's in the interest of the league and the teams to put things right. Those forces should be sufficient, but relying on private action to do the job is not very newsworthy.