All rise. The sports court of public opinion we call Foul Play-by-Play is now in session, the dishonorable Anthony Varriano presiding over this podcast providing play-by-play and color commentary on foul play in sports, on courts and in them. The attorney of record and my co-host is Michael Haase of McLarty and Haase Law in Glendive, Montana.

Headlines

Headline 1: Maryland Football Player Dies of Heat Exhaustion; Wrongful Death Lawsuit Likely Coming Against University

After 19-year-old Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair died of apparent heat stroke from performing 110-yard sprints according to ESPN, the university placed head coach D.J. Durkin, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court and some trainers on leave while it investigates whether the staff was negligent. The McNair’s have also hired an attorney, who says a lawsuit is likely and Durkin should be fired.

ESPN conducted its own investigation, speaking to two current Maryland football players, former players and football staffers and multiple people close to the program. Here’s what they shared about the football culture under Durkin and Court:

  • There is a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation. Small weights and other objects were thrown by Court in the direction of players when Court was angry.
  • The belittling, humiliation and embarrassment of players is common. A player whom coaches wanted to lose weight was forced to eat candy bars while watching teammates work out.
  • Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.
  • Coaches have endorsed unhealthy eating habits and used food punitively. One player said he was forced to eat until he threw up.

Durkin and Court’s coaching careers are certainly in jeopardy, but couldn’t they be charged with manslaughter at the very least, or is this just a wrongful death civil lawsuit?

Headline 2: UNC Suspends 13 Football Players for Selling Shoes

Thirteen North Carolina football players, including quarterback Chazz Surratt, were suspended between one and four games for selling school-issued shoes. The selling of the special edition Nike Jordan shoes is a secondary NCAA violation, and UNC self-reported the violation in January.

Since these shoes are uniquely manufactured for and distributed solely to UNC athletes, their rareness by His Airness can fetch upwards of $600 on Ebay, according to Joe Giglio.


Meanwhile, the NCAA changed rules to allow “elite” high school basketball prospects to hire agents and undergraduates to return to school if they enter the NBA Draft and aren’t selected. How hypocritical is it that a college basketball player can now hire an agent but not profit from his name, signature or shoes until he signs a contract and doesn’t need the money anymore?

These benefits for attending UNC don’t seem very beneficial. The NCAA has managed to make a benefit a burden. It’s often said possession is nine-tenths of the law. Well, what kind of possession is this if you can’t sell what you possess?

Headline 3: Former All-Star MLB Pitcher Esteban Loaiza Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Charges

Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza pleaded guilty Friday to federal drug charges in California. Loaiza acknowledged that he possessed about 44 pounds, or 20 kilos of cocaine with the intent to distribute. He faces 10 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced on Nov. 2. Can we expect Loaiza to be granted leniency in this case since California prisons are still operating above capacity and at increased rates due to healthcare costs?

It might be difficult to imagine what would possess a man who made more than $43 million in Major League Baseball to risk his life trafficking cocaine, but Loaiza’s personal life is riddled with red flags. While few might remember Loaiza starting the 2003 MLB All-Star Game, Loaiza became a celebrity in Mexico after marrying Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera in 2010. This relationship likely granted Loaiza access to some of the most exclusive parties in Mexico, allowing him to experiment with drugs and meet some of the most powerful men in Mexico.

Those new relationships, both with the drugs and the drug dealers, likely persisted upon his wife filing for divorce in 2012 and then dying in a plane crash shortly after. As an addict myself, and someone who thinks we’re all addicts in some form, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, donuts or God, I can say with conviction that hard times make habits harder to break. For some people it takes a conviction to break those habits. 

What kind of sentence should Loaiza receive if the court has his best interests and the best interests of the state in mind?

Headline 4: LSU Suspends Linebacker who Allegedly Served as Getaway Driver in Burglary

Louisiana State University suspended sophomore linebacker Tyler Taylor indefinitely after being arrested for allegedly serving as getaway driver in a January burglary of a pawn shop. A months-long investigation resulted in Taylor’s arrest on May 31. He was charged with felony conspiracy to commit a crime, felony party to a crime and felony theft. He was released on $33,550 bond.

Taylor’s cell phone records indicated that he was at the pawn shop the morning of the burglary, another person arrested for the burglary gave him up, and Taylor’s mother apparently owns the getaway truck he was driving. Police also have surveillance footage of the burglary, so Taylor needs a legal miracle.

What kind of potential plea deal or sentence would allow Taylor to play football again, if not this season, someday?

Headline 5: NASCAR CEO Arrested for DUI, Oxycodone Possession

NASCAR, the sport of driving, had its CEO arrested for driving while intoxicated and possession of Oxycodone without a prescription. Brian France, grandson of NASCAR founder William France, was arrested at 7:30 p.m. last Sunday for failing to stop at a stop sign.

France was arraigned Monday morning and released on his own recognizance, having been charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated, a felony, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor. The felony charge is a result of France having a blood-alcohol content of .18 percent or higher while behind the wheel in New York.

France could be suspended and required to complete a recovery program or be subject to drug testing under NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. Brian’s uncle, Jim, has taken over the duties of CEO during his nephew’s leave of absence.  

This isn’t the first time Brian France has been accused of foul play. Twelve years ago the Associated Press reported that a witness saw a silver Lexus owned by France traveling at a "very reckless speed" into a tree near his residence, and the driver "fell over his own feet" while exiting the car. France was never charged as a result, but “the incident did lead to the requirement that the highest-ranking supervisor on duty must be called to the scene of all DUI incidents and that no officer would report off-duty until his or her reports are complete,” according to Auto Week.

France has also been accused of checking into a Betty Ford Clinic for drug rehab by Jack Flowers in his book, The Dirt Under the Asphalt: An Underground History of Stock Car Racing.

How big a blow is this for NASCAR given its struggle to fill the stands lately? And should this motivate the France family to sell NASCAR despite their unwillingness to do so?

Headline 6: Wake Forest Assistant Basketball Coach on Leave after Punching Man who Died upon Impact with Ground

Wake Forest assistant basketball coach Jamill Jones was charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and was subsequently placed on leave by the university. Jones turned himself in on Thursday after punching a man in the face early Sunday. The man died from injuries sustained upon impact with the ground. Jones was released on his own recognizance.

Sandor Szabo was treated for fractures to the left side of his face and the rear of his skull, along with bleeding of the brain. He was taken off life support Tuesday afternoon. The confrontation in question might have been a result of Szabo drunkenly knocking on car windows in the early hours of the morning.    

There’s certainly another “wrongful death” lawsuit here, although I almost blame Jones less for the death of Szabo than I do Maryland’s Durkin and Court in the death of McNair. 

Historically Foul Play

It’s time for Historically Foul Play, when we go back in time and examine foul play of the past, when DNA evidence made nothing evident because DNA hadn’t been discovered yet.

On August 9, 1905, Ty Cobb’s mother, Amanda Cobb, was arrested on charges of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Cobb’s father, William Herschel Cobb. Amanda said she thought her husband was an intruder trying to enter their home through the bedroom window when she shot him twice. But there had been rumors in town that William suspected his wife of infidelity and had unexpectedly returned home late that evening when she believed him to be out of town.

Cobb would make his Major League debut three weeks later, appearing in 41 games and hitting just .240 with a .588 OPS at the age of 18. It was the only season Cobb would hit below .300 in his 24-year career. His mother was ultimately acquitted in 1906, and in 1907, Cobb went on to lead the majors in hits, runs batted in, stolen bases, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, obviously, OPS+ and total bases. Seems that was a big weight of Cobb’s shoulders, eh Mike?

Statistically Significant Foul Play

Alright, let’s get statistical and make some informed inferences in a segment we call Statistically Significant Foul Play, where we do an analysis of statistics indicative of foul play.

Foul Play-by-Play, its hosts, nor its partners practice nor condone the accusatory promulgation of foul play by athletes for the sake of the hot take. Cheats are innocent until proven guilty. That said, in this case of statistically significant foul play, I’d like to admit into evidence the following significant statistics indicating foul play.

Amongst the top 10 players in Major League Baseball when it comes to being hit by pitches, the Tampa Bay Rays have three, including the league leader, Carlos Gomez, with 18. C.J. Cron has been plunked 14 times and Daniel Robertson has taken 13 for the team.

The Rays’ 74 hit batters is seven more than the second-place Texas Rangers and 51 more than the last-place Minnesota Twins. 

I’m not calling the defendants cheats. I’m just sayin’ the statistics are significant indicators of foul play. I trust the jurors will make the right decision and find the defendant guilty of foul play given the evidence. I rest my case.

Worst Instances of Foul Play in Films Linked to Sports

Mike and I have each ranked films featuring both foul play and sports, with the highest ranked film featuring the most foul play in a film featuring sports. These aren’t sports movies featuring foul play, mind you. These are movies with instances of foul play that have a link to sports, however flimsy that link may be.

For instance, the Matt Damon trifecta would be:

3) Good Will Hunting, in which Matt Damon and the late, great Robin Williams reenact Carlton Fisk’s home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The foul play, of course, is Will Hunting assaulting a police officer, with the most foul play being Will’s pushing away of Skylar.

2) Stuck On You, in which Damon’s Bob Tenor and Greg Kinnear’s Walt Tenor play goalie in an adult hockey league as conjoined twins. They’re also a good golfer and caddy combo, a switch-pitching pitcher in baseball, a terror in a boxing ring, and not bad on the tennis court, either. They’re also Martha’s Vineyard legends for their high school football legacies. The foul play in this one is Bob’s DUI resulting from Greg’s excessive drinking in order to convince his brother to have a surgery to separate them.

1) The Rainmaker, in which a softball bat is the preferred weapon of Kelly Riker’s abusive husband, whom Damon kills with said bat in self defense.

Anthony’s Top Three Films featuring Foul Play and Sports

3) The Naked Gun: Ricardo Montalban brainwashes a baseball player to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, but Leslie Nielsen goes undercover as an umpire with a generous strike zone and emphatic third-strike calls to “get his man.”

2) A Few Good Men: Tom Cruise thinks better with his bat, and he plays softball while negotiating a plea deal with Kevin Bacon. The most foul play is Jack Nicholson covering up his involvement in the death of a Marine.

1) The Fan: A San Francisco Giants superfan and knife salesman played by Robert De Niro is thrilled to have Wesley Snipes join the team, but his early performance leaves much to be desired. So the fan solves the problem by murdering the Giants’ player wearing Snipes’s lucky number 11. While stalking Snipes, De Niro saves his son from drowning, only to kidnap him and hold him hostage until he gets some appreciation, despite Snipes being unaware of the fan’s criminal contributions. 

Published in Sports

There’s no secret as to which companies sponsor which drivers in NASCAR. It’s advertised all over the cars and drivers. NASCAR drivers aren’t bashful when it comes to endorsing their sponsors either, and race fans can easily see the companies that support them. Politicians should be no different. In fact, they should be just as eager to do so at the podium as NASCAR drivers are on victory lane. They should wear the logos of their campaign contributors with pride, stitched into their thousand-dollar suits, and they should proudly thank every one of them in their victory and concession speeches. Like NASCAR drivers, politicians wouldn’t be where they are without their campaign contributors. That’s why I’m proposing the Non-individual And Super-PAC Contributions Advertising Requirement, or N.A.S.C.A.R. Act, to end all that secrecy, and force politicians to reveal who paid for their campaign.


This was originally published at Grandstand Central.


Much has been made of the need for transparency with regards to campaign contributions in American elections, but not much has been done. Sure, there are organizations and journalists reporting from where the “dark money” comes, but few media outlets are reporting those stories and even fewer voters are reading or watching them when they are reported. The result is a record-number of Americans — 36 percent, according to an October 2017 poll by the General Social Survey — being ashamed of the way democracy works in America.

Even if you wanted to know who gave what to whom, the research is time-consuming, relatively un-revealing and you have to trust the number-crunchers and fact-checkers did their jobs. But you still couldn’t determine the amount a super PAC spent on a television advertisement in support of a politician’s specific agenda item like abortion. We’re lucky to have projects like OpenSecrets to reveal campaign contributors to the Americans who discover and believe their research to be accurate, but the American people shouldn’t have to search for that information because major campaign contributors shouldn’t be secrets.

Americans need to see who (and it is “who” since corporations are people by law) is most responsible for electing their elected officials, and the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act would require elected officials to display all non-individual campaign contributions on their person when in view of the public — whether that’s on television, in-person or even on vacation.

Since elected officials are public figures and celebrities of sorts, they are always representative of their office, regardless of whether they’re on the clock or not. When a politician commits sexual assault, he or she doesn’t get a pass because it happened outside the office or during off-duty hours. This form of public shaming would make elected officials think twice about taking money from just anyone or any one organization, and it would make corporations consider the consequences of supporting specific candidates, solving some of America’s campaign finance fiasco.

A majority of Americans support campaign finance reform, according to an August 2017 Ipsos Poll on behalf of the Center for Public Integrity, and almost half of those polled opposed the Citizens United decision that made corporations people and money free speech. “Given the chance to change the campaign finance system, a majority of Americans (57%) would place limits on the amount of money super PACs can raise and spend.” But there already are limits on the amount of money PACs can raise and spend, and super PACs are simply a means for wealthy individuals to give candidates more than the $2,700 limit per election without violating federal law.

PAC stands for Political Action Committee, and it’s how corporations and nonprofit organizations, including churches, funnel millions of dollars into elections without directly contributing to candidates’ campaigns, which would violate federal law. While super PACs cannot contribute directly to a politician’s campaign, they can produce commercials and advertising in support of a particular politician’s platform or agenda, or more commonly, against the platform or agenda of a particular politician’s opponent.

PACs, on the other hand, can contribute directly to politicians’ campaigns, and while that amount is limited, it’s still a means for corporations to buy elections. More than 39 percent of House Democrats’ 2018 election funding came from PACs, 43 percent of House Republicans’ funding came from PACs and more than 32 percent of Senate Republicans’ funding came from PACs.

Toyota, a Japanese company, used its PAC to spend nearly half a million dollars supporting 36 Senate candidates and 155 House representatives in the 2018 federal elections. So are those 191 elected officials inclined to represent the interests of the constituents who made individual donations, or the constituents who voted for them, or do their jobs quite literally depend on them doing as Toyota and their other corporate donors demand?

While the total of individual campaign contributions was more than the total of PAC contributions in the 2018 federal elections, the majority of those individual campaign contributions were made by businessmen and businesswomen on behalf of their respective businesses.

Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager, was the biggest campaign contributor in 2018, supporting Democrats with nearly $30 million. Second in campaign contributions was Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, of U-Line, Inc. They supported Republicans with nearly $27 million. The only actual individual on the list who’s not a representative of a business is Deborah Simon, who is described as a “philanthropist” and made nearly $4.5 million in contributions to Democrats.

The premise of the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act is simple: any campaign contribution to a candidate through a PAC, or any super PAC contribution from which the candidate clearly benefits must be revealed by the candidate, with the largest contributions being most visible on their person when in view of the public.

Instead of Robert Mercer being able to hide his hedge fund firm behind his super PAC supporting Donald Trump, Trump would be required to wear a Renaissance Technologies logo on his chest or higher (so television cameras pick it up) in a size proportional to the $13.5 million in contributions he received from Mercer when compared to the candidate’s total campaign contributions. Whether that would keep Mercer from contributing in the future depends on what he thinks Trump’s actions will cost him and his company by “sponsoring” the candidate. So both the sponsor and the “driver” have to consider the risk their political-business relationship could have on the politician’s ability to keep his job and the sponsor’s ability to sell its product or service.

The same goes for Sheldon and Miriam Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who contributed $10 million to Trump’s campaign. Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment contributed $6 million. Co-founder and former CEO of Home Depot, Bernard Marcus, contributed $7 million, and even though he’s retired, Home Depot would still be advertised on Trump’s person given Marcus’s 3.8-percent ownership stake in the company.

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who apologized for comparing NFL players to inmates when discussing the anthem protests with owners and then only regretted the apology because he wasn’t referring to players but NFL office executives, gave $2 million to a pro-Trump super PAC. So the Texans logo would be affixed to Trump’s suit jackets under the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act. He wasn’t the only NFL owner who contributed to Trump either. He and seven other owners donated $7.25 million to Trump’s inauguration fund, but those donations aren’t campaign contributions and wouldn’t apply under the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act.

I have shared this bill, the full text of which you can find below, with multiple Congresspeople and have received no responses. But Harvard Law Professor and author of Republic, Lost, Lawrence Lessig, was most gracious and thanked me for my work “for a functioning republic.”

“I’m afraid I don’t think this brilliant hack would be upheld under the 1st amendment, but maybe,” he told Grandstand Central via email on Wednesday. “But more fundamentally, I think our energy has got to be focused on changing the system, not shaming people who live under the current system. There’s no clean private money way to run for Congress or other lower offices. That means we need to change the money.”

So while it’s unlikely the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act reaches the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives, and even more unlikely it be passed and signed into law, it’s a solution politicians should consider exploiting. Even without the law in place, politicians can commit to the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act as a means of expressing their campaign contribution cleanliness.

Politicians shouldn’t need the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act to become law in order to abide by it. If politicians have their constituents’ interests in mind, they would reveal their non-individual, super PAC and PAC contributors without being required to do so by law.

I am a firm believer, along with Lessig, that very little can change in America until campaign finance changes. The N.A.S.C.A.R. Act doesn’t stop corporations and billionaires from buying elections, but it would reveal to the American public who bought the elections. It’s not victory lane, but it’s at least a fast start from the pole position. America just needs one driver to put on that suit jacket littered with logos and lead the rest of the honest drivers who are proud of their sponsors but know it’s all about the fans in the stands.


The Non-individual And Super-PAC Contributions Advertising Requirement, or N.A.S.C.A.R. Act
A politician’s non-individual, PAC, and super PAC campaign contributions must be visible on his or her person while in view of the public.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE CONGRESS HERE ASSEMBLED THAT:

SECTION 1. Every elected official in service of the United States of America make every non-individual campaign contribution from which they benefited in the previous election or stand to benefit since, visible on his or her person at all times while in view of the public, and proportional in size to indicate the percentage of total campaign contributions for the election cycle. Violators will subject themselves to recall elections if so petitioned by their constituents.

SECTION 2. A non-individual, campaign contribution is either a contribution not from an individual or contributions by an individual in an amount exceeding the $2,700 individual limit per election. This includes donations from political action committees (PACs) and super PACs.

SECTION 3. Campaign contributions made by PACs formed by heads of corporations, LLCs, or nonprofit organizations will be represented on the politician’s person by the logo of the corporation, LLC, or nonprofit organization responsible for the formation of the PAC. The PAC founder need not be an employee of the corporation, LLC, or nonprofit organization, but must simply stand to benefit from the corporation’s, LLC’s, or nonprofit organization’s success resulting from poltical influence.

SECTION 4. The Federal Election Commission will oversee the enforcement of the bill along with the specific enforcement mechanism.

SECTION 5. This law will take effect two weeks after its passage to allow politicians ample time to properly display their non-individual, campaign contributors.

SECTION 6. All laws in conflict with this legislation are hereby declared null and void.

Introduced for Congressional Debate by ______.

Published in Opinion