ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DOLLAR: NCAA SCANDAL POSES OLD QUESTIONS, NO NEW ANSWERS

BY AASIM CUNNINGHAM

The cat is out of the bag. The FBI blew the top off of a 2-year investigation into corruption in college basketball. The investigation uncovered that at least one multi-national athletic wear company has been sculpting the landscape of NCAA and pro- basketball by disrupting the otherwise pure ecosystem of amateur basketball.

So far, there have been 10 federal indictments, 4 high level coaches charged with crimes, 1 legendary coach fired- sorry, “suspended”, and the athletic director of a Power 5 school being let go. The investigation is not over, thus more blood will likely be drawn, and more heads will roll.

The ecosystem consists of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), youth basketball coaches, skills trainers, high school coaches, student advisors, the student athletes, and anyone else one could imagine contributing to the success of an emerging star. As opposed to bribing players directly, Jim Gatto -formerly of Adidas- infiltrated the recruiting process by instead bribing players’ advisors to persuade them to attend certain collegiate programs outfitted by Adidas.

Those truly immersed in the hoops world are shocked not by the actual events, but by the fact that they have finally been exposed. The NCAA’s response will be so anti-climactically predictable. They will draw as little blood as possible from the true culprits, while protecting their pockets. But rather than crying over spilled milk, it’s more productive to discuss real solutions to this problem.

The front running solution? Paying the players. This idea was considered blasphemous until 15 years ago, when UCLA legend Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA to be compensated for its use of his collegiate-self image and likeness in video games; more recently, the Northwestern University football program attempted to unionize as employees in order to negotiate compensation for playing football at NU. O’Bannon represents a move towards retroactive compensation, while Northwestern pushed the action for compensation while still in school. Neither won outright, but you have to start somewhere!

The hate is strong with the opposition, although we can all agree it is not completely unjustified. College students, in general, are not the most mature demographic and so it is not far-fetched that lacing a student who has an inflated ego, living in a bubbled-up college environment, with cash as reward for their superior athletic talents could yield some unfavorable results. Yet O’Bannon touches on something that is not quite so abrasive.

Currently, the NCAA prohibits its athletes from using their own name, affiliation with the school, or reputation as an athlete in order to be compensated. In essence, there is a ban against NCAA athletes using their good will or reputation to be compensated. But why? A music student at a top music school can take what they have learned from the professor, post a song on YouTube, and solicit him or herself in any manner they choose to make a profit. 

So why not let NCAA players reap the same benefit? The result in letting the young buggers earn some dough off of their good names is unknown. What we do know is that there are very few businesses that profit from their reputation that didn’t bust some tail in order to earn it. We also know that the NCAA is extremely sensitive to opening these floodgates to players, as evidenced when, after his YouTube page generated a following of more than half a million views, University of Central Florida football player Donald De La Haye was forced to shut down his thriving YouTube page or lose his eligibility.

Perhaps paying players presents a potential moral hazard, and the Trojan defense that the NCAA will continue to put up against the movement might point smart money on conceding that there is an easier path. Besides, one must decide whether or not we want to get rid of the problem or to correct the behavior, because legalizing the otherwise “reprehensible” behavior merely creates an arms race. Throwing money at the problem would only patch up a wound, or stop the coughing, but it will not provide a cure. 

So where does this leave us? There is a system in college athletics where every single person in the system can be compensated except for the player -the entertainer-, the main event! History has shown us that the establishment won’t change unless the change is necessary. As it stands, the amateur basketball industry produces $11 billion a year, and the player’s piece of the pie is a shot at pursuing a degree that is losing value year over year, really cool gear, and the opportunity to be the big dog on campus for a few years. The legal term for this sort of quid pro quo might be called“inadequate consideration”, or an unfair trade.

The cure must come from within. College basketball needs some ‘Tussin! Back to the basics! The basic tenants of competing for the NCAA are that you must be a student, and you must be an athlete. So why isn’t there any focus on teaching the student-athlete what their value is to this ecosystem? Bill Russell once said so prophetically to Uncle Drew, “This game has always been, and will always be about one thing… buckets!” What if players were taught the type of web that begins to be spun once they score a bucket or dish an assist at a nationally-acclaimed AAU tournament? What if they were equipped with a sound understanding of the wheels that are set in motion once they are identified as a prospect of interest? What if they understood why they were a prospect of interest? For the pariahs, it’s about money, but for the players, it’s about productivity- getting it done. This creates the economy of macro and micro basketball economics.  In order for players to steer clear from the inappropriate influences, they should understand both.

I am a firm believer that a rising high school star can learn cost-benefit analysis. Let’s say a teenager known as a scorer on the top AAU circuit, who averages 20 ppg, is being recruited by several schools from several different conferences.  Between AAU, YouTube, and social media, it is very likely that our scorer knows of similar players who are going, or who have gone, through the recruiting process. In deciding which conference to focus on, the scorer should know that, based on draft results from the last decade, if he can rank amongst the top 3 scorers in the Big 10 conference, and he finishes his season with a winning record -both in and out of conference-, and he averages at least 17.5 ppg, then he has a 100% chance of being drafted. In addition, he should know that the average points scored by the top 3 scorers during the past decade is approximately 18.3 ppg.

Likewise, in order to be drafted from the Big 12 as a scorer, he should know that the average production from the top 3 scorers in that conference over the same period of time is 19.4 ppg. Drafters are more forgiving in the Big 12, with the 4th or 5th highest scorer regularly being selected, but there is much more redundancy in the Big 12 with respect to the stat leaders being ahead in multiple statistical categories- more versatility. It is not all about scoring, but scoring is the easiest example to use to illustrate the point.

Our scorer should look at how older players with similar stats have fared in the recruiting process, and how the players performed at their respective schools. Our scorer can compare his peers’ productivity in AAU and high school to how they perform in college and decide whether or not it is feasible to hit those magic numbers.

The above example considers the productivity required as a scorer to be drafted to the NBA. We have not discussed that, despite a scorer needing to score and win games in order to be drafted by the best league in the world, 100% of the top scorers that were on losing teams in the Big 10 were able to land top-paying international jobs. It’s not seven figures, but six figures ain’t bad!

Youth players should be able to weigh their probabilities based on production against the threat of being the target of an FBI or NCAA investigation, and make a good decision. Likewise, a player should be able to do the numbers on the value of their production as an amateur, and decide whether they would be able to let their profitability sit for 3-4 years as a college player.  If they decide they cannot park their stock, then there are plenty of international leagues that presumably would be chomping at the bit to pay up ASAP.

This is a great deal of data to digest, so it is beyond unrealistic to expect millennials to put forth this sort of due diligence, but there are resources out there as accessible as Twitter and Snapchat to help. One start-up company, Global Sports Analytics, LLC., is a sports management company that is predicated upon assessing a player’s value based on market demand for their skill set and advanced data-metrics.

Exploring GSA’s platform and process illustrates that a radical value reform in youth players is much more attainable than it now seems. The GSA platform weighs the player strengths and weaknesses in an algorithm, taking into account the differences in pace of play and style of play from one league to another, to generate a player rating called the “M-Score”. Essentially, the M-Score is a player rating system similar to the one that kids are familiar with from NBA 2K or NBA Live, but for real life.

Let’s leave off with LBJ.  As a teenager, LeBron realized his value as a basketball player at 18 years of age was worth more than a college degree would have been worth 4 years down the line. LeBron James is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, but it’s worth noting that Brandon Jennings similarly realized that his value as an international player after high school was worth more than his degree would be worth after collegiate athletics. No scandals, no handlers, just pure basketball. Instead of scaring players into submission from taking a leap of faith on their talents with stories of players who left the NCAA behind too quickly, such as Lenny Cooke and Sebastian Telfair, let’s arm them with the information needed to defend themselves against the talons of the NCAA, and all other predators of the game.

IMMIGRATION, REFORM, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our home being “land of the free”, and we broadcast the idea of living the dream- the “American dream”, that is, having a nice home on with a white picket fence, darling children, and a golden retriever in the yard. We advertise this as the American way and encourage the rest of the world to do the same. Yet, when others travel from their home countries to find this dream for themselves, many are denied. As a result, many people cross borders without inspection and remain in the U.S. on undocumented status.

What can the U.S. do to gain better control of this problem? Back in November of 2014, President Barack Obama implemented new and innovative forms of relief for immigrants in the United States who were otherwise subject to deportation. Many had been living in the United States for many years, raising families and giving birth to U.S. citizens, as well as working hard, paying taxes, and building their dreams.

President Barack Obama’s immigration reform consists of three simple methods for the U.S. to regulate immigration in more efficient manner than the previous, outdated standing policies. First, President Obama sought to increase activity within border patrol units to safely secure our borders. Secondly, to allow immigrants without criminal backgrounds to apply for U.S. citizenship. Lastly, to create a system of security by implementing routine background checks to promote safety in U.S. communities.

Although these proposals seem manageable, some don't believe they will work; this indecision is reflected in the United States’ Supreme Court’s stance on the issue as well. The Court recently voted on the President’s immigration reforms and were unable to reach a decision, with the vote being split with a 4-4. This Court’s standstill could result in up to 4 million immigrants being deported back to their home countries, without consideration for how long they have lived in the U.S. or if they have U.S.-born children.

Does the Supreme Court’s standstill affect you or your loved ones? If so, each case and client is unique, and the immigration attorneys at SmithLopezCunningham LLP will assess your individual circumstance to provide you with the most fitting legal options available.

INMIGRACIÓN, LA REFORMA Y EL SUEÑO AMERICANO

Como Americanos, nos enorgullecemos que nuestro país es "tierra de la libertad", y transmitimos la idea de vivir el "sueño americano", que es, tener una casa linda con una cerca blanca, queridos hijos, y un mascota en el patio. Anunciamos esto como la manera americana y animamos al resto del mundo a hacer lo mismo. Sin embargo, cuando los demás viajan desde sus países de origen para encontrar este sueño por sí mismos, muchos son negados. Como resultado, muchas personas cruzan las fronteras sin inspección y permanecen en los EE.UU. en condición de indocumentados.

¿Qué puede hacer los EE.UU. para obtener mejor control de este problema? En noviembre de 2014 el presidente Barack Obama implementó nuevas e innovadoras formas de alivio para los inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos que eran de otro modo sujetos a la deportación. Muchos habían estado viviendo en los Estados Unidos durante muchos años, formando familias y dando a luz a ciudadanos estadounidenses, como también trabajando duro, pagando impuestos y construyendo sus sueños.

La reforma migratoria del presidente Barack Obama consiste en tres simples métodos para que los EE.UU. regule la inmigración de manera más eficiente que las políticas anteriores. Primero, el Presidente Obama trató de aumentar la actividad con las unidades de la patrulla fronteriza para garantizar seguridad de nuestras fronteras. Segundo, propuso permitir a los inmigrantes sin antecedentes penales aplicar por la ciudadanía Americana. Por ultimo, presentó la implementación de controles rutinas de chequear antecedentes criminales para promover la seguridad en las comunidades.

Aunque estas propuestas parecen adaptables, algunos no creen que van a funcionar; esta indecisión se refleja en la postura de la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos. La Corte recientemente votó en las reformas de inmigración del presidente y fueron incapaces de llegar a una decisión, con el voto dividido un 4-4. El paro de esta Corte podría resultar en hasta 4 millones de inmigrantes siendo deportados a sus países de origen, sin tomar en cuenta el tiempo que han vivido en los EE.UU. o si tienen hijos nacidos en EE.UU.

 

¿Te afecta a ti o a tus seres queridos el paro de la Corte Suprema? Si es así, cada caso y cliente es único, y los abogados de inmigración en SmithLopezCunningham LLP evaluarán sus circunstanciasm personales para ofrecerle las opciones legales más adecuadas.

Immigration and the 2016 Presidential Election

By: Nick Ustaski

The 2016 United States Presidential election is going to be one of the most interesting elections in recent years not only because there is an abundance of interesting candidates, but because there is really no distinctive frontrunner for either political party at this point in time. GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has probably made the biggest splash in both the news and talks of possible presidential candidates, particularly his comments about immigration to the United States from Mexico. Since the initial settlements in North America centuries ago, immigration has and always will be a representation and part of the United States and its history. Every American has immigrant ancestry and the question in most recent years is when does the United States finally block immigration, legals or illegals, into the country completely. Donald Trump has taken a truly radical stand as a presidential candidate when he declared that illegal immigration needs to end and that it is corrupting the United States. Trump believes Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the US because illegal immigrants exploit the system and send millions of dollars back to their country and not using it in the United States. Trump’s policy is based on three center points: building a wall at the Mexican border as a way to increase enforcement, ending birthright citizenship, and prioritizing American workers with restricted legal immigration. There are many that disagree with Trump’s plan, but he has gained some support from others who believe it is time for this change to happen in America. U.S. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama endorsed Trump’s plan and said, “This is exactly what America needs.” Trump’s plan essentially says that immigrants hurt the American economy. The end goal for Trump is to have Americans back at work instead of using foreigners and putting special interests ahead of Americans like many politicians actually do. Trump himself said, “We are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own.” With an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country along with future illegals and legal immigrants, the United States is approaching a crossroads with an issue that will need to be addressed.

Immigrants do of course make the United States such a culturally diverse place to live. Many immigrants come to the United States seeking a fresh start or for many other reasons; each individual has a different reason for wanting to come here. Just like the American ancestors centuries ago, the United States has been a place where people could come and live in peace and be free. Whether it is time for immigration for illegals and legals to end is going to be a heavily debated issue in the near future. Donald Trump has put himself as a GOP frontrunner as a result of his drastic immigration policies it will be interesting to follow how the other candidates respond. Today, the Democratic Party and most of the Republican Party have abandoned American workers in favor of special interests and seek cheap foreign labor, Trump is arguing to change that. Whether the majority of American citizens agree will be decided in the next several months and mostly importantly on Election day, November 8th, 2016.

Thank you for visiting our firm’s website in which we do specialize in immigration law and following my legal blog posts this summer.

- Nick Ustaski

 

The Wrigley Field Rooftops and the Chicago Cubs: Can Their Legal Issues Be Resolved?

By Nick Ustaski

July 31, 2015

When a person visits the city of Chicago or the Chicagoland area, Wrigley Field is often a destination many tourists and locals continue to go see not only because it houses a professional baseball organization, but because of its historic values. Wrigley Field was first built in 1914 as Weeghman Park and in 1916 became the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. In 1927, Wrigley Gum company owner William Wrigley purchased the field and team and the rest is history. Unfortunately for the Cubs and many fans, this history has not been a good one as the Cubs have not won a world series since 1908 and Wrigley Field has never won a world series at all.  Flash forward to the 2000’s; both the city of Chicago and the Cubs are a hot spot and popular destination. The area surrounding Wrigley Field is now called Wrigleyville and has become a famous neighborhood in Chicago. Having a professional baseball team play in one of your neighborhoods is a unique aspect to Chicago, but to have Wrigleyville surround the field is something truly special. Another unique aspect to Wrigley Field and the topic of this legal discussion is the Wrigleyville Rooftops because there is truly nothing like in the rest of sports. In no other sport or baseball field are there rooftops that are so high outside a stadium that allows spectators to watch from outside the baseball field itself. It is truly a historic site to see these buildings surround the field, which makes Wrigley field so special and unique. Since 1914, people have come to Wrigley Field not even as Cubs fans to watch a game and just to take in the experience either sitting inside Wrigley or watching from outside the stadium in the rooftops. However in 2002, the first steps to make major changes to Wrigley Field began forever altering “the friendly confines”, a nickname given to the field for its welcome attitude of all fans.

In 2002, the Chicago Cubs organization filed a lawsuit against the different owners and facilities of the Wrigleyville Rooftops for copyright infringement. Since these owners and operators charged admission for fans to use their facilities and to watch the games, the Cubs asserted that the rooftop operators were essentially stealing a copyrighted Major League Baseball game. Eventually in 2004, many of the rooftop owners settled with the Cubs and agreed to pay a percentage of their gross income for the Cub’s official endorsement. When the Rickett’s family, the Cubs current owners, purchased the team they decided it was finally time to make upgrades to the historic Wrigley Field and bring it into the modern era. This year 2015 was a great change for those who live in the Wrigleyville area and for Cubs’ fans as the Rickett’s family themselves purchased more of the rooftop buildings surrounding the stadium. Some of the rooftops owners were ok with selling to Ricketts, as they believe the rooftops are truly an expansion of the field and it is right the Cubs owner’s right owns them. However, the three rooftops privately owned are resisting a buyout. Each of the remaining owners has sued the team in federal court for the recent actions it’s owners have taken. But in today’s sporting world, owners are also looking for a way to expand their team’s revenue. The Cubs for example, are rumored to desire a plaza, nearby hotel, and street fairs similar to those seen around other teams in the MLB. The Cubs have already taken the initial steps of their renovations with fixed up outfield bleachers and for the first time in Wrigley field’s vast history electronic scoreboards in left and right field.

These scoreboards are what have brought this legal issue to national attention. They are so big that they completely block the view of many of the Wrigley Field Rooftop view of the game. This is a smart strategy by the Rickett’s family to cut off potential revenue from the rooftops that they do not control. However, it does also hurt a part of the history of Wrigley Field and its uniqueness. An electronic scoreboard and video board do help bring the field in the modern era, but it does take away apart that made Wrigley Field so special and unique. The rooftop owners have now filed a lawsuit accusing the team of violating the terms and agreement of their revenue-sharing contract and attempting to create a monopoly on the market for Cubs game tickets. This is of course in response to the scoreboards from the Wrigley Field renovation project as mentioned above. The legal debate here has been going on since the initial settlement in 2004, but has recently regained momentum the past few weeks. The rooftop owners believe it is unfortunate that they were forced to take another legal action against the Cubs, but believe that the Wrigley Field renovations are greatly hurting them. In the end, it comes down to money and whether or not the Cubs owners want to continue to change Wrigley Field, altering a baseball field with such rich history and historic past connected to Cubs fans and the city of Chicago.  

 

Same-Sex Marriage and Equality Under The Law

By Nick Ustaski

A few weeks ago the first major Supreme Court landmark decision in the United States since the 1964 passing of the Civil Rights act occurred in the United States when the court decided with a 5-4 vote to grant the right of same-sex couples to marry. The case Obergefell v. Hodges ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex married couples and denial of recognition of the marriages violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. June 26th 2015 will forever be a historic day in United States history and law. Before the Supreme Court decision, 37 states and the District of Colombia had legalized gay marriage, now every American has been granted the right no longer varying state by state. Throughout the United States, cities, people, and groups all celebrated the passage of an act that truly altered human nature and equality in the United States. Parades and celebrations in cities like San Francisco, Washington D.C., and our very own Chicago made national headlines and showed how much support and happiness the act’s passage has caused. The Supreme Court justices, who voted on the decision, each had various opinions on the issue, but in the end it received a majority vote. The same sex marriage debate has grown in popularity in the recent years. President Barack Obama called the decision a victory for America. With this good news for those who consider themselves a same-sex couple, there is of course opposition. Many of the religious churches see same-sex marriage as a violation of their churches’ beliefs, while other Americans are strongly opposed to the idea. From a legal standpoint, this decision not only affects a same-sex couples’ right to marry, but truly alters the legal field for cases like this. With the legalization of gay marriage, those who identify under it are now legally protected and open to the same benefits as a male-female married couple. 

Same-sex couples receiving these benefits need to be treated exactly as a couple who is male and female. The legal field will now have to accept these individuals’ newly granted federally protected rights and alter how the situations are approached. These new benefits can range from employment, tax differentials, and many more. For example, employers will now have to review all of their benefit plans to ensure compliance with the new applicable federal law. How this issue proceeds in the future could drastically change many fields of law and employment. After years of case law starting in the 1970’s, the U.S. Supreme Court, like it has done in the past, were the ones who ultimately made the decision on how the issue affects the United States. With the ruling, American social society will be altered and the future of this issue and conflicts that arise from it are a topic that will forever be connected with the law.

 

THE CONFERDERATE FLAG AND ITS LEGAL IMPLICATIONS ON AMERICAN SOCIETY

By Nick Ustaski

It took another domestic incident for United States lawmakers to again spark the serious debate of whether or not southern states should have the legal right to fly the flag of the Confederate States of America. The Confederate States of America was formed in the 1860’s and went to war with the Union creating the most deadly U.S. domestic war in history where literally in some cases “brothers killed brothers”. The United States of America faced its first domestic threat in the U.S. Civil War, a war that was fought over the disagreement in many issues between the northern and southern states particularly the issue of slavery. The Confederate states were dependent on slavery for economic reasons, but it was also a great part of its social and political structure. When the war started in 1861, the Confederacy officially seceded from the United States as a unified, separate state. The Civil War lasted 4 long years, but finally came to an end in 1865 with Robert E. Lee’s surrender to future President Ulysses S. Grant. Days after the surrender, John Wilkes Booth, a southern loyalist assassinated U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s assassination is just one example showing angry that never became resolved from the Civil War. Slavery was legally abolished in 1865 with the passage of the 13th amendment of the U.S. constitution. Racism and African American civil rights were a topic that dominated the 19th and 20th centuries, the peak being the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. All of these social and political turmoil’s whether it being racism, hate crime, southern beliefs, or white supremacy each still play a prevalent role in an ever changing American society.  

Last week a man who claimed to be a white supremacist innocently murdered members of an historic African American church. This incident made nationwide news and sparked outrage throughout the United States from people of all races. The shooting incident stirred much debate in the past few days about the uses of the confederate flag, as the flag was present at the shooting and the gunman associated himself with it. This debate includes questions like: should people have the right to display the symbol of the anti-bellum flag and is it legal to do so? The freedom of speech protection provided by the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution makes it so that American people can have the confederate flag on their own property. Whether the flag can be displayed in a public space is an entire different legal argument.  The legality of having a confederate flag in public areas depends upon whether the public space is designated as a public form, limited public forum, or nonpublic forum. The U.S. government can only intervene in this issue if it achieves significant government interest. However, it is ultimately up to the individual states to determine whether they believe they flag should be displayed in public spaces. In 2000 for example, civil rights activists lobbied to have the confederate flag removed from the capital building in South Carolina. South Carolina is a state that has great pride in its confederate history and ancestry. Another piece of legal legislation, the South Carolina Heritage Act made it so Confederate history and historical elements could not be removed.

The South Carolina example above shows that many southern states wish to have the Confederacy remembered as part of their state’s history and it is not a right of the U.S. federal government to take away that right. The Confederacy, despite its bad implications, it still a part of the United States history. This is what angers many southerners in the debate of the use of the flag. Why should the south have to take away a part of their ancestry after all isn’t the U.S. supposed to be a “united” states of America? From a historical perspective, the flag should remain under its current restrictions and legislations, however the flag does anger many African Americans and civil rights activists even to this day. Some African Americans may see the flag as a reminder of their ancestors history as slaves and a gruesome war that finally lead to the legal abolition of slavery in the United States. Many white supremacist southerners may use the Confederate flag to represent the old south, a time where the white race dominated and viewed the African American not as equals, but as slaves. Some white southerners may even feel disgraced by the flag; it is really up for interpretation. Seeing the flag still flown today (no less on a state capitol building) continues to anger individuals and the murders of innocent African American this week again sparked the heat of this debate. Current South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley radically changed the Confederate Flag debate when she called for the flag’s removal from the capitol just days ago. South Carolina is one of the strongest states in its history that has favored the use of the flag to represent Southern heritage.  It will take two thirds of the state legislature to agree and approve to remove the flag from the capitol and move it to another appropriate location. Whether this issue can be agreed upon is something to watch in the next few weeks. If South Carolina changes its Confederate flag legal policies, than many other southern states are likely to follow. This debate more interestingly will probably carry into the 2016 Presidential election and become a major topic of discussion, as it is an issue that literally divides the country.

The Civil War created a divide in the United States and the repercussions of that divide are still a ripple effect in American society today. President Obama himself and his administration believe that the Confederate flag has a place in America and that place is in a museum not being displayed everyday to the American public. Whatever is ultimately decided in this debate will have to be decided by a court of law.

FROM A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS AND CHICAGO CUBS - PLAYER SALARIES AND THE EFFECT ON WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS

SmithLopezCunningham sports law

By Nick Ustaski

On June 15th 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lighting and won their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 seasons. In the salary cap era of the National Hockey League this has never been done before and the Chicago Blackhawks, to many, are being called a dynasty. Winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks have established themselves as the most recently successful sports team in the city of Chicago. Unlike the Blackhawks, the Chicago Cubs have failed to win a major championship in Major League Baseball. The Cubs have not made the MLB playoffs since the 2008 season and -most importantly- have not won a World Series championship since 1908. The Cubs not winning a baseball championship in 105 years is an embarrassing record for a professional sports team. With the recent success of the Blackhawks and failures of the Cubs, it is interesting to examine both teams’ salary/payroll structures as established by their various leagues and see how much each of their players are making and its effect on winning.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL is under a salary cap system, which is strictly adhered to by teams in the National Hockey League. The cap also changes every year depending on the value of the Canadian and American dollar.  For the 2014-2015 NHL season, the cap was $69 million with the league floor minimum being $51 million. For next year’s season, 2015-2016, Commissioner Gary Bettman has not released an actual number for the salary cap, but it is estimated at $73 million. For a team like the Blackhawks, this presents a big legal problem. The Blackhawks top players, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have matching contracts with a $10.5 million a year deal, while there are other players like Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith each in the $5+ million range. These six players alone, for example, take up $40 million of the salary, half of the salary the hawks have available for next season. The Blackhawks, as a professional hockey team, are obligated by law to adhere to the rules of the salary cap system. With six players taking up so much space, the Blackhawks general manager will have to be creative to keep his core group of players together as well as working on resigning players, such as Brandon Saad, to a larger contract extension. Saad is a restricted free agent and, unless he is signed to a new contract sheet, he will be subject to arbitration. At arbitration, both sides present their requested amounts to a third party who ultimately makes the decision of how much that player makes. As you can see from this information, the Blackhawks will likely have a few new faces on the roster next season when attempting to win their 4th cup in 7 years and continue to be a dynasty.

The Chicago Cubs and MLB have no salary cap, which makes it interesting to compare the Cubs and Blackhawks and their recent success in their own sports. The highest-paid players on the Cubs are Jon Lester, who takes home $20 million a year, and Miguel Montero, who makes $12 million per year. Even though the Cubs’ payroll is only the 12th-highest payroll the MLB at $116,264,024, the players have made and continue to make more than those on the Blackhawks today. Yet the highest-paid players on the ‘Hawks, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, for example, each have 3 Stanley Cup rings, while there is no member currently on the Cubs who was even on the 2008 playoff Cubs roster. The Cubs have entered a rebuilding stage and some argue they have copied the model created by the Blackhawks of building through the draft and signing players in free agency for the right price. If this trend continues, the Cubs -in theory- should continue to get better and better and finally bring the city of Chicago a championship from a baseball team on the north side. The Blackhawks will have to make adjustments to their roster because of salary cap issues, but if they are a true dynasty they will continue to succeed and keep winning championships for the city of Chicago.

The New Immigrant- Effects of the Executive Action

On November 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the country and finally delivered on his long outstanding commitment to “fix the broken immigration system.”  However, he had to do so under his presidential authority to take Executive Action, which does not offer the same protections as laws that are passed by Congress.  This was a measure taken by the President after the House of Representatives refused to vote on an immigration bill that was passed by the Senate nearly a year and a half ago.  Based on the initiatives of the Executive Action, projections show that approximately 4.9 million undocumented individuals may be eligible for lawful status that were not previously eligible. 

The initiatives include the following: 1) expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by eliminating the restriction on individuals over the age of 31 and pushing back the continuous residence in the U.S. requirement to January 1, 2010 ; 2) creating a new program called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability for parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who have resided in the country continuously since January 1, 2010 and are not a priority for removal; and 3)  expanding the provisional waiver of unlawful presence to include spouses, sons or daughters of lawful permanent residents and sons and daughters of U.S. citizens to be eligible for a provisional waiver if a visa is available.

The actions taken by the President have caused controversy in the media and received extensive criticism by members of the Republican party who insist that the president’s actions exceeded the scope of his authority and were unconstitutional.  There have been threats to block funding of the programs and challenge the executive action in the Supreme Court.

 History shows that numerous presidents in the past have taken executive action to address immigration issues, many in an attempt to keep families together.  The major difference of President Obama’s action is that it targeted a historically large number of undocumented individuals who will qualify for a work permit and deferred action for a period of three years.

For those who benefit from the initiative to expand the program for the provisional waiver of unlawful presence, the action will provide an easier path to lawful permanent residence because they will not have to depart the country in order to apply.    Importantly, the Executive Action will also clarify the meaning of “extreme hardship” that must be demonstrated for approval of a waiver, which has been a highly scrutinized term that has caused many families to be torn apart.  Given the goals of the executive action it is likely that the clarification of extreme hardship will lead to a higher number of waiver approvals. 

So the question remains did President Obama do anything to fix the immigration system? The short, but complicated answer is, yes.  He took action that will result in more undocumented individuals obtaining lawful permanent resident status through the provisional waiver.  He also took action that will result in thousands of individuals who are currently in removal proceedings to be eligible for relief who would have otherwise been deported.  This will result in the unity of more families, the ability of undocumented individuals to obtain a driver’s license and more opportunity to obtain employment. However, the action is not the immigration reform that many had hoped for.  It does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status for those granted deferred action, nor a path to citizenship and the policy could be taken away after President Obama serves his final term.  Overall, this executive action was a major step in the right direction to fix the immigration system.  It will benefit more undocumented individuals than any other action taken by a President in the history of our country and provide more families with economic and social stability.

Loved One Detained By Immigration? Here's What You Need To Know.

If your loved one has recently been detained by immigration authorities the first issue to address is whether he or she is eligible for a bond.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement will assign an immigration officer to the detainee’s case, who will determine whether or not to set a bond.  However, some individuals will not qualify for release from detention because they are ineligible for bond under the Immigration and Nationality Act.  The most common reasons that one would be ineligible for bond include: felony conviction for crime involving moral turpitude, conviction for a drug or firearm offense, or conviction for a violent crime.

If mandatory detention does not apply then ICE can set a bond, or refuse to issue a bond, and the detainee will usually be calendared for a bond hearing before the Immigration Judge.  Often the bond amount set by ICE will be high, and it will be necessary to request a hearing for bond redetermination before the Immigration Judge.  The length of time for the bond hearing to occur varies, but typically can take one to three weeks.  If you immediately retain an attorney to file a motion for a bond hearing, the hearing is likely to be scheduled sooner. 

At the bond hearing, the detainee will have to demonstrate to the Immigration Judge that they are not a danger to the public and will appear for all scheduled hearings. This can be done by presenting evidence of family ties to dependent lawful residents, employment, and ties to the community. Individuals that are eligible for relief from removal generally have a better chance of receiving a bond.  Having a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, child or immediate relative usually increases one’s chances of being eligible for relief from removal.

The lowest amount of bond that the Immigration Judge can set is $1,500.  Typically, if an individual has convictions for offenses such as Driving Under the Influence, misdemeanor offenses, or multiple offenses for driving without a license, the Immigration Judge may increase the bond amount.  Most local bondsmen do not cover immigration bonds, but there are some that operate nationwide.  They will expect to receive a non-refundable payment of at least 10 to 15 percent of the total bond in addition to sufficient property as collateral to cover the remainder.

Bond hearings are held at the Immigration Court in you region and some are also accessible via televideo conference. The person setting the bond should make sure they are certain that the detainee will appear at all scheduled immigration hearings, because if they fail to appear the bond money will likely be forfeited.  The Immigration Court will return the bond to the individual who posted it at the conclusion of the immigration proceedings or the departure of the detainee.

 Overall, the immigration bond process is complicated and can be intimidating to those who are unfamiliar with the law.  You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to develop a strategy to pursue your loved one’s release.

The Levels of Relationship Scrutiny

 All is not fair in Love and Law....

Hello, everyone! Two of the most confusing things to engage in are the practice of law and romantic relationships. Since these two things (my legal practice and my relationship) are the sources of most of my own personal confusion, I began to think about how they were related started to view my relationship through a Constitutional Law lens, and my girlfriend as the Chief Justice of our Supreme Courtship (isn’t that normally the case?).

 

In “Con Law” (as law students like to call it), there are three levels of scrutiny that courts use to decide the validity of a law in the eyes of the Constitution: rational basis; intermediate scrutiny; and strict scrutiny.

 

When a law’s validity is subject to the rational basis test, the law must be “rationally related” to a legitimate government interest to be held constitutional. So, points A and B should logically lead you to point C. For example, the government deciding to instate a 55mph speed limit on public highways because slower driving will decrease the amount of high-speed accidents. Pretty simple.

 

Likewise, if your significant other judges you under a rational basis level of scrutiny, chances are you have it pretty easy. There isn’t much second-guessing involved in what you are doing and why you are doing it. Essentially, you have the green light to do whatever you want because your reasoning generally makes sense to your partner.

 

Intermediate scrutiny is the second-toughest level of scrutiny. Under this test, a judge decides if a law is constitutional by determining whether the law  is “substantially related” to an “important” purpose (whatever that means). Without getting into semantics, the takeaway from intermediate scrutiny should be that the purpose of the law must be more important than merely legitimate, and the means of achieving that purpose must be more closely related to achieving that goal than only showing some indicia of “rational” logic. A better way to put it would be to say that if there were three roads that all led to the pot of gold, under intermediate scrutiny you cannot pick the scenic route. This type of scrutiny is saved for important issues, like laws that touch upon gender.

 

In a relationship, if your decisions are judged under intermediate scrutiny then this means that your significant other has their eye on you. You still have the benefit of the doubt when push comes to shove, but you better not stray too far away from the line. This may manifest itself in the form of “playing hard to get”, or being questioned as to why you must use their iPad to look up the score, instead of going upstairs to use your own. This level presents a challenge, but not one that’s insurmountable.

 

And -last but not least- there’s strict scrutiny. Under this level of review, the law’s means must be narrowly-tailored to achieve a “compelling” end.  Narrowly-tailored means that the means by which the end is achieved must be the least-restrictive way to achieve that compelling governmental purpose…aka, the only way. This level is very stringent because it is saved for laws that touch on very sensitive issues such as religion, race, ethnicity, and fundamental rights.

 

If your significant other judges your Supreme Courtship using strict scrutiny, then this means you are constantly under a microscope, and you bare the burden of proving that your decisions are the absolute best way of achieving your purpose. Think of your significant other questioning why you drove instead of taking the train, why you chose a blue tie instead of a red one, why you are coming home at 6:45 instead of 6:30. For some people, this type of standard is great for them because it keeps them at the top of their game, but to many this can be an extremely stressful and tiring environment to be in. In a nutshell, if you can operate in strict scrutiny you are either a glutton for abuse or you are one smooth operator. If you recognize you are in this situation and you are neither of those two…RUN!

 

*Please do not confuse this information as legitimate relationship advice, as lawyers are not known for managing relationships well.*