The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Dr. Jones & Mr. Pacman

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To everyone's consternation and no ones surprise, Adam "Pac Man" Jones was back in the public black-eye again this week. He was involved in an altercation with his own body guard, provided and paid for by his employer the Dallas Cowboys. The Pac Man Jones situation is unique in so many ways due to the player's inability to conform to social norms, his incredible talent and the Cowboys insatiable desires to win the Super Bowl.

When Adam Jones entered college he was a talented young man with a bright future. At some point he morphed into being "Pac Man" and since bad things seem to follow him around. When he was traded to the Cowboys this past spring and renounced the "Pac Man" moniker, it appeared that he had learned his lesson, had matured and was finally going to live up to his incredibly potential. This week's events may have jeopardized all the positive work and progress.

One red flag was last week when he terminated his agent, Manny Arora. Mr. Arora was the agent who stood by him during his 2007 suspension and the trade to the Cowboys and while I don't know him from Moses, this lack of loyalty by Mr. Jones is a clear warning sign that he is reverting to his previous bad form. While no player or client is locked to any attorney or agent for life, those that have demonstrated incredible loyalty and courage under fire for a client should not be discarded for a new person who is simply making unrealistic promises to him. This new agent will survive with Mr. Jones until some other person makes even greater promises to him, or Mr. Jones self destructs.

However, before any judgment is made as to what actions or penalties Mr. Jones should face from the NFL, the Cowboys and his adoring fans, due process must be allowed to run its course. When dealing with public figures, people too often jump to conclusions without hearing all of the facts. The problem is always that the arrest or incident is often reported on page one with pictures while the acquittal is buried after the funnies on page 50.

All citizens and players are entitled to their due process rights before people rush to judgments. Let time pass and give consideration to all of the facts and circumstances behind the events of this past Tuesday night before passing judgment. It is then important to look at the laws and rules to see if anyone of them were even violated. The mere accusation is not the equivalent of a conviction and two people having an argument is not the same as a full on bar room brawl.

No matter what his past or his record is, Mr. Jones is entitled to his due process. After the investigation there are always two key elements, the legal element and the moral element. In terms of the legal, if it is determined that what transpired was merely an honest disagreement or argument without any violations of the law then all parties move on; hopefully a little wiser from the lessons learned. If a law was broken or a league rule trampled upon, then appropriate action should be taken.

The major problems though is that the NFL disciplinary system is administered by the commissioner's office. Unlike the other three major professional sport leagues (NHL, MLB, and NBA) the appeals for fines and suspensions are not heard by independent arbitrators but by commissioner designees within the commissioner's office. While the gentleman involved are fair and decent people, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest makes this system inherently unfair to players.

It would be highly unlikely, given Mr. Jones' past, the tenor of the message being sent by Roger Goodell and the inherently biased appeal system in place that Mr. Jones would receive a fair and just punishment if he violated any laws.

From a moral perspective, Mr. Jones fiduciaries, friends, family members, coaches and employer must take a close look at the situation to see what went wrong and work out how to fix it. If they truly care about the young man then they must endeavor to help him mature and see the light. Clearly Mr. Jones has demonstrated some anger management issues that need to be addressed and I assume are. This must continue. Mr. Jones also must take responsibility for his actions and be appreciative of the Cowboys for giving him another chance at NFL life, and realize how tentative his hold on it is.

The NFL is a privilege and not a right but even privileges shouldn't taken be away without due process.

By Peter Schaffer  |  October 11, 2008; 11:30 PM ET  | Category:  Crime , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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