Nader: NFL Suspension is Consumer Fraud

Nader file photoI feel kinda bad for Ralph Nader, the poor guy has become so irrelevant in politics that he has to dive into the niche market of frivolous sports litigation. Overlawyered gives us the low-down on Nader’s new career [via Independent Sources]:

Ralph Nader is arguing that the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to suspend star wide receiver Terrell Owens (for, inter alia, publicly criticizing the team and quarterback, shouting at coaches, a physical altercation with a teammate, and then failing to apologize) is consumer fraud because season-ticket holders had an expectation that Owens would play for the team, which barely lost the Super Bowl last year, and was an early favorite this year.

Ok Nader, you wanna know where you went all stupid with this? You pointed your finger at the Eagles for the suspension instead of holding Terrell Owens responsible for his actions that got him suspended. Simple enough.

Update: Not to be outdone, Jesse Jackson chimes in (because you know… nothing says “I’m serious about politics” than taking cues from Nader). However, I have to somewhat agree with the rev (noted in the comments by kit) on this suprisingly libertarian point:

[…The NFL Players Association] wants the Eagles to cut T.O. if they are not going to reinstate him. I agree. T.O. has publicly apologized. His heart is contrite. If the Philadelphia Eagles’ owners do not find his apology acceptable and no longer aim to maintain an association with him, they should release him to the open market or free agency […]

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. I don’t think Nader or his ilk understand the concept of “personal responsibility.” Of my little unofficial straw poll of people I know, it is unanimous that the game is better with Terrell getting his medicine.

  2. Ok, TO’s a shitty teammate and quite likely a worse human being.

    But I think Selena Roberts of the NYTimes got it exactly right the other day when she griped that if the Eagles no longer want to play TO, then he should be free to become another team’s problem. And that it’s a disgrace that the NFL players union isn’t doing shit to protect the right of its members to earn their livelihood.

    Of course, the Eagles know that many other teams are perfectly willing to take their chances on TO, especially as the playoffs loom. But no way are the Eagles about to allow TO to play for Dallas, Washington or New York. So they’ve iced him.

    The NFL holds the high cards in its dealing with players. Remember all that pious bitching and moaning last summer about the sanctity of contracts when TO wanted to renegotiate his contract? There’s no for-better-or-for- worse in a player’s contract with his team. Every season he’s got to survive the cuts and make the team — no protection if they’d rather play a cheaper rookie. A “long-term” contract in the NFL means only that the teams know today what it has to pay a player in the future — if he’s still on the roster, if he wasn’t been compelled to take a pay cut.

    But when TO decides to create for himself the same “opt-out” option to his long-term contract by demanding a pay raise, the Eagles and their retarded fans go batshit.

    Give the devil his due, on this one I’m on TO’s side.

    I wish Nader would defend TO’s right to earn the best living he can in a line of work that has zero job security. Use pro athletes as role models for the labor movement as a whole.

    Instead, he jammers on about the rights of sports fans as consumers. What’s next — the right of fans to see Michael Jordan try to score 85 points, even if it means the Bulls lose the game versus the right of Phil Jackson to do what it takes for the team to win a meaningless late season against Milwaukee Bucks?

  3. November 10, 2005

    Jeffrey Lurie
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
    Philadelphia Eagles
    1 NovaCare Way
    Philadelphia, PA 19145

    Paul Tagliabue
    National Football League
    280 Park Avenue
    New York, NY 10017

    Dear Messrs. Lurie and Tagliabue,

    I am writing to urge you to rescind the misguided suspension and planned inactive designation of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens. If the Eagles management declines to remedy its mistake, Commissioner Tagliabue, you should intervene to overturn the team’s decision, which dishonors this country’s traditional respect for free speech and cheats fans of an opportunity to see arguably the best receiver in football. Let him play.

    There is no question that Terrell Owens’ comments have been boorish and unwarranted. However, the comments were just that — comments.

    It should be the policy of the Eagles and the National Football League, as well as other sports teams and leagues, that players not be punished merely for what they say.

    There is a great tradition in this country of respecting free speech, and the Eagles and NFL should express those values in handling even churlish speech. This is not a matter of law: U.S. constitutional speech protections and most state speech protections do not extend into the workplace; and the NFL collective bargaining agreement affords teams the right to suspend players for “conduct detrimental” to their team, a provision that has been interpreted to cover speech and other expressive conduct. No, it is not a matter of law, but of principle. And the principle should be: employees are not penalized for speaking out, even if what they have to say strikes management as ill-informed or offensive.

    That the Eagles’ proposed punishment for Owens — a four-game suspension followed by an inactive designation for the rest of the season — is so harsh, and so far in excess of punishments applied to other players who have engaged not in ill-considered speech, but criminal conduct or serious wrongdoing, points to how injudicious the Eagles’ approach is.

    There is, as well, a consumer issue at stake here. Fans have purchased tickets for Eagles’ games, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, on the assumption that they will see one of the game’s most exciting receivers, so long as he is healthy enough to play. The Eagles’ action denies them this opportunity.

    If the Eagles do not want Terrell Owens on their team, then they should release him. Instead, the Eagles propose not just to suspend him for the term permitted by the collective bargaining agreement, but to make him inactive for the duration of the season. This vengeful approach keeps him as an effective hostage — kept away from the fans who would like to see him play.

    I look forward to your response, and would be pleased to discuss these matters with you further.


    Ralph Nader
    Founder, League of Fans

  4. Certainly Nader and Jackson are right on the points they make. As an employer, the contract the Eagles undertook with T.O. guarantees them the right to his services as long as he provides them in an acceptable fashion. If he does not, they then have the right to fire him, provided they pay him in full for the time of his employment. They do not have the right to retain his services while paying him a portion of his rightful wage and keep him in indefinite bondage to be used as an example and as a sacrificial lamb for motivational purposes. Their motivation in this fiasco is quite transparent, and they are so arrogant in their assumption of power they don’t even bother to try to hide it. A “benching” is the only whip that pro sports teams hold over superstar athletes, but when that benching covers the majority of a season it is way beyond acceptable.

    The average career of an NHL player probably doesn’t extend to more than about 50 games in total. The suspension levied against T.O. covers 20% of the average NFL career at his peak effectiveness and earning power. That would be the equivalent of suspending a fireman or policeman for 7 years over remarks they directed to a fellow employee. What is the likelyhood of any human rights tribunal allowing that to happen?