Should the USMNT Have Been Defaulted
In a Monday Twitter rant, I dived into a new World Cup scandal.
The official Twitter account of the U.S. Men’s National Team posted the flag of Iran, first having removed the Islamic Republic symbol from the flag, as you can see here:
In response to what they saw as desecration of their flag, Iran state media immediately threw down the gauntlet, asking FIFA to suspend the USMNT for ten games, which would obviously give them a win in their make-or-break match on Tuesday, eliminating them from the tournament.
As we know, on Tuesday, the USMNT squeaked through to the round of 16 with a 1:0 win over Iran.
A few things occur to me.
First, that the person who runs the Twitter account needs to go if this was a unilateral rather than a soccer federation decision. That seems pretty obvious to me. Doing this on your own was way over the line. Doing this at the behest of some senior manager is dumb, but you’re not going to expect a social media intern to quit over the request.
But another consideration is that no matter how egregious changing another competitor nation’s flag might seem, none of us know whether this was an actual rules violation.
Tim George, an Erie, Pennsylvania attorney, agrees:
“These issues always come down to the contractual expectations of everyone participating in the event. It would be surprising if the World Cup teams had something specific in writing about doing exactly what the U.S. team Twitter account did, but there may be something in the participant agreement about not disparaging the tournament and other teams.”
Hopefully, but unlikely, the rest of this tournament will be less geopolitics and better soccer.
The Windfall USWNT Deserves
As the U.S. men advanced to the World Cup knockout round, the U.S. women made more money by watching them on TV that they did for winning the last two World Cups.
As extremely well-reported this week in the Power Plays newsletter, earlier this year, there was a collective bargaining agreement between the U.S. men’s and women’s federations and the governing body, U.S. Soccer.
Part of that agreement involves the pooling of all winnings by either team at their respective World Cups. The winnings are then divided equally among the players on both programs after U.S. Soccer gets their 10% cut.
This is absolutely awesome and, as far as I know, unheard of. Even if the USMNT loses in their round of 16 match on Saturday, the programs will equally divide $13,000,000. That’s serious soccer cash and over double the total of $6,000,000 combined that the USWNT won for taking home the title in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, as absolutely insane as that is.
Here’s a great quote from the Power Plays piece:
“FIFA has always treated the women’s World Cup as an afterthought, which is a big reason why equal-pay deals like the one struck between the USMNT and USWNT are so important: They put more pressure on FIFA to invest in the women’s game, because now the lack of resources given to the women directly impact the men, too. Solidarity truly does matter.”
Attorney Lauren Scardella aslo points out that “Codifying solidarity in legal agreements such as this makes subsequent agreements better and stronger. These are very important precedents for sports.”
On that note, Power Plays points out that:
“FIFA president Gianni Infantino publicly bashed lowball offers for TV rights for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which was a positive sign hinting that FIFA is done accepting (and providing) the bare minimum for women. (Hey, a girl can dream!)”
The needs to be the reality moving forward, not only in soccer but in all other sports.
SBF’s Legal Woes at DealBook
In what could be remembered as one of the most ill-advised public appearances in legal history, Sam Bankman-Fried, self-styled altruistic saint, appeared on Wednesday as a live (via video from The Bahamas) guest in the New York Times DealBook summit. Why they would give him the oxygen to appear in such a forum this week is absolutely beyond me – I asked this exact question to the New York Times on a Thursday Twitter Spaces DealBook debrief.
Having watched SBF’s interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin live, I commend the transcript to all of you.
Claiming that he “had a bad month,” (LOLOK) SBF demonstrated one thing very clearly: that he thinks he’s way smarter than his lawyers.
The last thing in the world someone in SBF’s position should be doing is making public appearances, especially the kind where a massive audience from around the world can testify to your on-the-record answers to legally-relevant questions about what may be felonies.
John Lawlor, a Florida lawyer, puts it succinctly: “I would be very surprised if the DealBook appearance was recommended by counsel.”
This was confirmed by SBF himself during his talk. As per the NYT report on Thursday:
“On the video stream at the DealBook conference, Mr. Bankman-Fried, wearing a black T-shirt, fidgeted at times, as he often does during interviews. He said he was speaking publicly against the advice of his lawyers, who have instructed him to keep quiet and ‘recede into a hole.’ He said he had decided to disregard their advice.”
Receding into a black hole would have been very wise.
This was really one of the most head-shaking talks I can remember of any technology founder and there have been a couple of decades of some memorable ones. What possessed SBF to accept the invitation is beyond me, but we can all rest assured that the DealBook appearance will be referenced for years, in court documents, social media, and beyond.
New York Times Misses Mark On Sports Gambling
Sports gambling hit the news in a big way over the past week, led by a New York Times piece on how college campuses have become “Caesarized,” as in little (or really big, sending upon the size of the school) casinos.
Great. Anything that the most powerful publication in the world can do to bring to the surface the massive societal damage gambling does, the better.
But the New York Times didn’t reveal that it is the parent orgnization of one of the most influential sports publications in the world, The Athletic – one of the publications that has driven the growth of the massive sports gambling industry and brought it out the shadows to the mainstream.
As a sports fan who never gambles on sports or anything else, sports gambling drives me nuts. Just as fantasy sports took so much oxygen from the plain-old playing the games with fans following their teams, sports gambling adds a truly massive layer of unnecessary diversion and distraction, as well as all of the problems that come with any form of gambling.
As attorney Daniel M. Santarsiero points out:
“For a significant segment of the population that follows sports, legalized gambling just doesn’t mix well with their enjoyment of sports.”
I absolutely fall into that camp. Even if I was even remotely interested in gambling, my enjoyment of sports comes from closely following them. I don’t want or need fantasy sports leagues, gambling, or anything else on top of the simple enjoyment of the games.
Sports gambling is, in my eyes, throughly, completely, absolutely, absurdly out of control. A great piece this week in The Guardian highlighted a reporter’s downward spiral with sports gambling and touches on many of the issues.
That college campuses have become viral dens of legalized gambling seems to me to run against what the notion of a college is supposed to be and the values they are supposed to espouse and develop.
My voice is clearly in the huge minority here, as sports gambling, both on campus and gambling on college sports, gets significantly bigger every year. I just don’t see any way this all ends well for the colleges, for the sports, and, most importantly, for the gamblers.
Is a Lobbyist a Lobbyist
In Supreme Court news, the Justices heard oral argument on Monday in two closely related cases involving honest-services fraud.
These were important cases, best highlighted by the fact set in one of the cases – Percoco v. United States.
Imagine a government official in a state serving a key role with the Governor. The two are so close that the Governor refers to him as being like a brother. So the official takes a leave from his actual government job to run the governor’s re-re-election campaign, with the full expectation that once the governor wins (he did – it was New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo) he’d be back in his government job.
During this break, while he was a “private citizen,” he gets involved in a labor dispute and tells a state government official what needs to be done. That official says they felt coerced and had no choice but to go along.
Lobbying or serious undue influence?
Attorney Harris S. Feldman points out that “If the Supreme Court breaks with the lower courts here and agrees that Percoco couldn’t have committed honest-services fraud because he wasn’t serving in then-Governor Cuomo’s administration at the time of the alleged fraud, there is an argument to be made that it could blur the line between the legal definition of lobbying and bribery.”
If you’re intrigued, I wrote about this in the Boston Herald, including my prediction as to how I think the Court will come down on the parameters of lobbying.
Until next week, be well!
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and 24-7 Abogados. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.