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A Look at the NBA Constitution

A look at the NBA Constitution October 2018

Much to basketball fans' surprise, or not, came the mention and discovery of a constitution back in early 2014. Then again, when one thinks of a document which lays out the policies and bylaws from a governmental entity, we think of our country's own. Since sports has boomed up to become an entire industry worldwide, strict rules needed to be in place to keep things tidy and clean. Let's revisit the NBA Constitution[1].

Fans of the LA Clippers, and NBA fans in general, likely remember the banning of former team owner Donald Sterling whose derogatory comments, captured on an audio recorder, detracted citizens of a particular skin color. Commissioner Adam Silver took immediate action to ban Sterling for life, and like any other person, Donald regretted his actions and swore to patch up all the damage he's done. With Clippers under current owner Steve Ballmer, it's tough to re-consider given that the Clippers have consistently been in the playoffs since then. (As for their gameplay and roster, it's my belief that the Clippers are consistently inconsistent. You can never tell if the team will play a powerhouse of a game or if they'll break records for worse team performance of the season.) All in all, Clippers seem to be in good hands, with Ballmer actively watching his team like Mark Cuban does with the Mavericks. For the sake of Clipper Nation, everyone has moved on and is doing much better so there's no use in going back.

Let's not forget ESPN SportsCenter reporting this matter back in April 2014, as we snagged snippets of the breaking news broadcast that time:

(NOTE: Video above was recorded personally via DVD.)

NBA fined Sterling a whopping $2.5 million which is the maximum allowed "under the NBA Constitution." Since it's normal to fire various employees, despite their job position, banning is a big deal. I don't know about you but I was fascinated about the mention of a constitution, and even though it's been seven years since, it's a matter of time we check it out. For those of you who are NFL fans, Commissioner Roger Goodell made mention of an NFL Constitution in response to Deflategate. As for the banning of Sterling, it's no surprise. Nowadays, especially if you're in the public eye, everything you do may be, or will be, recorded. As the late TV game show host Gene Rayburn once said contrast to being in entertainment, "You live in a fish bowl, and it is more difficult." Think about that, especially to all of you business owners looking to spew out unpleasant comments that will catch fire you'll end up getting burned in (we live in that kind of society nowadays—if you witness any conflict, record it and tell the internet what happened and what you saw because the person who recorded it wouldn't know the first thing to do).

Anyway, the NBA Constitution probably isn't meant to be read page by page, cover to cover. Like most bylaws, terms and conditions and the like, its writing is close to that of Old English, which, to some people, will make their heads spin. At that point, the person/client will just stupidly nod their heads and agree [to the terms] without even caring. Nevertheless, it's worth reading.

Reading it through, I want to bring up ARTICLE 3: Conflict of Interest (b) which reads:

No Owner shall, directly or indirectly, lend money to or become a surety or guarantor for any Member other than a Member in which it owns an interest, any Player of any Member other than a Member in which it owns an interest, any Referee, the Commissioner or any other employee of the Association, except that Owners that engage in commercial lending as a principal business activity may enter into such lending, surety, or guarantee arrangements with such other Members or persons if (i) such arrangements are disclosed in detail to the Board of Governors and approved by three-fourths (3/4) vote of all Governors, or (ii) such Owners do not have effective control of a Member, the lending, surety, or guarantee arrangements are between the Owner and a Player, Referee, or employee of the Association, and such arrangements are on terms customarily offered to similarly situated individuals not affiliated with the Association.

pg. 7 of Article 3: Conflict of Interest

Makes sense because this clause involved the Clippers yet again: In December 17, 2020, NBA investigated allegations against Jerry West using monetary compensation of an associate to help recruit Kawhi Leonard in the 2019 free agent market[2][3][4]. Hard to believe the man on the NBA logo would do such thing, but not only has there not been any comments in reaction to the report, but there hasn't been any updates since the announcement. If the investigation does proceed, the Clippers will strike headlines once again, though not likely in the same scale of the Sterling ban. (If you or anyone you know works for the NBA, mark this article as a reminder.)

ARTICLE 7 covers [Team] Relocation, talking about requesting via application in writing by a board member to the commissioner. Something to remember and be mindful of, if NBA were to assign a team relocation back to Seattle or establish one in Las Vegas. Reading that article, you can see that requesting a team relocation is not cheap (application fee is $50,000).

For those wondering about the banning of Sterling falling under, it's ARTICLE 13, ARTICLE 14, ARTICLE 14A and ARTICLE 15. By word-of-mouth alone, banning someone sounds easy but it undergoes a hefty procedure. It's sort of the opposite in the corporate world, comparatively why getting hired is a long process, but getting terminated happens quickly.

Turning the pages, I then ran into ARTICLE 33 which reads:

(a) Each Member engaging in the Playoffs shall, after each home Playoff Game, send a true report covering the sale of tickets for such game and shall also send a check payable to the Association, as agent for the Members, for twenty percent (20%) of its gross gate receipts (as defined in Article 31(c)).

pg. 44 of Article 33: Playoff Payments

I can't deny that I learn something new, each and every day. Although ticket sales are different than measuring TV ratings, I can't imagine the Association's reaction to the NBA 'Bubble' and the beginning of the 2020-2021 season, given the disallowance fans in the arena due to the pandemic. If any of you worked in retail, you probably know how tallying sales by end of day goes, especially when you notice unusual fluctuations in your reports.

Oh, and check out ARTICLE 35: Misconduct (f) saying:

(f) Any Player who, directly or indirectly, wagers money or anything of value on the outcome of any game played by a Team in the league operated by the Association shall, on being charged with such wagering, be given an opportunity to answer such charges after due notice, and the decision of the Commissioner shall be final, binding and conclusive and unappealable. The penalty for such offense shall be within the absolute and sole discretion of the Commissioner and may include a fine, suspension, expulsion and/or perpetual disqualification from further association with the Association or any of its Members.

pg. 47 of Article 35: Misconduct

This is old news as well, but back in late 2009, Al Horford publicly stated that Paul Pierce owed him money, having bet on his Altanta Hawks winning a game against Pierce's Boston Celtics during the playoffs[5][6]. Since the NBA was under David Stern that time, nothing has been said or done since. Are there current NBA players making secret bets on their own games against other players? Hard to say, but it shouldn't surprise anyone. For fellow MLB fans out there, one can only wonder how many bets Pete Rose placed during his tenure. Anyone know?

Over on the By-Laws part of the book, I found this SECTION 2: Eligibility of Players saying that:

2.01. Good Character. All Players shall be of good moral character and possess qualities which will make them proper members of their respective Teams. The Commissioner shall have the right to disqualify a Player if the Commissioner finds that the Player does not possess the requisite qualities of character and morality. Such disqualification may be made by the Commissioner only after a hearing before the Commissioner, at which hearing the Player shall be afforded the right to call witnesses, to submit written evidence, and to be represented by counsel. The decision of the Commissioner shall be appealable to the Board of Governors who, upon receipt of said appeal, shall require all interested parties within ten (10) days to file with the Board of Governors such evidence as they may desire bearing upon the issue. The Board of Governors shall decide the appeal within ten (10) days after receipt of such evidence.

pg. 59-60 of Section 2: Eligibility of Players

Some fans would likely want this enforced against players like DeMarcus Cousins, or, as players like Giannis Antetokounmpo has said upon the production of the film Space Jam 2[7], LeBron James. Heck, if you really want to go back, Rasheed Wallace often comes to mind. As a result of the 2020-2021 Playoffs, I'm sure angry New York Knicks fans would preach this against Trae Young as well. Calm down, Knicks fans, a player telling the crowd to be quiet after making the game-winning shot isn't a judgement of bad character. (Makes you wonder if one were to ask Reggie Miller, when floor reporter Jim Gray asked him back in 1998 after Pacers' win over the Knicks, "Reggie, ever get tired of being a Knicks killer?")

Oh, and if you're one of those who love chanting "REF, YOU SUCK!" or "REFEREES SUCK!" after an awful call, check this out:

Each Member shall provide at its arena adequate police protection for the Referees.

pg. 79 of Section 8: Miscellaneous Provisions (8.04 (c))

If you've read former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's book Personal Foul, as we've reviewed here via The Seeds of Books, Donaghy talked about how he was chased by Rasheed Wallace all the way to the parking lot, angry about a bad call he made during the game. Yeah, and challenging Wallace to a fight doesn't seem like the best option, which Donaghy did not do. Crazy stuff, huh?

After the 2020 year, it's looking like sports is making an enormous comeback, proving it with increased TV ratings and ticket sales (Charles Barkley calls it "a distraction," given all the depressed stuff being reported in the news, even today). I feel this re-kindled passion in sports is going to increase. It was that reason as to why we wanted to cover and provide a simple overview of the NBA Constitution. Being a fan, we recommend you familiarize yourselves with this, so going forward, if your team's management, coaching staff and/or players are not where they should be, you can bring this up and point toward a particular Article and/or Section. Granted, entities like the NBA are registered as an entertainment company and don't always have to play by their own rules, but you as a fan, would want to have the best bang for your buck when enjoying the game.

(If you care to know, there isn't a law that punishes sports leagues from breaking their own rules. The closest thing would be the Sports Bribery Act of 1964[8], which protects leagues from "outside influence." Besides that, the ticket[s] you purchased is a granted access at their venue to witness a scheduled event, or a 'game.' Someone should've made mention of that to Carl Mayer—a New York Jets fan who sued the New England Patriots back in 2007[10][11] for "SpyGate." Ah, fun times.)

Also, throwing popcorn, water bottles, spitting on players and running on the court won't help your team win. Get real, people.

While this is a covering of the Constitution albeit October 2018, there likely are more rules integrated due to the pandemic outbreak in 2020. Were such rules enforced when LeBron James broke protocol[11]? Anyway, regardless of your favorite sport you enjoy watching, spend some time reading these constitutional laws these leagues have in place. I'm sure several moments, past and present, will begin to spring up as you read them and what the league(s) did to confront the issue(s).


SOURCES:


1. NBA.com: NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS (OCTOBER 2018)

2. NBC Sports - NBA: Man claims Clippers agreed to pay him to help lure Kawhi Leonard, funnel money to Dennis Robertson

3. NBC Sports - NBA: Report: NBA investigating Clippers following lawsuit surrounding Kawhi Leonard recruitment

4. NBC Sports - NBA: Audio: Jerry West allegedly talks recruiting Kawhi Leonard to Clippers, not 's***-show' Lakers

5. SLAMOnline: Horford to Pierce: Where's My Money?

6. BOSTON.com: Horford says Pierce owes him $10K

7. Bleacher Report: Giannis Declined Offer to Star in 'Space Jam 2': 'I Don't Like Being Hollywood'

8. Cornell Law School: 18 U.S. Code § 224 - Bribery in sporting events

9. CNBC - Jets Fan Sues Patriots for $184 Million: Jets Fan Sues Patriots for $184 Million

10. NFL.com - Appeals panel ponders Jets fan's lawsuit over Patriots' videotaping: Appeals panel ponders Jets fan's lawsuit over Patriots' videotaping

11. NY Post - LeBron James violated NBA COVID-19 protocols by attending tequila event: Appeals panel ponders Jets fan's lawsuit over Patriots' videotaping


EXTRA SOURCES:

12. THE ATLANTIC - When It's Legal to Rig a Sports Game (and Why It Shouldn't Be): When It's Legal to Rig a Sports Game (and Why It Shouldn't Be)

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