While his former New England Patriots teammates were rotating between the circus that is Super Bowl Media Week and actually preparing to face the Seattle Seahawks in what would become one of the most captivating Super Bowls of all-time, Aaron Hernandez sat in a courtroom last Thursday for the first day of his trial for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.

The prosecutor in the trial, District Attorney Patrick Bomberg, indicated during his opening statement that the government has an extremely strong case against Hernandez.  Among the evidence the prosecution will offer is video footage from Hernandez’s house that links him to the murder by showing Lloyd stepping into a rental car that Hernandez was driving, and Hernandez later returning without Lloyd.

Hernandez’s counsel, on the other hand, seemed to focus his opening statement on the investigation into the murder as much as the events on the night of the murder.  Defense attorney Michael Fee, Esq., argued to the jury that the investigation was “sloppy and unprofessional” and that the evidence will demonstrate that his client was innocent, but he did not indicate the content of the alleged exonerating evidence.

Mark Geragos, a criminal defense attorney with experience in high-profile cases, believes that the prosecution will find it difficult to convince a jury to convict Hernandez.  Geragos said last Thursday night on CNN that the prosecution is relying too heavily on circumstantial evidence.  He also cited Hernandez being an attractive male before a female-majority-jury as a factor that could lead to him being found not guilty.

Despite Geragos’s assertions, it appears to me that Hernandez’s chances of being found innocent are slim.  As noted by Sports Illustrated writer and Massachusetts sports law attorney Michael McCann here, in Massachusetts a defendant can be convicted of murder under a “joint venture” theory—a defendant who significantly assists in carrying out a murder can be convicted, without actually physically committing the murder.  Accordingly, to convict Hernandez, jurors will only be required to believe he was intimately involved with Lloyd’s murder.

Hernandez’s trial is expected to last between six and ten weeks.  While a conviction is not guaranteed by any means, the weight of the evidence discussed in opening arguments suggests a high likelihood that Hernandez’s shocking and tragic downfall from a talented football player with a $40 million contract to a murder convict is inevitable.

Copyright: weerapat / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: weerapat / 123RF Stock Photo

No, this is not the umpteenth blog on the Sony situation. This is the one that Sony kept off the front pages. Adrian Peterson, the star running back of the Vikings, spoke with Troy Vincent, an executive at the NFL. There appeared to be an offer of a two game suspension, and now Peterson has lost his arbitration and is facing an indefinite suspension.

Lost in the discussion is that this was supposed to be a private conversation. I am now at the point of telling my clients to call people and not to email. Too much confusion and too much exposure. But when you call, ask the other person not to tape the conversation if it is sensitive. In California at least, both parties have to agree to the taping for it to be legal. However, if Peterson was in Texas at the time, his recording was legal, as the state requires only one-party consent, Absent that, there are criminal penalties that can be invoked. Not an absolute guarantee, but important as we feel our way around these issues.

Copyright: benkrut / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: benkrut / 123RF Stock Photo

Johnny Manziel is getting his first start this weekend. As profiled in the Bleacher Report, he has earned it. Respectful and patient are not the words that were associated with him in college. By the same token, I have never seen a more exciting college quarterback.

Back to law. Classes on how to train associates tend to repeat the mantra, “one third, one third, one third.”  In other words, one third of the associates are hopeless regardless of training, one third can be taught and one third just have that indefinable something. As one of my former managing partners put it, “you are hanging over a cliff, holding on by your fingers. Who do you trust to pull you up?”  In football and in law, we work very hard to identify those destined for leadership. Good luck Johnny.

By Jeffrey S. Kravitz, Esquire & Sekou Campbell, Esquire

Sam Kahn, Jr. of ESPN Radio recently reported that Johnny Manziel is exploring the option of "Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance," provided by the NCAA. The insurance coverage is reported to be routinely sought by players in Manziel’s position. Insurance, a frequent theme on this blog, poses interesting questions for college athletics generally, and for the "exceptional athlete" in particular.

Most critically, perhaps, insurance may be a way to reconcile the NCAA’s tension between amateurism and big-money media contracts. Generally, insurance is a type of compensation. Employees frequently receive health insurance, life insurance, retirement insurance and other forms of financial protection as part of their compensation. However, the actual payout is generally deferred until a "triggering event."
The Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance Program, however, limits who can pull the "trigger" and makes the "trigger" itself tiny compared to the potential losses all student athletes face. The policy provides coverage for a limited number of athletes (top round draft picks in baseball, basketball, football, and men’s hockey), charges a premium (though there is a mechanism for impecunious players to acquire the necessary coverage), and pays out in a limited number of circumstances ("permanent total disability," requiring what amounts to a career-ending injury).
However, the NCAA’s insurance policy is, at worst, a tepid acknowledgment that at least some of its athletes bear a burden by playing NCAA sports. Advocates for compensating athletes may be able to convince the NCAA that the success of its nearly 25-year old insurance program may be due for some broadening for two reasons.
First, this policy does not cover the "late bloomer" exceptional athlete. For instance, the current insurance policy would have likely excluded the likes of Scottie Pippen, Tom Brady, or Randy Johnson. Second, athletes who decide to "go pro in something other than sports," also bear a risk from injury. For instance, a student-athlete may suffer a hand injury foreclosing her from a career as a surgeon. There are obvious costs to expanding exceptional athlete insurance, but those can be captured in premiums, deductibles and other terms, as with any insurance package.

By Maura L. Burke, Esq.

Earlier this month, news broke that Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o was the victim of an elaborate hoax involving an online relationship with an imaginary girlfriend. Aside from starting the newest Internet trend of “Teoing”, the linebacker’s well-reported fake girlfriend ruse brought to light the prevalence of “catfishing” scams.  The term “catfishing” is taken from the 2010 documentary, titled “Catfish”, about an online romance that was predicated on a fictitious identity.

According to attorney and blogger, Bradley Shear, catfishing is generally not against the law.  Some states have laws that only criminalize online impersonation of an actual person, but not of fictitious persons. Other states are trying to pass more aggressive legislation banning online impersonation, but they may ultimately raise First Amendment issues.


By Jeffrey S. Kravitz, Esquire

Jovan Belcher had his whole life ahead of him and now he and his girlfriend are gone. According to the Daily News, he kissed the corpse after he shot her, before killing himself. Law allows us to grow as we grow old. Athletics often rob us of that luxury. As immortalized in poetry:

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields were glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

From: To An Athlete Dying Young by A.E. Housman

By Jeffrey S. Kravitz, Esq.

Johnny Manziel is putting up numbers for Texas A&M that make him, if not the odds on favorite for the Heisman, at least a face that we will see at the New York Athletic Club when the award is given. And why not? Does anyone doubt that Kareem Abdul Jabbar was the best collegian in the land as a freshman or Bill Walton?


In those days, freshman were not even eligible to play varsity ball, but Johnny Football sure looks good for a kid you never heard of coming into this season. As the sentiment in the Dallas Morning News Blog has it, why not? In private law firms, freshman are most often relegated to the back room (my firm excepted) but in public employment, they often hand you a file and say "try this case."  As a young pup, I faced a veteran trial lawyer on a civil rights case who had a big reputation. I was too green to know who he was and my bosses let me run with it. Beat him to everyone’s surprise, I had a senior lawyer who did not want to try cases any more hand me a file, only to have me find out that I was facing the man known as the Desert Fox. Always loved the quote from Hall of Fame baseballer Dizzy Dean  "It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it."

By Jeffrey S. Kravitz and Sekou Campbell

According to the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press, the NFL has reached a tentative agreement to end its lockout of the referees. 


Ed Hochuli, whom Jeff Kravitz has worked with (as a lawyer not a ref), reads “Rules. Lots of Rules.” This year, during the lockout, Hochuli even held a boot camp during the NFLRA’s negotiations with the NFL. So, the professional officials will likely be ready when they return tonight to don the zebra stripes in the Ravens v. Browns game. The NFL no doubt values its referees, but this labor dispute begs a larger question: How does a sports league, worth billions of dollars, valuate referees in the marketplace?



Referee valuation poses a set of issues distinct even from player strikes or lockouts because referees gain value when they lose prominence. When a referee or umpire calls a “perfect” game, they rarely do or should get mentioned.  Their “invisibility,” however, challenges their sports league employers to come up with a workable economic model for their market. Perhaps sports leagues now have the information they need to appropriately evaluate the market strength of invisibility.


Education is a unique commodity. Beyond the ability to earn more in the marketplace, education has an intrinsic value. It gives individuals the tools to more fully engage the entire observed world psychologically, personally, professionally, politically, and philosophically. Few other endeavors so dramatically expand rather than diminish returns of investment over time. Thus, questions of compensation in the school setting pose particular challenges to those who must adjudicate them.

I recall my own personal foray into the question when it involved graduate student unionization at Columbia University. As part of the student caucus of the Faculty Senate, I participated in difficult discussions with students, faculty and the administration about the challenges of collective bargaining in the academic environment. Students and administration officials in private universities continue to argue their positions on the matter.

The attention and money involved in student athletics only amplify these difficulties. Ed O’Bannon and Missy Franklin demonstrate the spectrum of student athlete compensation issues.  Former UCLA Bruin Ed O’Bannon is lead plaintiff in a 2009 class action suit seeking a percentage of the NCAA”s licensing revenue. He recently attempted to expand the class to include current men’s basketball and football players, the two sports that garner the majority of licensing revenue for the NCAA. Under NCAA Operating Bylaws and  “Operation Gold Grant” (Aug. 2011), Missy Franklin would be allowed to keep over $200,000 in compensation for her London Olympics’ performance. Though, to her credit, she would forego exponentially more money if she retained her NCAA eligibility.

These difficult issues will require further exploration by NCAA officials, courts and other administrative bodies. However, “just saying no” to compensation may no longer be an option for the NCAA.

At my former firm, I was succeeded as office managing partner by someone who was a religious Christian. A wonderful guy, he started a prayer group on campus. The other partners were not pleased and nominated me to talk with him. My response was, "sure, make the Jewish kid do it." I was not happy but took it on. Went to visit with him privately and charged in with, "Do you remember that Jesus chased the money changers out of the temple? Well, this is where they came….and we have an understanding with them. We don’t go into the temple, and religion does not come into the office." He took it in good humor and disbanded the group. Switch to Tim Tebow and the Jets. A very religious guy in the City of Babel. How long before someone claims a hostile work environment?