By Martha Nimmer
Just Say No?
Early last month, the National Football League (NFL) handed Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon a season-long suspension after he failed another drug test, this time for marijuana. A day later, star player Joe Thomas went before a group of reporters to decry Gordon's punishment, adding that the NFL's drug policy was out of date. "Obviously there were some oversights when they wrote the program and some cultural changes that have happened, so that the program doesn't accurately reflect the morals of society today," Thomas said.
Not wanting to miss an entire season, Gordon attempted to appealed his suspension, arguing through his attorneys that the positive drug test result was due to his inhalation of second-hand smoke; his appeal, however, was denied. Gordon served a two-game suspension last season for failing a drug test, so as a "repeat offender," he was "immediately barred from the team's practice facility," writes USA Today. After the 2014-2015 football season concludes, the NFL will decide if, and when, Gordon will be permitted to apply for reinstatement.
Joe Thomas' comments about the NFL's drug policy represent the changing attitude among many Americans about the League's--and even the federal government's--policy toward marijuana. The NFL's collective bargaining agreement still bans the illicit use of marijuana, even though medical marijuana is permitted in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Ohio, where the Browns are based, does not allow for medical marijuana usage, but does currently provide for "reduced penalties" for possession of the substance. In regard to the NFL's narcotics policy, Thomas also said, "they haven't touched it in a lot of years because it's kind of been the one thing where, when you're collective bargaining, it kind of gets put 'til the end and then when you're close on a deal you say, 'Oh, let's just leave it how it's always been,' rather than actually work on some issues that is there. The problem is, now you're sitting in a situation with a collective bargaining agreement that lasts 10 years, and in the middle of it, no one is going to want to go back and try to hash out things that may be an issue -- as they clearly are on some levels."
Given the NFL's concerns over other controversial matters, such as player head injuries, and the criticism the League received regarding player suspension for domestic violence charges, revising drug policy with regard to marijuana use is unlikely to make the NFL's to-do list for this season.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) voted last month to give the five wealthiest conferences and their universities the power to "make their own rules on several issues affecting athletes and competition." If this decision "passes" a 60-day comment period, the Big 5, which include the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Pacific-12, the Big Ten and the Big 12, will be allowed to raise the amounts of their player scholarships, improve team health insurance and allow players to consult with agents, among other changes.
Supporters of this move towards greater autonomy say it acknowledges the "markedly different" situations faced by Division I schools and the pressures faced by their players, while critics of the change say that smaller schools will have a harder time recruiting talent. "I worry these changes will further escalate the arms race in college sports, which, in my opinion, is not in the best interest of intercollegiate athletics, or higher education more generally," Dartmouth University president Philip J. Hanlon said. The biggest champions of autonomy dismiss their critics, saying that autonomy is really just about giving more benefits to deserving student athletes: "[w]hat [autonomy] means is the ability to provide student-athletes with things that meet the 21st-century model of how we think about intercollegiate athletics," Mike Slive, the commissioner of the SEC, said last month.
Despite the harsh criticism of autonomy, the NCAA remains in support of the measure. As The New York Times writes, "[a]lthough only five of the board's 18 members are presidents of Big 5 universities, the steering committee that refined previous proposals last month into the current model included eight presidents, half of whom run Big 5 universities." All is not lost when it comes to defeating the autonomy measure, however. If 75 universities formally voice their disapproval of the autonomy measure during the 60-day comment period, the board will reconsider its vote. If 125 universities object to the measure, its implementation will be halted "pending that reconsideration," writes The New York Times. If the board later moves to reaffirm the decision, all Division I universities will vote, "with a five-eighths majority required to overturn."
The Art of Fraud
James Meyer, a former studio assistant to American contemporary artist Jasper Johns, plead guilty late last month to stealing 22 works from the artist's Connecticut studio. Meyer worked for Johns for over two decades and kept a studio file drawer of unfinished pieces that the artist had not authorized for sale.
Over the course of six years, from 2006 to 2012, Meyer took over 20 of these unfinished works and "had them sold by a Manhattan gallery and other purchasers." Prosecutors said that the defendant-assistant claimed that the works were gifts from Johns. According to a 2013 indictment, Meyer made $3.4 million on the transactions and "covered his tracks with fictitious inventory numbers and faked ledger book pages."
Meyer is scheduled to be sentenced on December 10th, and faces nearly four years in prison. As part of his guilty plea agreement, he forfeited almost $4 million. Meyer is also facing a civil lawsuit stemming from his illegal activity: The Francis M. Naumann Gallery of Midtown Manhattan, which sold some of the pilfered Johns artwork, sued Meyer for fraud in May.
Appealed, and Bracing for a Fight
The Washington Redskins have filed their appeal of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) June decision that canceled six team trademarks. The appeal, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, claims that the "Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ignored both federal case law and the weight of the evidence." Specifically, the team's appeal argues that Native Americans did not consider the name "Redskins" disparaging when the trademarks were put in place from 1967 and 1990.
Although the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did decide that the Redskins trademarks should be canceled, the ruling left the trademarks' protections in place until the court hears the team's appeal; this appeals process could end up taking years, however. The USPTO issued a similar decision in a nearly identical case back in 1999, but the Redskins prevailed after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reversed the board's decision four years later, following contentious litigation.
Anger over the name has grown in recent years, with critics calling on team owner Dan Snyder to change the team's name. Snyder, however, along with the NFL, have refused to change the name.