College of Law in NY Times
UT’s Geoffrey Rapp is quoted extensively in Monday’s New York Times discussing whether the Washington Wizards will be able to void the contract of their all-star Gilbert Arenas.
Arenas has pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge and has been suspended by the National Basketball Association. The question now becomes whether the Wizards can get out of paying the $80 million still remaining on Arenas’s contract.
The collective bargaining agreement does, in fact, include a provision that allows for a player to be punished twice for the same act if the “conduct is so lacking in justification as to warrant such double penalty.” But here, too, the language is ambiguous.
The wording is similar to many employment contracts around the country, said Geoffrey Rapp, a law professor at the University of Toledo.
“I’m not sure if it’s put in there because the employers expect to someday rely on it,” Rapp said, “or they are sending a message on how employees should act with the highest degree of integrity.”
In order to bypass the double-penalty clause, the Wizards could argue that Arenas is not being punished twice for the same action. They could claim that Stern suspended Arenas for his actions after the incident — joking about it on his Twitter page and pantomiming firing a gun at his teammates before a game — but not for the crime.
But the longer the indefinite suspension extends, Rapp said, the less likely an arbitrator will agree that Stern’s decision did not stem from the original incident.
Rapp also said that the best way for the Wizards to terminate Arenas’s contract could be to seek a declaratory release from an arbitrator, arguing that Arenas had breached its terms. Such a decision would protect the Wizards from litigation.
“That would be a safe approach, but it would cost them money,” Rapp said. “The problem is that it would take time to process, and I’m not sure if it’s time they are willing to wait.”
Jonathan Strunk is UT's senior director of University Communications and a graduate of UT’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Business and Innovation, Jon has reserved this space on the World Wide Web to comment on, highlight, analyze, complain about, lobby, beg and apologize for media coverage of UT and higher education.
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