I have been provided the opportunity to sit in on a class taught by ESPN and Sports Illustrated writer Andrew Brandt that is called “Business and Legal Aspects of Professional Sports.” Brandt is teaching the class through Villanova University’s online offering, which makes it easy for anyone to access the content.
There are quite a few hot issues in the world of sports business and law, with nothing attracting more attention than the ongoing legal battle between New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the National Football League. However, a recent locker room “tussle” has tried to steal away at least some of the headlines. It involves an altercation between two New York Jets players with the result being a broken jaw for the club’s starting quarterback…a broken jaw in two places that could sideline QB Geno Smith for up to 10 weeks.
The short explanation is that linebacker IK Enemkpali was upset with Smith and “sucker punched” him in the face, causing great harm to the quarterback. It is without a doubt that Enemkpali “touched” Smith in an improper manner and without Smith’s consent. It also cannot be disputed that such “touching” resulted in the harm suffered by Smith, which now forces him to be sidelined for at least some of the Jets’ regular season games.
Enemkpali has since been released by the Jets. Is that the end of his troubles?
The answer is that Enemkpali’s release is probably the extent of the punishment he receives. However, if Smith wanted to go the extra mile, he also has a cognizable claim against Enemkpali for battery. Smith would have to prove that Enemkpali (1) acted with intent; (2) actually contacted Smith without consent; and (3) caused actual injuries. Furthermore, Enemkpali could potentially be liable for criminal battery, which is usually classified as a misdemeanor crime…resulting in a monetary fine and/or jail time of up to one year in length.
Smith is unlikely to file a civil complaint against Enemkpali, as he will be largely compensated for the time he misses due to the injury, and the cost/time consumption of going to court just is not worth it for the franchise quarterback. It is also unlikely that the State of New York charges Enemkpali with criminal battery, as this is something rather minor in the grand scheme of things, and no one will want to press charges, as they would rather it just goes away and out of the public spotlight.
So Enemkpali likely dodged a bullet. Except for the whole getting released by the Jets part of the story.
If you’re interested in learning more about Villanova’s online sports program, please visit VillanovaU.com/SABSponsor.