02 May 2006

Case 11-01-03: MLS v. Eskandarian

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! The Supreme Court of American Soccer is now in session, the honorable Judge D presiding. Let all who have business before this court come forward now. God save this honorable court and American soccer, especially from the return of Sierra Mist Side by Side.

Very Good bailiff. I see we're hearing an appeal today, having granted certiorari to Mr. Eskandarian. Go ahead and read the headings...

Docket #: 11-01-03
Prosecution: Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee
Defendant: Alecko Eskandarian
Charge(s): Unsporting Behavior in the 3rd degree, 1 count.
Alternate Columbo Title: The Case of the Bombastic Beverage.

Very well, the prosecution may begin their case.

The Prosecution

"Your honor, the defense has appealed the judgment of the MLS Disciplinary Committee regarding MLS's action to fine Mr. Eskandarian $250 for inappropriate conduct. Now, before continuing, your honor has received our motion that this hearing be heard by another court? "

"I have counselor. I understand that, this court residing within a DC United blog, you fear that you can not receive a fair hearing. However, this court has a track record of being impartial in its proceedings, such as in The People v. Perkins, and accordingly it is the judgment of this court that you can, and shall, receive a fair hearing. Your motion for a change to venue to We Call It Soccer is denied."

"Very well your honor. The facts are simple. Mr. Eskandarian's goal celebration in his match at RFK stadium was a pre-meditated act of poor sportsmanship. We bring to your honor's attention the evidence submitted as MLS Exhibit A, the use of prop work as detailed in the affidavit obtained from The Metrologist:

there is a significant degree of difference - a more caustic brand of salt for the wound - when you start adding props into the mix. Nor was this prop the self-glorifying, look-at-me kind, like Joe Horn and his hidden cellphone. The spirit of this was pure show-them-up, in-their-face, and in their house.

"Mr. Eskandarian participated in an unsportsmanlike conspiracy with unindicted conspirators JW and SQ to bring about a celebration that was not only a celebration of athletic prowess, but instead was a direct insult to a team, a team's identity, an Investor/Operator within MLS, and a major sponsor of the league. Now, the prosecution stipulates that the celebration was pretty funny. We admit laughing about it around the water cooler. But the entertainment value does not mask the fact that this was a case of poor sportsmanship.

"From the perspective of MLS, we have no problem with celebrations provided they are in accordance with the Laws of the Game. However, when such celebration moves from extolling to virtues of the goal scorer to disparaging another team, that is when MLS must step in. In consuming a beverage by the same name as the team, for whatever reason the team shared the name, he equated the beverage with the opposing team, which he promptly spit to the turf. If a player had taken a burger kind crown into Salt Lake and torn it up, MLS's position would be the same. That is unsporting behavior.

I would note, your honor, that MLS has used discretion in its disciplinary powers, assessing a fine of only USD250, which reflects the fact that this is not the most extreme example of poor sportsmanship.

Your honor, our fine was reasonable and just, and reflected the consistent practices of MLS. We ask that our judgment be upheld by this court."

The Defense

"Your honor, the defense admits that perhaps Mr. Eskandarian's celebration was on the immature side, but when has this court decided to ban boyish hijinks? Plus, the actions of MLS smell distinctly of hypocrisy. Yes, hypocrisy your honor, as while MLS deals judgment with one hand, the other is busy posting video and still images of the incident at MLSNet. Now, I'm just a poor country lawyer from Potomac, Maryland, but even I know that MLS is --"

"--Objection! Your honor, it this appeal about MLS's behavior or the defendant's?"

"Sustained. Counsel will stick to the issue at hand."

"Of course your honor. But indulge me to point out another inconsistency in the Prosecution's statement. MLS has taken no action to fine Mr. Clint Dempsey for his stop, drop, and roll celebration against the Chicago Fire, an act clearly directed at the other team. Further, MLS has not fined Mr. Ronnie O'Brien for his provocative celebration in front of the supporter's of DC United this Saturday last."

"Objection, your honor! People v. Perkins, the failure of an enforcement authority to act does not excuse future infringements."

"Your honor, please. People v. Perkins is specifically about a referee's actions, and does not apply to MLS which is a precedent setting body."

"Objection is overruled. Defense is correct, People v. Perkins does not exclude their use of precendent in this matter."

"Thank you, your honor... now where was I? Ah, yes, it is clear that MLS is inventing standards our of whole cloth. Indeed, the matter was confusing enough that Mr. Ian Penderleith, a well respected soccer expert, testified that:

"Beyond these two words, the committee did not elaborate on its punishment, sounding as tight-lipped as a maiden aunt at a tea party passing sentence on a butler who failed to set the silver cutlery down with the requisite elegance. Inappropriate conduct. The only surprise was that they didn't add, "We have also advised Mr. Eskandarian that one of his socks was pulled down slightly below knee height, revealing some unsightly shin flesh that shocked a number of our more elderly spectators, and that gentlemen in Victorian times would unsmilingly celebrate goals with nothing more than a firm and hearty handshake from all the parties concerned."

"It is clear that MLS is moving on its way to remove the justified celebrations of its players, and to establish a boring, tedious reputation similar to that associated with the National Football League's standard on Touchdown celebrations. If anyone should be on trial, it is Major League Soccer, for the charge of Party Pooping in the first degree."


"It is now the duty of this court to render judgment. The findings of this court can not be appealed. The defendants will rise.

Mr. Eskandarian, the court has weighed the evidence against you, and in examining the charge and fine levied against you. The court understands the prosecution's contention that your behavior was unsporting for three reasons: It was directed against a sponsor of the league, it involved prop work, and it was directed against your opponents on the field. On the first matter, the court does not find sufficient evidence present to make a judgment that behavior directed at a sponsor is, in-and-of-itself, enough to merit a charge of unsporting behavior. Additionally, the court does not agree with banning the use of props in goal celebrations, as such a ban could conceivably include the t-shirt displayed by Mr. Eskandarian to "Remember Nicole", a prop yes, but surely one that no one could fine unsporting. Further, by banning props, it might encourage increased use of mime and improvisational theater techniques. As the court's old improv teacher used to say "there's nothing worse that bad mime work," and the court does not trust Landon Donovan to use mime appropriately.

"However, we do agree with the prosecution's third standard, that Mr. Eskandarian had equated, metaphorically, the team of Red Bull New York with the beverage he was consuming, and subsequently spit out. This was a direct provocation to Red Bull New York that was unsporting behavior. Combined with the discretion MLS has shown in the issuance and amount of their fine, the court upholds MLS's ruling in this matter, that the defendent is GUILTY of Unsporting Behavior in the 3rd degree, and the $250 fine is not removed. The defense rightly notes that Mr. Dempsey was also guilty of this in his stop, drop, and roll celebration with directly disparaged The Fire, however the court finds no problem with the celebration or Mr. O'Brien, as simply choosing a location to celebrate, provided not directly interfering with another team, is not the basis for unsporting behavior. Similarly, the home-run celebration at RFK was also not unsporting, as it merely took advantage to local conditions to glorify the goal scorer, but not at the expense of the other team. Court is now adjourned. "


At 02 May, 2006 14:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't happen to be a lawyer, do you? (I suppose, if you're from DC, the chances are better than 50-50.)

Nice analysis.

At 02 May, 2006 14:36, Blogger D said...

Anon: Sadly, I am not a lawyer. I'm a management/business/IT consultant. But I do watch a lot of Law & Order. Which I am sure would qualify me to pass the bar in some states.


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