Pissy In Your Brown Eye vs. League Commissioner – 6 F.J. 491 (August 5, 2014) – Fantasy Football Dispute (Free Agent Keepers)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Pissy In Your Brown Eye vs. League Commissioner

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE 11 DICKS AND A CHICK FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Decided August 5, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 491 (August 2014)

Factual Background

A fantasy football league called the 11 Dicks and a Chick Fantasy Football League (hereinafter referred to as “11 D & CFFL”) is a 12-team keeper league created in 2013.  Rosters are comprised of 15 players plus one injured reserve (“IR”) slot.  GM’s may keep a maximum of three (3) players from the previous year’s draft.  Players that are kept maintain their previous draft position from the year before.  If a player that is kept was added as a free agent in the previous season, then he can be kept as a 15th round draft pick which represents the final round.

In 2013, Reggie Wayne (WR-IND) was drafted in the 2nd round before he sustained a season-ending knee injury.  After this occurred, the GM who owned Wayne released him rather than placing him in an available IR roster slot.  Once Wayne cleared waivers, Pissy in Your Brown Eye picked him up as a free agent.

Coming into the 2014 season, Pissy In Your Brown Eye elected Wayne as one of the three players he wanted to keep with Wayne representing his 15th round pick since he added him as a free agent the year before.

Procedural History

The 11 D & CFFL commissioner believes that Pissy In Your Brown Eye is cheating the system by utilizing Wayne as a 15th round keeper.  The commissioner argues that Wayne should be kept as his 2nd round pick which represents where he was drafted in 2013.  He wants to send the issue out for a league vote where Pissy In Your Brown Eye believes he will not be treated fairly given the commissioner’s strong opposition.

Issue Presented

(1)   Should Pissy In Your Brown Eye be able to keep Reggie Wayne as his 15th round keeper?

Decision

The issue presented to the Court is of paramount importance because it has major implications on the league’s draft.  The draft is truly the cornerstone of any fantasy league and should be treated with sanctity, fairness, and equity.  It is imperative that any decisions made surrounding the draft be intelligent, objective, and for the benefit of the entire league because this is where people create and build their teams.  See Mayor Goldie Wilson vs. Balloon Knots, 3 F.J. 164, 166 (September 2011).

The commissioner is empowered with the tasks of creating the league’s rules, settings, and guidelines.  Bryan LaHair Club For Men vs. League Commissioner, 4 F.J. 26, 28 (April 2012).  The 11 D & CFFL is not governed by a written constitution or set of rules.  Rather, the rules appear to have been made verbally with no guiding authority to reference.  The Court strongly advocates for fantasy sports league commissioners to have a written constitution or set of rules that govern their leagues.  See John Doe vs. Fantasy Football League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 21, 22 (October 2010).  One of the primary reasons is so that all league members are aware of the rules and have access to them at any time.  This provides actual notice of the rules to all members of the league and shifts the burden onto them to comply.  Shawn Kemp is My Daddy vs. Fantasy Basketball League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 24, 25 (October 2010).   Any questions or challenges to such rules should be addressed as soon as practicable.  See Machine vs. Fantasy Football League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 1, 2 (September 2010).

We understand that many leagues do not have written constitutions or charters.  But even in those instances, the rules of the league must be clearly defined and available for all league members to access in order to maintain compliance.  Without a constitution, the commissioner must rely on precedent, common sense, and the best interests of the league when making critical decisions such as this.  See Didn’t Hit Submit vs. Commissioner, 1 F.J. 23, 26 (January 2010).

It seems apparent that the agreement in place when the league was incepted is that players who are acquired via free agency can be kept as 15th round picks the following season.  There does not appear to be any rules governing the issue of where a player can be kept if he is drafted, released and then acquired as a free agent by another team.  Normally a commissioner will have the final say on issues that fall outside the purview of the league’s host site’s parameters when no written constitution, is in place.  See Dwayne Bowe Peep vs. The Boston Tea Party, 3 F.J. 188, 190 (October 2011).  However, that authority and discretion must be limited when it contradicts precedent or seeks to interpret a vague and ambiguous rule.  Vague and ambiguous language in a league’s rules will be interpreted for the benefit of the league member.  General Zod vs. League Commissioner, 4 F.J. 303 (November 2012);

As important as it is to follow the language of the league’s rules, it is equally as important to understand the theory and rationale that exist behind each rule.  See A New Hope vs. On the Juice, 1 F.J. 4, 7 (September 2009).  When creating this keeper league, the structure was in place to correlate a keeper player with the round he was drafted in during the previous year.  This makes perfect sense and comports with what many keeper leagues do.  The concept is intended for GM’s with respect to keeping players that they themselves drafted.  The fact that there is a separate rule, albeit vague in nature, regarding free agents being kept as 15th round picks demonstrates the intent to create a distinction between the two.

We understand the commissioner’s argument that Reggie Wayne was drafted in the 2nd round in 2013 and should therefore be kept as a 2nd round pick.  However, he was dropped by the team that drafted him.  Granted he was dropped due to a season-ending injury, but that team had the ability to retain him on their roster with an available IR slot.  For reasons unknown, they opted to release Wayne instead.  Pissy In Your Brown Eye added Wayne as a free agent and stashed him on his IR, which is fully within the rules.  The fact is that Pissy In Your Brown Eye did not draft Wayne in the 2nd round.  Rather, Wayne’s status on his team is as a free agent added in the middle of the season.

It is conceivable that this was an unintended result of the rule as portrayed by the commissioner.  We are not placing blame on him for not taking into account the possibility that this scenario could exist.  After all, league commissioners cannot reasonably foresee every possible issue or situation that can arise during a season.  To hold them to such a standard would be unfair.  See Z Wolves, et al. vs. League Commissioner, 3 F.J. 212, 216 (November 2011).  However, it is equally unfair to penalize Pissy In Your Brown Eye who has not violated any league rules.

After Reggie Wayne was dropped in 2013, all teams had the opportunity to add him as a free agent and stash him on IR.  Pissy In Your Brown Eye is the team that opted to do so with the foresight to take advantage of the rules that were in place at the time.  Perhaps it could be interpreted as a loophole, but it does not change the fact that it was a legal maneuver.  Wayne was technically a free agent, and as such his status changed once that transactions was made in 2013.  Based on the foregoing, the Court holds that Pissy In Your Brown Eye should be able to keep Wayne as his 15th round pick since he was added as a free agent during the previous season.  It is recommended that the league commissioner revise and clarify these rules prior to the league’s draft if he truly intends to limit the ability to retain free agents as 15th round picks who were drafted the year before.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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