The KO Show vs. #CommishJinx #GonnaBBBepic – 6 F.J. 605 (November 11, 2014) – Fantasy Football Dispute (Illegal Trade)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

The KO Show vs. #CommishJinx #GonnaBBBepic

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE ARIZONA PREMIER LEAGUE

Decided November 11, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 605 (November 2014)

Factual Background

A fantasy football league called the Arizona Premier League (hereinafter referred to as “the APL”) is a 14-team ½ PPR keeper league created in 2006 and hosted on ESPN.  Every year, each owner may keep one (1) player from his previous year’s roster as a “sleeper keeper.”  This sleeper keeper is a player that must have been drafted in the 8th round or later the previous year and have been kept on the owner’s roster the entire season.

With the exception of the sleeper keeper, the APL is designed to be a redraft league meaning trades of future draft picks are not allowed.  The APL’s rule regarding the approval of trades is that the commissioner, and only the commissioner, has the right to veto a trade.   There is a one-day grace period in which owners may petition the commissioner if they feel a trade is unfair and the commissioner reserves the right to block any transaction. In the nine-year history of the league, no trade has ever been vetoed due to the rationale that it would be unfair to have 12 other GM’s vote if two owners agree to a trade.

The APL is governed by a written constitution which contains the following provisions:

I.          Introduction

  1. The Arizona Premier League (“APL”) was founded in 2006 with the knowledge that as much as we’d like to, we could not stay in Tucson forever & needed a way to keep in touch & see each other at least once a year. This fantasy football league & our annual Draft Weekend in Las Vegas provide us an opportunity to do just that.
  2. The Founder and Commissioner of the Arizona Premier League is entrusted with the day-to-day decision-making and operation of the League.
  3. The Founding Fathers shall be composed of the five (5) owners who have been in the League since its inception & are among its most active participants. The Commissioner shall consult with the Founding Fathers on all possible rule changes and any major League decisions.

XIV.    Ratification & Amendments

  1. The ratification of all fourteen (14) current members of the Arizona Premier League is required for the Establishment of this Constitution.
  2. Potential rule changes may be proposed at any time & will be discussed and voted on during the off-season. All Owners may propose rule changes to the Founding Fathers, who will then present to the League as a whole any ideas that are deemed worthy of a vote. A two-thirds majority (10) of all owners is required before the Commissioner may change a rule.
  3. Minor adjustments for clarification may be made during the season, but any rules left unchanged shall remain in effect for the entirety of the current season. This is to remove any potential bias from mid-season decisions.
  4. Any decisions required due to any ambiguity in this Constitution will be made by the Commissioner & his decision will be final. The Commissioner retains the authority to make any decision in the best interests of the League.

At 10:43 AM on November 7, 2014, #CommishJinx #GonnaBBBepic (hereinafter referred to as “CommishJinx”) made a trade offer to The KO Show comprised of the following: Frank Gore (RB-SF), Dez Bryant (WR-DAL), Philip Rivers (QB-SD) and Houston (D/ST) in exchange for Mohamed Sanu (WR-CIN), Zac Stacy (RB-STL), Branden Oliver (RB-SD) and Alex Smith (QB-KC).  The trade was accepted and approved without a commissioner veto.

One owner formally protested the trade, and many others contacted the commissioner, curious how CommishJinx would lose a trade so obviously while also seemingly giving up on the season.  Over the next five days, the commissioner attempted to contact CommishJinx to discuss the deal via phone call and text message without a reply.  On Monday night, November 10, 2014, CommishJinx sent a text to the commissioner stating, “I’ll explain tomorrow but veto the trade…it’s been a long weird day.”  On Tuesday morning, November 11, 2014, CommishJinx sent a group-text stating “Well…I never thought that trade would go through….that was on purpose…We need a committee to oversee trades…(the commissioner) would never have been open to the discussion if it was in theory…so I took action…Sorry I didn’t hit you up earlier to stop it before…(The KO Show) had nothing to do with it I offered the trade, why wouldn’t he accept that…All you had to do was veto an obviously bad trade…and then you[r] system had merit. But you didn’t, and my point should be realized.”

Procedural History

The commissioner has ruled that the trade will stand and CommishJinx will face some sort of punishment for his admitted actions.  The punishment will be voted on by the entire membership of the Arizona Premier League after the Founding Fathers decide on suitable choices which may range from a slap on the wrist, suspension, or being kicked out of the league and replaced by another owner next season.

Issues Presented

(1) Should the trade between The KO Show and #CommishJinx #GonnaBBBepic be approved?

(2) What, if any, punishment should be assessed against #CommishJinx #GonnaBBBepic?

Decision

The APL is governed by a written constitution.  One of the primary reasons the Court encourages leagues to have a constitution is so that all GM’s 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).

There are guidelines in place which govern the process for changing rules.  It is evident based on CommishJinx’s admission that he was looking to force change by making this trade which he had no intention of truly offering.  The Court can understand his rationale that after nine years no trade had ever been rejected by the commissioner.  The record is devoid of prior examples of trades in the league which were disputed, but we can surmise that CommishJinx has taken exception to some deals that went through in the past.

The problem here is that CommishJinx admittedly proposed this trade knowing it would be accepted in the hopes that the commissioner would exercise his discretion and veto it.  That did not happen.  The KO Show was an innocent party in this transaction as they justifiably accepted a beneficial trade that was proposed.  As such, there is no collusion in place.  See Steel Curtain vs. Rusty Trombones, 3 F.J. 201, 203 (November 2011) (defining collusion as a secret agreement or conspiracy especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes).

Another issue present is the fact that CommishJinx, currently eliminated from playoff contention, was even able to make trades in the first place.  This is, for all intents and purposes, a redraft league with the exception of the sleeper keeper.  As such, the Court’s typical threshold for teams in redraft leagues to be eligible to make trades is that they should be mathematically alive for a playoff berth.  We would recommend that the APL implement a rule prohibiting trades for teams that are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.  This would remove any potential “dump” trades or suspicious behavior.

CommishJinx was attempting to prove a point but he went about it in the completely wrong manner.  He simply could have abided by the league’s rules and proposed modifications to the trade approval process during the offseason such as adding criteria to be evaluated by the commissioner.  Instead, he undermined the integrity of the league by proposing a trade he had no interest in making which had several ramifications including creating a windfall for The KO Show with respect to the players he acquired.

Typically the only circumstances where we will reject a trade are: 1) if the deal is made in violation of league rules; 2) if the deal is made through collusion; 3) the deal is so grossly lopsided that is has a detrimental effect on the whole league; and 4) if the deal makes absolutely no sense and/or fails to improve at least one of the team’s rosters in any capacity.  Grand Theft Votto vs. That Wimpy Deer, 6 F.J. 39, 42 (April 2014).  Given the concerns over this trade, we see grounds to reject the trade under numbers 1, 3 and 4.

The commissioner has indicated he is willing to let the trade stand so as to not prejudice The KO Show.  That is a noble gesture, but it does not serve the best interests of the league overall.  The Court would normally defer to the APL’s rules and the commissioner’s authority to approve trades, but there are too many issues with this deal to allow it to stand.  The trade of Frank Gore, Dez Bryant, Philip Rivers and Houston’s defense in exchange for Mohamed Sanu, Zac Stacy, Branden Oliver and Alex Smith is grossly lopsided and should not have been approved primarily because it was made in violation of the APL’s rules.  We come to this conclusion based on the fact the trade was premised on trying to instill change to the league’s rules when the APL’s constitution explicitly lays out a framework for when rule changes are to be discussed.

The process of making a trade is akin to entering into a contract.  There must be an offer, acceptance, and consideration exchanged in order for a trade to be consummated.  The Rams vs. Anger Management, 4 F.J. 267, 268 (October 2012).  Here, the offer that was made was provided under false pretenses.  In fact, it was made in the hopes that the trade would be vetoed after it was accepted.  In addition, CommishJinx’s motivation behind making the trade was not to improve his own team, but rather to call for change to the league’s rules and point out inefficiencies in the trade approval process.

The final issue to consider is what, if any, punishment should be enforced against CommishJinx.  The Court does not endorse kicking him out of the league.  While his methods were not appropriate, the motivation did make sense.  In fact, we view CommishJinx’s actions as demonstrating his passion for the league by trying to illustrate a flaw that he recognized and seeking a manner in which to bring it to light.  Since there are no rules in the constitution which delineate penalties for infractions such as this, we cannot comment on what type of penal measures should be implemented except to say that suspension or expulsion is too harsh.  We suggest the commissioner and Founding Fathers come up with other methods of punishment (if they deem it necessary) whether it be a monetary fine, loss of a sleeper keeper for a year, or some other penalty.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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