Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A time and a place

Thank you again Patrick for live-blogging the DE event. It gave me the opportunity to go to the 49ers event instead. I encourage people to see the town hall post below this very long one.

For those who missed the 49ers event, it featured the 49ers' Executive VP of Football Operations and the 49ers' Football Operations Analyst. These two people handle contract negotiations and some legal work for the 49ers (salary cap, budgeting, land use with the new stadium, etc). The point of the event was to be a Q&A-style opportunity for people interested in sports law (learn their daily routine, background, etc). The analyst also happens to be married to a 2L in our class, but that's somewhat tangential.

The event was sponsored by SELS- which is mostly made up of three people.

The event started a bit late because the speakers got caught in traffic. They arrived and some kid got up and started walking all around the room with a camera taking pictures of the speakers. I thought that the kid was with the school, as he was snapping a ton of pictures and had a very expensive camera.

It progressed well for about 20 mins of introductions and got about 5 questions into the Q&A before a Boalt student asked about disability pay for former players. The main speaker got about 3/4 into his answer (recall: he doesn't work for the league, he's just the contract and negotiations lawyer for one of its teams) before the same student cuts him off to ask another pointed question on the same topic.

This continues with progressively more awkwardness and hostility before the student reveals he had invited a former NFL linebacker. The linebacker then starts reading off of a speech he had written about how he was injured, the NFL had been denying his claims for disability, and how he's now poor and unable to pay for his college kid (which he then identifies to be the kid with the camera who has been snapping pictures the whole time). [edit: the connection to the photographer actually being his son, versus simply gesturing to any old college kid, has been disputed- anyone else get a read on the accuracy of this? At a minimum, expect to see this in some newsletter or college paper. The greater point is that it was clearly orchestrated.]

One of the SELS organizers then asks the linebacker if he'd allow students to ask questions, as this detour had taken 20 minutes of the total 30 thus far. The main speaker said he'd be more than happy to talk to him about the subject at the end after other people asked all their questions. Three or so more students ask questions. Then another student asks a question to bring back up the mental health issue again. The topic carries on for another 10 minutes of awkwardness. The main speaker has been very gracious thus far (no frustration visible, though I'm sure it existed) and the other speaker is being relatively ignored despite I'm sure having had plenty to say about his job. It hits 2:00 and the same SELS organizer would have to interrupt once more because there was a class coming in to the room.

My gripe: we have a hard enough time getting high profile business or sports related speakers to come to Boalt as it is. We also have a hard time with our lesser funded student orgs getting coordinated to throw events that people would enjoy. Here's an example of a small group with passionate members getting high profile people to come speak at our school, but one of our own students organizes an ambush of the speaker during the middle of the presentation. To make it worse: neither the speaker nor the topic had anything at all to do with the ambushee's goals.

I'm all for people having their causes. - especially this particular one. The NFL's retired players ARE getting the shaft on disability pay (though both the league and the union are to blame).

BUT neither speaker had anything to do with disability pay and SELS certainly doesn't need to be stabbed in the back by its fellow students. I sincerely hope today's events do not discourage either SELS or future speakers from coming again. Thanks to them both for at least attempting to give me and my fellow interested Boalties a window into sports law in the NFL.


UPDATE: Confirmed the event was a staged sabotage with media on hand to witness it.  Why couldn't they at least have given their fellow students a heads up?



Blogger Max Power said...

Thank you for posting this TJ. The speaker was Lal Heneghan, right? The idea for this event first started germinating over a year ago (I'm not sure if the people who organized it were even aware of that), so it's great that SELS was able to make it happen. The interest in sports/entertainment at Boalt has, unfortunately, always been much higher than the activity in those areas. It's an industry that's all about contacts, which makes it difficult for Boalt students to compete, so potentially burning a bridge with one of only a few sports organizations in the area does the many interested Boalties no favors.

The question of disability payments for retired players is a perfectly good question (and retired players are undoubtedly getting screwed), but this student seems to have mistaken Lal Heneghan for Gene Upshaw. It's the equivalent of confronting a student group leader over an issue only Dean Edley can control. The student who did this achieved a pretty impressive combo--incredible selfishness AND a complete misunderstanding of the issue. It's too bad, but I hope the SELS organizers let the Niners guys know this wasn't typical, and hopefully they'll be willing to come back again.

3/11/2008 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree whole heartedly. I think hijacking another student group's lunch is rude in any event, and it's even worse when the speakers being hijacked aren't responsible for the subject of the protest. I must say, the guy from the 49ers handled it exceptionally well.

3/11/2008 10:12 PM  
Blogger Boris said...

TJ - Agreed on all accounts.

I wasn't at the SELS meeting, but personally, I would have been interested in a speaker event discussing NFL veterans and disibaility law related issues, if it had taken place at an appropriate time/forum.

As to a broader issue, I think this fits in with a general Boalt and Berkeley campus-wide problem of attracting noteworthy speakers. I'll leave that for another post.

3/11/2008 10:13 PM  
Blogger Max Power said...

I think I may have misread the post slightly the first time--were Boalt students hijacking the event? Sounds like maybe not?

At any rate, the point stands--it's really unfortunate if the event wasn't as good as it should have been, and this person's actions (Boaltie or not) weren't appropriate then and there.

3/11/2008 10:18 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Max Power: I 100% agree with the issue of needing contacts in sports law. And the fear of damaging them. And the fact that this was totally the wrong speakers for the issue of disability in the NFL.

Yes, it unfortunately was orchestrated by a Boalt student. He brought this old linebacker from reno and, rumor is, also contacted media. We'll find out more soon.

3/11/2008 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the student photographer was from the school paper. he was getting names, spelling, etc (presumably from the speakers? i just walked in at the end for adlaw) after the presentation. i expect an update w/ a link to the article tomorrow, teej. get on it!

3/11/2008 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. the fact that this was planned out enough in advance that the Daily Californian people were called in makes it all the more offensive to the students who put this together. maybe with enough warning they could have put together an event specifically addressing this issue.

3/12/2008 7:45 AM  
Blogger Boris said...


3/12/2008 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three thoughts:

1) This is a good opportunity to tell the Daily Cal what you think about their reporting. The article is absolutey rife with errors

2) Has anyone who was there (unlike me) considered bringing this to Dean O's attention? If true, this is conduct highly unbecoming of a Boaltie. It reflects poorly on the school and on the professional reputation of the student body in general. If this event was organized as alleged, the organizers stepped outside the boundary of what is reasonable and collegial -- and it's Dean O's job to keep tabs on that stuff

2) Why wasn't this person at the town hall? Don't they care about the LRAP?

3/12/2008 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Charles said...

As the organizer of this event and the "SELS organizer" mentioned in the original post, I would like to express my concern both about incident itself and the coverage by The Daily Californian.

We have been placed in a tough position because although we agree that former NFL players (including Mr. Boyd) have probably been mistreated both by the league and their union, we fail to see even the most tenuous connection between this treatment and Mr. Heneghan or the 49ers organization.

I have not had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Davidson (the student being referred to) or the Daily Californian at this point, but I would like both of them to know that this is an issue that the Sports and Entertainment Society would have been happy to address either at this lunch or, more appropriately, through a separate event had we been given any sort of notice that this was an issue that students felt so passionately about.

We will be having discussions internally in the next couple of days to decide how this situation might best be handled, but in the meantime, I just wanted to say that we greatly appreciate the comments that have been made so far. Thank you for the support.

3/12/2008 8:32 AM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

Welcome to Berkeley everyone. The school didn't tell you about problems like these at admit day, did it?

Back in my 1L year (maybe 2L) we had Daniel Marcus, general counsel for the 9/11 commission, in for a talk, and a Berkeley undergrad (pretty sure he wasn't a law student) started grilling him about all the conspiracy theories out there and why the commission hadn't looked into them hard enough. It was awkward and took a good chunk of time before he was either physically removed or forced to shut the hell up, can't remember which. Needless to say, that's one speaker that wouldn't be coming back anytime soon.

Generally, I have found Berkeley students, both undergrad and law, to be prone to hijacking any discussion for their own purposes. My 1L year there was a presentation on how to get professors to talk about social justice issues in whatever class they happened to be teaching. I didn't go, but the presentation discussed how to raise social justice issues in class and how to pressure professors to discuss them (I'm not sure if they're still doing this). I'm not saying those issues aren't important. They are. I am saying how dare you turn the class, or presentation, into your own personal dialogue with the leader. Isn't that what office hours, or post-presentation discussions, are for? Aren't professors paid to teach us what they think should be taught, and not to answer questions that only you or a handful of classmates wants answered?

You aren't the first to complain about disruptions from selfish berkeley students. And you won't be the last.

3/12/2008 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


But hey, at least nobody thought to bring a firearm.

3/12/2008 9:38 AM  
Blogger tj said...

Disco Stu: You may be right - it has always existed and will always exist. I hope you're wrong.

But just in case, I encourage continuing public shaming of these individuals, such as here on N&B. A big part of going to Boalt isn't about helping us pass the bar (haha)- it's about the contacts we make. Some people forget this, and will be frustrated later in life when they have little credibility among those who used to be their classmates.

3/12/2008 9:48 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Shaming is a pretty strong. There is probably a way to focus discussion on the "what" and not the "who."

It's just a thought . . .

3/12/2008 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TJ's summary left out a few of the highlights:

-The Boalt student sneering, "So you think the relationship between massive head trauma and brain damage is tenuous?"

-The Boalt student arguing with the SELS student who ran the event (who very politely tried to move on to new questions from other students) over whether he should be allowed to continue his tirade.

3/12/2008 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's wrong with shaming? J. seemed to have no shame in ambushing someone else's event. With a photographer, no less!

If he had organized an disability rights group to give a talk, and it was ambushed by an anti-war student group ("Why aren't you doing enough to support our disabled veterans?!"), he'd be crying bloody murder.

3/12/2008 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Highlights from the Daily Californian:

"A former NFL player and the president of the Boalt Disability Law Society questioned a lawyer for the San Francisco 49ers yesterday during a lunchtime lecture at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, as more than a dozen attendees walked out."

I was an attendee at the event and ... how about we left because it was 1:45? And people had class/other priorities?

"Law Society President Joshua Davidson and former NFL player Brent Boyd questioned 49ers Executive Vice President of Football Operations Lal Heneghan about the league's disability benefits policies, which they said do not cover retired players who suffer from brain injury."

Law Society of what?

And how about giving some context as to what the talk was SUPPOSED to be about, versus what it became?

3/12/2008 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Daily Cal says that they were contacted before hand about plans for a staged "interruption" of this talk and decided the "interruption" was worth covering but not the event itself.

3/12/2008 10:54 AM  
Blogger Max Power said...

Okay, no shaming. I'm sure the student isn't a bad guy, just misguided this particular time. Besides, launch into a personal attack and Armen will take out his big, bad censorship stick, and if that happens there will be like 8 new Boalt blogs this week.

The thing that sucks is this was a total lose-lose. Students didn't get to hear the presentation they wanted, and may have missed out on a rare chance to make a contact in the sports industry. It's triply bad for the Disability Law Society: they didn't make their point in an effective way; they missed the chance to have a legitimate event on this topic; and they look bad on campus.

The thing is, I bet SELS would have loved to have teamed up with the Disability Law Society (and maybe a labor group of some type?) to bring in a disability lawyer, a labor lawyer, and maybe someone from the NFL or Players Union. That would have been a great event (and hey, maybe it could still happen). There are even cases going through the Ninth Circuit as we speak that deal with this exact issue.

Charles--you should write the Daily Cal reporter an email and let her know about all the mistakes in her article. She probably wasn't even aware that this event wasn't about what she reported.

3/12/2008 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried to post a correction in the comments on the daily cal site? I have.

They're not posting them.

3/12/2008 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats to SELS for getting such a great speaker to come. I'll have to try to attend their next event

This story really irritates me and I believe it is an embarrassment to the Boalt student body. The political activism amongst the students here is amazing, and the passion really sets us apart from other law schools I believe.

However, you'd think a person willing to go to such lengths to make a statement would find a speaker event that was even remotely on point, or find a better forum to make that statement.

3/12/2008 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is your brain worth to you?

As lawyers to be, the answer is "everything." The only reason you are here is because other people think your brain is quantitatively and qualitatively different from, and better than, the brains of the other 7000 people who applied to be where you are. Whatever other limitations or advantages you have because of the color of your skin, your gender, your sexual orientation, national origin or disability, it is your exceptional brain that gives you access to this law school and to the choices that follow from it.

What would your response be if because of something that happened to you while you were a student here at Boalt, your priceless brain were to suddenly function in such an impaired state that you not only suffer serious emotional problems including severe depression, but suffered a constellation of cognitive impairments that adversely affected your vision, speech, memory and motor coordination? What if I told you that you because your injury occurred in the line of duty, so to speak, you were only eligible to receive disability benefits of $1000 per month for a total of 7 1/2 years. Would that seem like fair compensation to you?

As unfair as those disability benefits are, those are the terms of the collective bargaining agreement that Mr. Heneghan helped draft in 1993 during negotiations with the NFL Players Association. In those negotiations, Mr. Heneghan represented the NFL as labor relations council. What matters isn't whether Mr. Heneghan is personally responsible for drafting those provisions of the agreement. What matters is that Mr. Heneghan played a significant role in in the process that resulted in the collective bargaining agreement. That fact alone is a sufficient reason to hold him publicly accountable to Mr. Boyd because he is the spokesperson for retired NFL players who have been denied their disability benefits or marginally subsist on substandard benefits.

Those of you who were offended by my decision not to forewarn Mr. Heneghan and the Sports Entertainment Law Society should know this: it would not have been feasible to notify Mr. Crandell of my decision to invite Mr. Boyd; and even if it had been feasible, I do not subscribe to the view that oppressed minorities need permission or the consent of the majority to protest peacefully in an open forum. I invited the media to cover the protest in order to raise awareness of our struggle to gain equal access to employment, education, and health care. Until yesterday, no one reading this knew what the face of a severely disabled NFL player looks like after retirement and after years of homelessness and hopelessness have taken their toll. You do now.

3/14/2008 12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Public shaming"? What is this, junior high school? As an audience member, I thought the questions asked were both relevant and interesting. But more importantly, I'm ashamed that fellow Boalt students would so unabashedly trash a classmate on this website in redundant and mean-spirited posts.

3/14/2008 12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:24 AM:

I don't think anybody disagrees with you. NFL benefits are a mess, and need to be publicly addressed. You don't have to prove that point.

But that's not what people objected to.

But there are SO many better ways to use the resources here at Boalt, without stepping on the toes of other student groups.

A marginal amount of prior communication and planning could have put together a really wonderful presentation where people felt like they were engaging and important issue instead of being steamrolled. Your word choice is telling: it wasn't an issue of whether you should have "notified" people of your concrete intentions. The issue is that you should have tried to be a little more collegial and and negotiable on the front end of the process. It would have been a win-win-win situation because (1) group planning would have enabled to access all kinds of resources and speakers, (2) other students wouldn't feel manipulated, and (3) the issue would have been advanced in a way that brought students together, instead of splitting them apart.

Everyone agrees that your topic was right on. Your choice of venue, on the other hand, was terrible, because it was hurtful to other Boalties, and did very little to actually advance the issue.

12:29 AM:

I humbly suggest that your post is mean-spirited, too. Further, I'm not sure it's accurate. Other commentators much more gracefully pointed out the error of 'shaming' and the conversation adjusted course accordingly. I think the discussion here has in fact been relevant and interesting, and I don't think you need to be ashamed at all.


3/14/2008 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you, 10:24, and I think most of the other commenters do, too.

12:24, I don't know why you are taking the tone you are when trying to explain to us the importance of our brains. We all (I think) agree with that point 100%, and I think that NFL disability benefits are disgraceful. But the title of the original post was "a time and a place," and that SELS event was not the proper time nor place. I won't elaborate, because I think everyone else who has already commented has said it all.

3/14/2008 11:10 AM  
Blogger tj said...

J. (12:24):

1) The first half of your post expressed the need for NFL disability benefits. I agree with you, so did everyone else here. Again, you missed the point.

2) You vastly overstate your case regarding the degree to which Mr. Heneghan was involved in the drafting of the most recent CBA. What you also fail to acknowledge is the 1993 CBA uniquely increased benefits (albeit only slightly), and that your gripe is really with the league and the union for not expanding upon that progress for the past 15 years Mr. Heneghan was NOT ANYWHERE NEAR INVOLVED. Even Mr. Boyd recognized this point during the discussion - the real people at issue here is the players union, and to a lesser degree, the league.

3) I'm missing how it could not have been feasible to warn SELS. This ambush was planned well ahead of time - preapproved by both the student news paper and shipping in Mr. Boyd from Reno. If you're worried that somehow your point wouldn't have been as successful had it not been presented with an ambush, then I say tough. That's the price of TACT in a professional school. Which brings me to...

4) This is your most outrageous claim here: I do not subscribe to the view that oppressed minorities need permission or the consent of the majority to protest peacefully in an open forum.

The three Caucasian male members of SELS make them the "majority"? This is a laughable insult to these members and incredibly ignorant. We're at Boalt. Has there ever been a cause on behalf of any minority group that hasn't gotten full acceptance of the majority of the school? I'm having a hard time coming up with one (save maybe the Federalist Society - haha). I'm sorry, this doesn't excuse your approach.

And 4) [re: 12:29] If someone's going to seek his or her positive ends by questionable tactics, they must be prepared for equal or greater public attention brought to their issue as scrutiny for those tactics. Yes, more people now know about this issue. But people will also know about the classmate who chose to throw three other classmates under the bus as his mode of bringing about the discussion of the issue.

Hopefully it serves as a check on the system and prevents it from happening again.

3/14/2008 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allow me to simplify my point: the purpose of my action was intended to dramatize the issue of disability rights by choosing a time and place that was not negotiated and deliberately intended to create the kind of tension expressed in this forum.

3/14/2008 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tension that is expressed in this forum is over the fact that your behavior was inconsiderate to your fellow students, and rude, not over anything relating to football or disability.

Is THAT the tension you were trying to achieve? Really?


I expected to hear an apology, or maybe a concession that you would do things differently next time. And I had the olive branch ready. Instead what I am hearing is that you uncompromising, misguided, rude, and unwilling to listen. Either that, or just don't get it.

I am 100% WITH YOU on the issue of NFL disability. But your lack of tact just destroyed your chances of ever getting my help on it. I'll save my energy for people and groups who want to work together as a community, not people who set out to deliberately cause tension for tension's sake.

3/14/2008 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:50: notwithstanding the practical difficulties of receiving help from people who choose to remain anonymous, I'm glad that you agree 100% that disabled NFL players like Mr. Boyd deserve better treatment by the league and players association. If you would like to follow your words with actions, you can contact Mr. Boyd via his website:


As to your sentiment that it is wrong to deliberately cause tension in order to further the social cause of equality for people with disabilities, I would urge you to read Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail.

3/14/2008 9:24 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Wow. You're Dr. King now. You really don't get it. I suppose there's nothing more to say.

3/15/2008 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Room 140 at Boalt is a Birmingham jail in 1963.

3/15/2008 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rev. King treated his opponents as the best people they might become. He didn't justify rudeness on his part by pointing to the rudeness of the other person. (Gandhi, likewise.) Treating people that way changed the world in ways that playing tit-for-tat never did, and never has. Just a thought.

3/15/2008 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so after reading further comments by J, it seems like he almost *wanted* people to be against the idea of more disability rights for NFL players, and to take a stance against him so that he could feel justified for doing what he did at the SELS lunch. Instead, people were with him on the issue, but thought the choice of time/place was highly inappropriate. He was all prepared to feel like a martyr for a just cause, and it didn't work out the way he planned, so now he is simply pretending that that is exactly what happened so that he doesn't have to admit he was wrong.

3/15/2008 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys are really beating up on Josh. As someone who was actually there, I feel compelled to comment.

First, this was a *public* forum at a *public* university.

Second, both Josh and the player were not rude and did not attempt to disrupt the meeting - they waited their turn when asked to, and did not cross the line.

Finally, tough questions happen all the time in the real world. The 49'ers presenters handled the questions with grace and sympathy.

The complaining posters above should try and do the same. A forum open for questions is exactly that - an open forum. Not a managed or staged opportunity for the organizers to feel good about themselves.

Finally, situations like these happen all the time in the real world.

As I'm sure many of you will learn, when you plan a meeting or a presentation, you make contingency plans for questions you think might be awkward, or which you don't want your speaker to be subjected to. If you didn't do that here, don't blame others because the event did not go the way you wanted it to.

3/16/2008 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, situations like these happen all the time in the real world.

That is certainly a good way to justify someone's actions...

3/16/2008 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I'm sure many of you will learn, when you plan a meeting or a presentation, you make contingency plans for questions you think might be awkward, or which you don't want your speaker to be subjected to. If you didn't do that here, don't blame others because the event did not go the way you wanted it to.

Wow. I think you missed the point as well. Boalt students SHOULDN'T HAVE TO CREATE CONTINGENCY PLANS TO WARD OFF TACT-LESS ATTACKS AT THEIR EVENTS ORCHESTRATED BY FELLOW CLASSMATES. Classmates can go and commit tact-less attacks elsewhere (though hopefully not in the name of Boalt). Are you suggesting the organizers should have found a way to shut up a fellow classmate?

There's no need to further hinder Boalt because, as you say, it's a "public institution" and therefore, as you say, we can't expect to be able to invite great visiting speakers without having to submit them to public harassment (for a cause, mind you, that has nothing to do with them).

Not to mention your logic regarding it being an open forum fails to acknowledge that the open forum was open for the purposes of ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO WORK AS A SPORTS LAWYER FOR A SPORTS TEAM.

3/16/2008 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So 7:39 claims that the student and Boyd were not rude, but everyone else at the event seems to disagree. At least that's the vibe I am getting from reading all of this.

3/16/2008 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the student was rude. boyd was simply the student's pawn, but was not rude. actually boyd indicated that he understood that the speaker had nothing to do with his problems. everyone felt bad for boyd.

3/17/2008 12:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

student's questions were unfriendly but prob. not rude.

3/17/2008 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't there a more sympathetic model of disability rights than a former pro football player who, at least for the 6 or 7 years he was in the league was making 6 figures and then when he gets the boot he's a depressed alcoholic. i can think of a lot sadder stories. just ask on of the million crazy bums on the streets of berkeley

3/18/2008 4:09 PM  
Blogger tj said...

4:09 - I may need to say that you missed the point as well.

The player was very candid about his mental health issues - problems he and his doctor attribute to his period of playing in the NFL.

Head trauma clearly may cause in some instances serious personality changes and/or mood alterations. His problems with alcohol and homelessness may very well have to do with the NFL, and for that he's got a legitimate point.

Just because the way the point was made was inappropriate doesn't mean that the point is not a valid one. We all just wanted it to be made in more of a tactful way.

3/20/2008 2:37 AM  

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