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Players' Duties of Loyalty: Reporting and Treating Injuries - Feb 26, 2012


POSTED BY:
EUROBASKET CENTER
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Today I want to review a case that was published by the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal late last year about a players effort to recover salary payments after being cut by a Club due to an off-season aggravation of an injury. The critical lessons to take away from this case are the importance of reporting injuries to the Club and being diligent about observing the directives of the club's medical staff.

While under a two year 'no cut' contract with Italys ASD Basket Parma, Dutch star Naomi Halman passed her first year physical and later developed an injury that caused some difficulties to her in the first season. The injury did not cause her to miss any significant playing time. She received treatment for her injury which was being managed by the player and the club's medical staff.

At the beginning of the season, Halman and all of the players on the club were handed a set of Internal Regulations, part of which dealt with conditioning. At the close of the first season, the players were given general instructions about conditioning during the off-season. Halman was not provided any particular medical plan for addressing her injury or any specific information about conditioning in relation to her injury during the Summer. Halman returned to her home in the Netherlands and began practicing with the Dutch National Team.

The player reinjured herself while training with the Dutch team. She stopped practicing and sought medical treatment and therapy in the Netherlands. Instead of formally reporting the circumstances of the injury to the medical staff of the Parma club, she talked to the coach about it on the phone and also started a facebook (r) chat with one of the clubs coaches about her pain.

When Halman returned for the second season, she arrived in Parma having gained 7 kg (16 lbs) in weight. The complications caused by her aggravated injury were obvious to the clubs medical staff. She was allowed to start training camp, but within two weeks she was sent by the club to be examined by a surgeon. Eventually, she was cut after another two weeks with the club citing her physical injury and condition.

The player underwent treatment for her injury at her own expense in the Netherlands and in Greece and did not play professionally for the remainder of the season. By the end of the season, her medical issue was totally resolved and she returned to play with another club the following year.

The player sued the club to recover unpaid salaries for the balance of the second season. The principal defense of the club in Halman v. ASD Basket Parma, (169/11 BAT) rested upon showing the player's failure to reveal her injury to the club during the off-season. A second line of defense was based upon the player's weight gain and lack of physical conditioning.

The arbitrator found that Halman disregarded an explicit duty of loyalty to the club to report her injury and have her treatment for the injury managed by the Club. According to the arbitrator, [b]y failing to follow these rules, she deprived the club of the opportunity to take the measures it deemed appropriate to restore the player's fitness to play. The player argued that the quality of care she received in the Netherlands over the Summer was exceptional, but the arbitrator held the quality of her care to be irrelevent. The fundamental point was that the club was deprived of the opportunity to oversee her care.

The arbitrator also found that the players weight gain amounted to a further implicit disregard of a significant obligation of any professional athlete, namely to take care that she always maintained an optimum physical condition, whether or not such a duty was explicitly stipulated in the player contract.

Finally, the arbitrator found that the players facebook (r) chat was not an adequate means of placing the club on notice about her in jury. Whether these failings amounted to a breach of the contract and an excuse for the club to not pay the contractual salary obligations would resolve the question of whether the club was justified in terminating the 'no cut' contract because of these failings.

In the end, the arbitrator held that the players faults amounted to a minor violation of the duties of loyalty that she owed the club not a major breach of the contract since the club had allowed her to rejoin the team for the second season after her second physical. The arbitrator found that the player's failure to notify the club of the aggravation of her injury slowed her return to physical condition by a period of two months. Consequently, the arbitrator deducted two months pay from her recovery against the club.

The first lesson to be taken from this case is that even in the offseason, players should immediately report their injuries to the medical staff of their contracting club and that before undertaking any medical treatments, do so with the knowledge of the club, without exception. Second, put it in writing. And remember, just because the club has not given a player specific instructions on how to manage his or her condition during the off-season does not mean that the player is free to establish his own fitness regimen or physical rehabilitation.

I trust that the experience of Ms. Halman wont be visited upon other players in the future and that this article will help others avoid a similar challenge to their professional careers.

_________________________________________

The Eurobasket Legal Corner is written and produced by John B. Kern, an American lawyer with offices in the United States and San Marino, who focuses on international sporting rights and arbitrations. The legal principles discussed are general in nature. Laws change and even similar circumstances may call for the application of different laws.

If you have a question for a future edition of The Eurobasket Legal Corner, please write to Mr. Kern at kern@jbkinternational.com.

2012 JBK Int'l Law LLC. All rights reserved. 120203


  



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