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LeBron situation brings player-to-player tampering into focus

From time to time in the NFL, players talk to other players about playing on the same team.  If the player who would be joining the other player’s team is under contract with another team, the situation smells of potential tampering.

But the NFL’s tampering rules don’t apply to players — unless evidence arises that the player doing the recruiting was acting at the behest of his team’s management.  We suspect that this has happened a time or two (or more) in the NFL, but unless the player who did the tampering decides to blab, it can never be proven.  (Especially since the NFL already tends to look the other way when evidence emerges of team-to-player tampering.)

The defection of NBA star LeBron James from Cleveland to Miami, which potentially resulted from conversations and/or agreements among James, Dwyane Wade, and former Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh, demonstrates the potential problems that can arise from player-to-player tampering. 

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel addresses the issue as it relates to the Heat’s ability to lure James and Bosh to Miami — and to keep Wade there.  “I’m going to bring it up to the league, that we really do have to
reevaluate the issue of player tampering,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Dallas Morning
News
, via Winderman.  “Who knows what will happen?  But I have to suggest it to them
because there has to be more definitive rules.  It’s not just the Cavs. 
It could be any team.  It could be the Heat in a couple years.”

For the NBA, the problem could be the one-week signing moratorium, which allows teams to court players — and also allows the players to get on the same page with each other — before making decisions.  Though the presence of a one-week window within which teams can talk to players without signing them goes a long way toward minimizing the inevitable team-to-player tampering that otherwise occurs as the free-agency period approaches, the NBA has learned the hard way that the look-but-don’t-touch period also makes it easier for the players to plot their next moves together.

And so the NFL, which has considered utilizing a similar device as a way of dealing with the rampant tampering that begins each February and spikes at the Scouting Combine, should carefully consider whether it makes sense to create a similar window of opportunity for teams to talk to players, since it could result in players working together to pick the places where they’d like to play.

It already can (and possibly does) happen, but typically the frenzy of the first few days of NFL free agency, during which big money gets thrown around and players have to make quick decisions without the luxury of meeting with other players and coordinating their destinations, would prevent the kind of cold calculation that seemed to occur as James, Wade, and Bosh decided to try to put together their own mini-Dream Team.

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42 Responses to “LeBron situation brings player-to-player tampering into focus”
  1. Coyle says: Jul 11, 2010 7:46 AM

    James was a free agent. It didn’t matter who he was talking to. Teams, Players, Agent or his mother. Didn’t matter.

  2. dbartdog says: Jul 11, 2010 7:47 AM

    LBJ has been a FA for a while…so he can talk to whomever he chooses, no?

  3. afiresnake says: Jul 11, 2010 7:53 AM

    Could you please explain why a courted player has to make a decision five minutes past midnight when free agency opens in the NFL?
    I’d say probably because his agent tells him so, but actually, no, there is no reason.

  4. Icantadd says: Jul 11, 2010 8:00 AM

    I don’t understand how it could possibly be illegal for a group of free agents to all decide to play for a specific team. If two (or three, or four) star players were in all free agents, wouldn’t it be in each others best interest to try and team up and end up playing for the same organization if they’re trying to win a championship?
    Oh wait…Mark Cuban is talking, the guy who couldn’t make any big free agent signings.

  5. lololnpnp says: Jul 11, 2010 8:01 AM

    It’s a shame you actually are finding any kind of connection between the NFL and NBA in regards to this ‘tampering.’ First off you have some serious issues with tampering and you’re never right in your speculation. Second, the impact of one or two players on a 5 man starting roster is significantly greater than the impact of one or two players on a football team. Unless you’re thinking these few players would play both offense AND defense since the salary cap would prevent teams from signing free agent studs on both sides of the ball.
    I’d say you lose credibility with stories like this but it’s doubtful most of us who read your site feel you have any as it is. Keep up the hard work homey!

  6. Larry says: Jul 11, 2010 8:04 AM

    Give it a break, Mikey…there was no collusion or secret conference that James had with Bosh and Wade to convince him to leave Cleveland. He makes a little bit more money with the Heat, probably due only to the lack of State income taxes in Florida, he only has 5 yr contract instead of 6 yrs and the prospects (since Bosh and Wade had already announced their decisions) in Miami look better than in Cleveland. No secret handshakes made any decision. No coercion or secret conference there. I know the folks in Cleveland are disappointed, as any fanbase would be. The simple fact is that given similar contracts, the state of Florida won out over Ohio and a superstar moved on. Not every move is in a totally different sport is NFL newsworthy…

  7. plt2006 says: Jul 11, 2010 8:10 AM

    There are rumors that the three players had been planning this ever since 2008 at the Olympics in China. That’s the source of the player tampering concerns, not the conversations they had in the dead period.

  8. GRpatriot says: Jul 11, 2010 8:11 AM

    LBJ had to get out of Cleveland! His Mom and West…? Can you imagine? One of your teammates sleeping with your mother? Galent?
    Maybe the owner should’ve got West out of town? Once you go Tats, you can’t go back!

  9. TomBreck008 says: Jul 11, 2010 8:11 AM

    Does the NFL have rules that say a player’s mother can’t get freaky with his teammates?
    That might be a good rule in case a player’s mother is so low class to do something like that. Really.

  10. darknyyt74 says: Jul 11, 2010 8:17 AM

    Florio is referencing the “pact” that LeBron, Wade and Bosh made during the Olympics. They agreed to play on the same NBA team and went on to sign contracts that would make the 3 of them free agents this offseason.

  11. aj says: Jul 11, 2010 8:26 AM

    Read some players’ Twitter accounts. It’s pretty obvious there’s more loyalty to their off-field friendships and fraternities as players than to their teams. (aside from putting in the work to get set up financially)

  12. promichael says: Jul 11, 2010 8:31 AM

    Mike your absolutely correct something will have to change in the future. I live in south Florida so right now will enjoy watching the next NBA champions for years to come. Pat Riley was an innovative very influential coach/GM and now president of the Miami Heat. He has more than once had trades nullified by Commissioner Stern.
    It’s impossible to know for sure weather Dwyane Wade was working at the behest of team mgmt.
    However Stern will certainly promote a change in the rules.

  13. Ralph Gre Nader says: Jul 11, 2010 8:32 AM

    LBJ likes it in the hoop

  14. Corey says: Jul 11, 2010 8:34 AM

    When does Training Camp start?

  15. Jaxeagle says: Jul 11, 2010 8:36 AM

    The only problem with James and Bosh being free agents is the three of these guys have been talking about playing together since the Olympics 2 years ago. So if you think this was only talked about starting July 1st you guys are really naive.

  16. prophet of the light says: Jul 11, 2010 8:40 AM

    What about Agent to Agent tampering?!?!

  17. efangule says: Jul 11, 2010 8:48 AM

    Even if LeBron wasn’t a free agent, it doesn’t matter if he talked with other players. In fact, I would think it would be a bad thing if they DIDN’T talk to other players.

  18. timpiker says: Jul 11, 2010 8:55 AM

    You guys don’t get it do you. Sure he can talk to anybody during the recruting phase after he’s a free agent.
    These 3 talked and agreed and colluded 4 years ago and ever since.

  19. WorldFamousChris says: Jul 11, 2010 9:16 AM

    wow…so this site has boiled down to Florio talking about Lebron I think its been 3 articles since Thursday and the other guys writing articles about ESPN a cable channel…wtf?

  20. danny says: Jul 11, 2010 9:25 AM

    Desprate for some nfl news, huh? COME ON FLORIO!!!!!! Move on from LeBron already

  21. Insomniac says: Jul 11, 2010 9:25 AM

    I think the NFL’s larger rosters and hard salary cap make it difficult to have a team clear out a bunch of space to sign a group of players to high value contracts.
    Also, if players really want to play with each other, nothing stops them from joining themselves together when looking around.

  22. GBfanForever says: Jul 11, 2010 9:31 AM

    The nfl doesn’t enforce tampering rules if it deals with stars they are worried about pissing off. Everyone and their brother knows the vikings tampered with favre, the evidence is undeniable. The nfl did nothing.

  23. scorpiodsu says: Jul 11, 2010 9:31 AM

    Are you guys just idiots? Obviously the article is pointing to the fact that some players discuss these decisions with other players before free agency begins. As I have no problem with it but if you’re pat riley and you can get your superstar to start talking to another superstar free agent to be before free agency then that’s a problem. Obviously if nothing happened until after free agency started then no harm no foul. But that’s likely not the case.

  24. Nick S. says: Jul 11, 2010 9:39 AM

    Do you really think that NFL players don’t talk about playing together? Seriously?
    When the season ends, and a player is set to be a free agent, and one of his best friends is set to be a free agent, you don’t think they call each other and talk about it? Do you really think ANYTHING will stop that from happening? Come on, man.

  25. attackpack213 says: Jul 11, 2010 9:41 AM

    This article, its author, and Mr. Cuban are all foolish. There is no such thing as player to player tampering (other than that these guys thought it up in heir heads). What “player to playyer tampering” really amounts to is players talking to each other about what they ought to do next. A contracted employee has every right to decide where to work next on his own. You wouldn’t ask a plumber not to talk to his friend the electrician about a home being built that they could possibly both work on. This typpe of communication is protected by federal law. I understand some people feel hurt by LeBron’s move and other feel scared of the Miami Heat, but there’s no way “player to player tampering” even exists let alone is something that can be controlled. You call it tampering, the federal government calls it two contracted workers talking about the possibility of working together on the same project.

  26. brownsfn says: Jul 11, 2010 10:25 AM

    These dumb asses can’t do anything but play a game and now they want to voluntarily walk away from that…hahahaha goood luck finding a real job…idiots…get the jail cells ready…

  27. danj0306 says: Jul 11, 2010 10:51 AM

    @Coyle… Yes LBJ was a free agent and anyone can talk to him then, but while he is under contract teams cannot talk to him. During this time players can talk about it… And that is the problem. It is thought that this was setup for years to come between Wade LBJ and Bosh. If that were true that is collusion between players.

  28. condeclar says: Jul 11, 2010 10:55 AM

    He wasn’t a free agent in 2008. He wasn’t a free agent until 7/1/10…..
    You think never talked about it until after the 7/1/10 free agency period?

  29. rraider says: Jul 11, 2010 11:00 AM

    In the NFL it doesnt matter for several reasons…
    1) 53 man roster..so even if you get your guy you need about 8 more like him just to win 3 or 4 games more than last year….maybe.
    2) Every joe blow isnt making between 10 and 20 mil so guys are going to take the money from wherever they can get it.
    3) the NFL salary cap is real(unlike NBA) and you cant afford to have a team of all-stars unless many are underpayed in which case the team wont stay together for long.

  30. HereThere says: Jul 11, 2010 11:10 AM

    Good post by Florio. I hate agreeing with Cuban on anything, but he has a point as well.
    Tampering on some level could have occurred–and I’m not saying it did–if Wade had on some level been working with Riley and talking at all about bringing Queen James and Chris Bosh to Atlanta. Funny how Miami had all that cap room. Almost like Riley knew it was a done deal and gutted his roster in anticipation. Incredible gamble if it doesn’t.
    Proving he did–if he did–is another thing. Just amazing how these three ended up there. A lot of pieces had to fall into place and did so perfectly.

  31. jth23 says: Jul 11, 2010 11:28 AM

    hahaha this is the stupidest shit that people wont quit talking about. the bottom line is they are all friends!!!! they talk, thats what friends do. how will you ever have anything called player to player tampering when these guys are friends and you cant control what they talk about with themselves..

  32. oruacat2 says: Jul 11, 2010 11:40 AM

    Who cares how long they’ve been discussing/planning it? Lebron honored his end of the contract with Cleveland, period.

  33. bluestree says: Jul 11, 2010 11:42 AM

    The pro bowl is the NFL’s annual player to player tamper fest. I remember Javon Walker, with years left on his contract, saying in an interview he was in Hawaii talking to the guys and seeing what other teams he might like to play for. It’s a joke. Tampering is common, and player to player is blatant and pervasive.

  34. jollyrob68 says: Jul 11, 2010 12:02 PM

    Free Agent. Free to do and go where ever they want. I like the NFL where you can sign once free agency starts. It’s stupid to wait a week and have the circus that surrounded LBJ this week.
    Mark Cuban is the last person to talk about anything, He always whines like a little B*tch when he cant get his way. Let someone else complain and he can jump on board with support. It would probably make a difference if it came from someone else.

  35. Audient says: Jul 11, 2010 12:32 PM

    I think many of you have missed the point. The discussions among these three players didn’t just arise this past week. Apparently, it has been in the works for a very long time:
    http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/07/inside_the_decision_miamis_cou.html

  36. oruacat2 says: Jul 11, 2010 1:34 PM

    I get the your point – you’re missing mine.
    Who cares?
    Now, if Lebron had started bitching about his contract or holding-out in 2008, after talking to his buddies about playing together – THEN you’d have a point. But he fulfilled his contract. Cleveland just needs to get over it.

  37. Ray Ray is soft says: Jul 11, 2010 1:57 PM

    This is the reason I don’t watch Basketball.Now instead of team chemistry.You have every team looking for the big name.It reminds me of the Celtics when they bought in KG,RA,PP was already on the roster.I perfer the NFL because an addition of someone is only a piece of the puzzle.Miami will when a championship soon.It posses me off.

  38. FNGS says: Jul 11, 2010 2:15 PM

    Arn’t these three players each going to make $20 million at least. That’s why it won’t work in the NFL, because there are so many me first players. You will not get 3-4-5 stars to sign on one team for 4-5 million each to win the SB. There will always be 1 or 2 that will always want the BIG bucks.

  39. __McB__ says: Jul 11, 2010 3:46 PM

    The planning occurred for a lot longer than 1 week
    http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/07/inside_the_decision_miamis_cou.html

  40. Audient says: Jul 11, 2010 4:04 PM

    oruacat2 says:
    Now, if Lebron had started bitching about his contract or holding-out in 2008, after talking to his buddies about playing together – THEN you’d have a point.
    ——
    How about LeBron’s craptastic play against Boston in the playoffs? Seemed like his head and his heart were already off the team. And why not, given that he, Wade and Bosh all signed 3 year deals last time with their teams so that they could decide together where all they wanted to play.
    I don’t know that there is anything that can really be done about it. But since it sure looks like that’s what they did, then the question bears being put: should we do anything about this? Even if not their situation, now that it has happened, but to prevent this sort of situation from occurring again? Or is this fine with everybody?

  41. Charlie says: Jul 11, 2010 5:34 PM

    If Pat Riley, GM of the Heat and Michael Jordan met with LeBron in November 2009 in Miami about retiring the number 23 to honor MJs legacy, how is that not tampering compared to Steve Kerr of Phoenix, the GM at Atlanta or Mark Cuban making comments about wanting LeBron…….and getting fined. LeBron was under contract with the Cavs then.
    What was the role of Mickey Arison’s (owner of the Heat) son Nick doing in 2006 in Japan with LeBron. How did that play into signing a three year contract.
    Was D-Wade meeting with LeBron, knowing he was returning to the Heat, as an agent of the Heat’s plans to get LeBron. All questions for the integrity of the NBA and a true free agency process. I smell a skunk.

  42. stanjam says: Jul 12, 2010 12:00 AM

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with players talking about, or even trying to end up, all on the same team. Not one of them makes the hiring/firing decisions, they just play ball. If a bunch of guys are friends or whatever, and decide that they all would like to play for team X then fine, go for it! In the end it is the team that has to hire them, and some of them at least will probably have to make sacrifices to make that work, like accepting less pay.
    Then again, at the rates some of these players get paid, taking less money hardly hurts their lifestyle or family.
    Somehow it seems unAmerican to bar players from trying to end up on a certain team that they want to, or even on that team with some of their friends.
    The league pretty much refuses to hinder teams that tamper, especially teams like the Jets (Goodell’s buddies). Why even BOTHER to make it look like they can prevent tampering by players. Is it even tampering? Tampering to me would be players actively trying to KEEP a player from signing with a team so they get him. THAT would be a problem.

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