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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Unique Celebration Of Valentine's Day

Sports, law, and women.

One I understand well enough to be paid to research it, one I'm learning to understand well enough to practice it, and one I will never understand.

It's Valentine's Day, and in order to celebrate, I'm going to try to deepen my understanding of all three, right here, right now. The class material is Jordan v. Knafel, 2005 Ill. App. LEXIS 73.

Beginning with what I understand least, here's the story as far as women are concerned.

Woman who sings in a band in a hotel is introduced over the phone by a hotel guest to a man. For several months the woman and man stay in touch over the phone, but the woman continues to decline the man's invitations to meet. The man marries another woman. A few months after that, the woman decides to meet the man. They sleep together. A year later, they sleep together again. A few months later, she's pregnant and thinks it's the man's.

Now the law enters the picture - specifically, contract law. The man offered to pay the woman a boatload of money in the future in return for an agreement not to file a paternity suit and to keep their relationship on the hush. After the baby is born, the man pays the woman a tidy sum (although not a boatload) for hospital bills, medical costs, and "mental pain and anguish arising from her relationship with him." Id. at 5. (I'm sorry, I have to do these cites...you wouldn't understand). Seven years later, the woman reminds the man about their little arrangement, and the man says that he'll pay. Two years later, the man denies everything. The woman threatens to go public. The man sues for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief that their agreement - an oral contract - is invalid because it is extortion. Ironically, the facts are now public. Oh, and the woman counterclaims to make the man cough up the money.

Where does the world of sports enter the picture? If you haven't guessed, the man's an athlete. Maybe you've heard of him - Michael Jordan?

The story is still ongoing, because although both MJ's complaint and Karla Knafel's counterclaim were dismissed in trial court, the Appellate Court of Illinois overturned both dismissals and sent the case back to the circuit court.

So how has my understanding of all three been deepened? Let's see...

Sports: Star athletes make a ton of money, and MJ was the brightest star in the history of sport. He dropped $250,000 after the baby was born, and he promised to pay another five million dollars to Karla after he retired. And this was just hush money, which inclines me to believe Kobe's allegations that Shaq drops millions to keep his harem quiet. It also makes me wonder if this had anything to do with why MJ kept unretiring - after all, if he never retires, he never meets the condition upon which he must pay his $5 mil. Also, Justice Theis's opinion in the case had some great unintentionally comedic analysis of Jordan's final playing days: "Additionally, at the time Knafel filed her counterclaim, it was alleged that Jordan was playing basketball for the Washington Wizards." Id. at 6. (Sorry, again.) Alleged? Come on, his game didn't deteriorate that much...

Law: Not all contracts for silence violate public policy. If Karla has a legitimate right to file a paternity suit (she did, even though it ultimately turned out that the baby wasn't hers), then her forbearance from filing such a suit is good consideration in exchange for MJ's payment. (By the way, Jordan relied on the case of In re Yao, 661 N.Y.S.2d 199 (1997), for support. See the coincidence? Yao is the next global basketball star... Ah, forget it.) And as to the agreement itself, there is an "actual controversy." Id. at 24. So I guess that's the Illinois standard for defeating summary judgment.

Women: I believe it was Snoop Dogg, who, in his glory days, declared that "bitches ain't s--- but hoes and tricks." Snoop apparently met many bitches like Karla Knafel. Come on - MJ wants to meet her, but no, she's too good for that...until he gets married. Now he's the superstar forbidden fruit, and women (permit me the generalization here) like what they aren't supposed to have. And while it's all going on, while MJ's sleeping around, she's doing the same thing back to him, having someone else's kid. I suppose the lesson here is not to get involved with someone who's so down with cheating, celebrity, or forbidden indulgence.

I hope this little exercise has been as educational, informative, and valuable to you as it has been to me. Happy Valentine's Day.


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