The Verdict: absolute power corrupts absolutelyby Michael Stein
June 18, 2013
If you are the commissioner of a fantasy baseball league, then you know what a thankless job it can be at times. Your hard work, time, and commitment rarely gets noticed or appreciated. But you don't do it for the glory or accolades. You likely do the job because you want to. Being commissioner requires more than just creating the league's settings, organizing the draft, and handling various administrative tasks during the season. You must also set an example by enforcing the rules you have created. On top of all that, you still have to manage your own team while balancing the interests of the league overall.
But along with the power and authority of being commissioner comes the risk of that person potentially abusing such power and authority. As commissioner, you have access to various league tools that no one else does. You have the ability to circumvent certain restrictions that other league members do not have. Unfortunately, some commissioners unfairly take advantage of this authority.
Recently, the Court was presented with a case involving such nefarious actions by a league commissioner. This 12-team mixed roto league used an auction bidding process to determine free agent and waiver wire claims. The league’s auction was set to run every Monday and Thursday at 2:59 a.m. Only the commissioner had the ability to enter transactions or change the waiver results after the bidding process was completed.
On June 3, league members were able to view the list of all of the transactions made during the previous night’s auction. Team Bundy, one of the teams in the league, noticed that there was a transaction made at 10:04 a.m. that day: The commissioner’s team added Ike Davis and dropped Dustin Ackley. Team Bundy brought this to the league’s attention on the message board and criticized the commissioner for abusing his power by entering transactions after the auction was completed. The commissioner responded by saying that his actions had no detrimental effect on the league since no other team claimed Davis and he simply forgot to put a bid in for him the previous night.
Team Bundy submitted this case seeking revocation of the commissioner’s transaction and a reprimand.
The Court took this issue seriously because any alleged abuse of discretion by a commissioner jeopardizes the integrity of the entire league. Not only must commissioners enforce the league's rules, but they must abide by them as well. Here, the commissioner was also a member of the league so he is subject to the same rules and procedures as everyone else.
Whether there are written rules or not, there is a generally accepted code of conduct within fantasy sports premised on good faith and fair dealings within leagues and among league members. That code of conduct includes commissioners as well. In most instances, the Court will uphold a commissioner’s decision or actions so long as it is in the best interests of the league and absent any self-serving motivation. Unfortunately, this case was wrought with self-serving motivation and went against the best interests of the league.
Generally, rules and guidelines should be enforced consistently unless there is valid justification to create an exception. Any exception made to an existing rule should be corroborated by a thorough explanation by the commissioner. This is especially true if the exception being made is for the benefit of the commissioner himself.
In this case, the commissioner was either oblivious or deliberately indifferent to the possible reaction by his fellow league members toward his actions. This is disturbing because commissioners are understandably under more scrutiny than the other members of the league simply because of the power and authority that they possess. As such, commissioners should be cognizant of how their actions will be perceived by others. Because the league commissioner dismissed Team Bundy’s dissent and did not consider any ramifications for his own actions, the Court easily concluded that he did not consider what was best for the league overall. Rather, he put his own interests ahead of the rest of the league.
When a commissioner takes advantage of his authority by accessing certain tools that no one else has, he creates an environment within the league that is ripe with bitterness, resentment, mistrust, and anger. The free agent auction bidding process is automated by the league’s host provider. It is set to run on the days that are scheduled—in this case on Monday and Thursday. Once the transactions are awarded, a log is generated showing each team’s moves. Lineup and roster transactions are also kept and time-stamped, available for anyone to access. The commissioner should have known that his actions would be discoverable after he added Ike Davis seven hours after the auction ran.
The Court had precedent to enforce the strict applicability of the FAAB settings. In Green Eggs & Hamels vs. Megan Fox is Hot, the Court upheld the league commissioner’s denial of an appeal by a league member who claimed that he should have been awarded a free agent because he placed a bid prior to another team that was ranked higher on the waiver priority order. The Court held that the rules and settings for the FAAB process were clearly explained and implemented. That is exactly what we have in the present case. The only difference in this case is that it was the commissioner circumventing the rules.
The Verdict: The commissioner's post-auction transaction should be nullified and Ike Davis should return to the free agent pool. In addition, the commissioner should apologize to his fellow league members and ensure that this never happens again. (It should be noted that I suggested to the appellant that if he and his fellow owners want to remain in this league, a new commissioner be put in place next season and the current commissioner be removed from the league).
The Court wants to hear your comments on whether you concur or dissent with the verdict by sending an email to michael.stein @ fantasyjudgment.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter @FantasyJudgment.
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