Fallout from Donaghy's sentencing (cont.)
4) How can Donaghy afford to pay the restitution or even his own legal fees?
He probably can't. Just consider the magnitude of his debts. His lead attorney, John Lauro, is a prominent criminal defense attorney in New York City and likely charges in the ballpark of $400-500 an hour. It stands to reason that Lauro has billed hundreds of hours on this case and he may have also contracted out some of the work to other attorneys or relied on associates. Even if Lauro gives Donaghy a healthy discount, his bill could still run several hundred thousand dollars. Much of that may prove uncollectible, though it should be noted that Lauro has received substantial "reputational value" in representing a high-profile client.
Though Donaghy, a recently divorced father of four children, earned a high income while working for the NBA -- he reportedly made $260,000 during the 2006-07 season -- his impaired ability to earn income going forward suggests that he may encounter financial difficulties. It is not clear how he will generate income upon his release from prison. Since graduating from Villanova University in 1989, Donaghy has spent nearly his entire professional career officiating games, mainly in the Continental Basketball Association and the NBA. The officiating skills that he cultivated during those nearly two decades are likely lost, as he will almost certainly be unable to continue an officiating career.
One possible source of income for Donaghy would be to overcome his gambling addiction and then work as a gambling counselor or a motivational speaker to those struggling with the addiction. His relatively high profile among recovering gambling addicts could offer a platform from which he could deliver a valuable message.
A potentially more lucrative, though arguably more nefarious, opportunity could come in writing a "tell-all" book, in which he might attempt to implicate the NBA and David Stern et al. in a grand conspiracy to fix games and defraud fans. To be sure, there are publishers and ghost writers who would be interested in such a project, which would offer immediate financial benefit to Donaghy in the form of an advance. Such an advance could be worth several hundred thousand dollars (as a point of comparison, Jose Canseco reportedly received a $300,000 advance from his publisher for the book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big). Then again, if such a book contained defamatory lies, watch for a cadre of NBA officials to immediately sue Donaghy for libel.
5) Where does the NBA go from here?
Despite Stern's dismissing Donaghy as a "rouge, isolated criminal," the league has taken steps to correct the structure that enabled Donaghy to commit conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmission of betting information through interstate commerce. Most notably, it hired former federal prosecutor Lawrence B. Pedowitz to review ties between gambling and the league and named U.S. Army Major General Ronald L. Johnson to the newly created position of senior vice president of referee operations. Johnson is responsible for supervising all aspects of the NBA's officiating program, including recruiting, training and development and scheduling.
Those and other personnel changes should help the NBA identify how Donaghy's misdeeds could have gone unnoticed. As it examines its internal rules and procedures, the league may reevaluate the appropriateness of star players' and home team players' receiving what some NBA observers consider to be overly favorable calls. To the extent rules are not applied equally to all players, there may be increased opportunities for officials to influence the outcome of games. Then again, it's possible that referees, no matter how hard they resist, will always be influenced by whether they like or dislike certain players and by the league's promotion of star players.
Along with federal investigators, the league must also evaluate whether Donaghy's unusual calling pattern to fellow NBA referee Scott Foster is indicative of a broader scheme. To date, no such scheme has been demonstrated, though sports betting analyst R.J. Bell has offered preliminary data implying scoring irregularities in games officiated by Foster.
6) Will Congress get involved, and if so, when?
Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, has repeatedly admonished the NBA for failing to identify Donaghy's crimes and indicated that if the scandal extends beyond Donaghy, he may call hearings. Rush's subcommittee clearly has the authority to call a hearing, though with House members soon departing for August recess and with adjournment expected to occur on Sept. 26, it seems unlikely that a hearing would be called in this 110th Congress.
It is more likely that the next Congress holds a hearing on ties between professional sports, illegal gambling and game-fixing. Should the NBA, and possibly also the NFL, MLB and NHL, fail to impress members on that topic, those members could threaten to change or repeal the Sports Broadcasting Act, which provides an antitrust exemption for lucrative, leaguewide television contracts.
Michael McCann is a visiting law professor at Boston College Law School, a law professor at Vermont Law School and the distinguished visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law at Mississippi College School of Law.