Published December 01, 2011
Performance-enhancing drugs, gene doping, Bowl Championship Series (BCS) vs. a playoff system in college football, caps on student-athlete scholarship stipends, state and federal government athlete agent laws regarding licensing, recruiting athletes, and providing benefits to athletes, and whether college athletes should be able to earn a profit from licensing their likeness, while in college and later in life. All of the aforementioned topics only comprise a minute portion of the controversial issues currently affecting pre-professional and professional sports in America. Rather than wait for the courts to weigh in on a small portion of the highly public subjects, it make more sense for an appointed individual to dictate policy concerning the landscape of American sports.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a "czar" as someone who has great power or authority. The term has a connection to Roman general Julius Caesar and was used for many years in Russia as a prefix to the name of the emperor.
The title of czar is currently employed by the United States executive branch to describe individuals who are “high-level officials.”
The practice of naming American czars dates back to Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, when a total of 11 czars existed. Today, an all-time high of 38 czars are shaping American policy in one way or another. Is it time to add one more czar for to oversee sports policy in the United States?
It would not be the first time that someone involved in the world of sports was referred to as a czar. In 1919, Major League Baseball was crippled by a group of players on the Chicago White Sox roster who were found to have intentionally lost games in that year’s World Series. The Cincinnati Reds captured the championship in what came to be known as the Black Sox Scandal. The scandal led to the creation of the position of Commissioner of Major League Baseball, with Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis becoming the first Commissioner of the game. Landis was commonly referred to as "the czar," and was tasked with the job of cleaning up professional baseball, a chore that was no longer trusted to the individual Major League Baseball club owners.
The U.S. government has had drug czars, AIDS czars, border czars, and budget czars.
In the Obama administration, there is even a Great Lakes czar. But not once, from the early 1940s when certain government officials were first referred to as czars, up until today, has a single sports czar been named by any U.S. president. Perhaps now is the time for history to be altered.
Just take a look at the current childish games being played by the National Football League (NFL) and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). As part of a newly signed 10-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) entered into by the NFL and NFLPA after months of labor strife that seriously jeopardized the consummation of a 2011-12 NFL Championship Season, the two sides agreed to final terms, which included a provision for the implementation of human growth hormone (HGH) testing.
To date, the NFLPA has resisted the NFL’s attempts to begin HGH testing of NFL players. Thus far, the NFLPA has objected to initializing HGH testing on its member players because it claims that it is not convinced that the test, sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and defended by many doctors and scientists, is reliable when implemented on professional football players as opposed to Olympic athletes. The NFL and NFLPA disagreement over HGH testing has reached Capitol Hill, wasting Congress’ time and threatening to take up more valuable time from congressmen and women in the future.
A much more pressing concern is the prevalence of child sex abuse allegations sprouting up at Penn State and Syracuse. While a sports czar cannot effectively prevent such atrocities from occurring, one could lead a think tank to implement more efficient and ethical response mechanisms within United States universities. Further, the sports czar may certainly take a tacit role in any investigations after said child sex abuse claims are made.
These are just two examples of where a knowledgeable and experienced sports czar may alleviate pending concerns in American sports. So what do you say, America? Is it time for a czar to get into the game?
Darren Heitner is a sports and entertainment lawyer in Miami, Florida. He is also a Professor of Sport Agency Management at Indiana University.