Derrick Rose and the Legal Pitfalls of Professional Athletes
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Derrick Rose and the Legal Pitfalls of Professional Athletes


Derrick Rose and the Legal Pitfalls of Professional Athletes

Derrick Rose is not the first and will certainly not be the last sports star to be embroiled in a widely publicized legal battle. Over the summer the New York Knicks decided to pull the trigger on a trade for the once MVP point guard in hopes of injecting energy along-side Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. However, as soon he arrived in the big apple, the media began to swell up stories about accusations against Rose for gang-raping and drugging an anonymous woman “Jane Doe.”1 Since then, October 4th has been set as a start date for Rose’s trial and the news coverage has gotten uglier and uglier as details have emerged about the alleged rape as well as Rose’s anticipated defenses to the accusations.2. Rose and two others have acknowledged they engaged in intercourse with Doe but deny the fact that they broke into her apartment and drugged her in the process. Moreover, Rose’s attorney’s plan to discredit Doe by asserting that she has engaged in numerous relationships with other athletes to put it lightly.3Whatever the outcome, none of this looks good for Rose.

All of this news coverage has had a tarnishing effect on the already damaged reputation of Derrick Rose. His arrival in New York was marked with optimism but now Knicks fans are left wondering if this is really the person they want running point under the lights in the garden.4. Sports stars seem to be particularly susceptible to run-ins with the law because of the brutal, competitive nature of their profession as well as their disadvantaged backgrounds and they also seem to have the most to lose from lengthy litigation. 5 Look no further than Orenthall James Simpson as evidence for the special place athletes hold in our media conscience and the effect even a successful yet ugly litigation can have on the reputation and public perception of an athlete. 6. Athletes derive much of their wealth from how prominent and pervasive they are in our society. Athletes like Peyton Manning, Lebron James, and more recently Stephen Curry spent years developing brands and sponsorship deals based on their squeaky clean image so much so that their off the court earnings dwarf what they are able to make in player salary.7 OJ was no different. Simpson was perhaps the most successful athlete turned media star in history.8 Obviously, that went by the wayside quite quickly and OJ ended up losing all of his acting roles, sponsorship deals and essentially every stream of income he had prior to his acquittal for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. 9.

OJ’s story is a cautionary tale for athletes, and Derrick Rose should take notice as he is set to begin his trial. An athlete’s position in society is heavily dependent on public and media perception, one slip up, one instance of bad press can send sponsors running and turn them bankrupt. It is common place for large athlete sponsorship contract to contain so called “morals clauses” that may allow a company to void massive endorsement deals if an athlete has a run in with the law (it is unknown if any of Rose’s contracts contain this specific clause).10 Therefore, if this trial proves to be as damaging as the initial evidence indicates it will be Rose could very well see his $185 million dollar Adidas deal evaporate along with whatever earning potential he was able to build through his years as an MVP level basketball player.11

Brandon Heitmann

Brandon is a second year law student at Fordham University School of Law hoping to continue to develop his interest in the intersection of sports and the law