Rooting for Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder?

I’m a Redskins fan.  How can I possibly feel bad for Jerry Jones?  For that matter, how can I root for Dan Snyder?

Recently, Commissioner Roger Godell levied fines against the Cowboys and Redskins for violating salary cap regulations in 2010.  The Redskins will lose $36 million in cap space this year, $10 million for the Cowboys.

Except of course, that there was no salary cap in 2010, and all the contracts tendered by both teams that year had league approval.  Beltway Sports has a good take here, with links to other articles about this issue.

Ah, but wise Godell, declared after the fact that Snyder and Jones violated the principles of competitive balance implied in the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.  So they didn’t actually violate any actual rule, they merely refused to what, salute the “shield” snappily enough?  Snyder and Jones have fallen victim to an ancient legal principle known as,

PRIVILEGIUM

Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term this way:

In Roman law, a special constitution granted the Roman emperor the right to confer on a single person some anomalous or irregular right, or imposed an anomalous or irregular obligation, or inflicted on some single person some anomalous or irregular punishment.  When such privilcyia conferred anomalous rights, they were styled “favorable.”  When they imposed anomalous obligations or irregular punishments, they were styled “odious.”

I think it’s safe to say that Jones and Snyder got the odious kind.

Numerous horrible and amusing stories abound about the worst emperors, but even some of the worst, like Nero, could be erratic in someone’s favor.  In AD 68 Nero competed in the Greek Olympics and entered the chariot race.  He did not even manage to finish, but the Greeks awarded him the prize for most outstanding rider in the competition.  In gratitude, Nero absolved all of Greece from tributary taxes.

No fools, those Greeks.

More often than not it worked the other way, like when Caligula made looking down at his bald head a capital offense, or when Tiberius made breathing wrong treasonous (yes — the Tiberius example exaggerates a little).

Both Snyder and Jones are easy to root against.  We must restrain our impulse in this case, especially if we realize that

  • The league said yes to the all their 2010 contracts
  • Now the league says, “You should have known that yes meant no.”
  • For not knowing that yes means no, we restrict your right to spend your money as you see fit according to the agreed upon rules for this year.

The case reminds me a bit of the trial of Charles I, another monarch easy to dislike.  He had haughtiness down pat, as you can see here:

Or here:

Through various high-handed measures he alienated much of the country and provoked a civil war.  After his defeat, Parliament put him on trial.  By law, Parliament could hear treason cases, but the problem for Parliament was that Parliament wasn’t really there.  The army had gotten rid of most of Parliament’s elected representatives, and the entire House of Lords for ideological reasons.  Seeing the writing on the wall, Charles refused to recognize the court’s legitimacy and did not even enter a plea.  With rare insight, he stated to the so-called court,

I would know by what power I am called hither … I would know by what authority, I mean lawful; there are many unlawful authorities in the world; thieves and robbers by the high-ways … Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the judgement of God upon this land. Think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater … I have a trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it, to answer a new unlawful authority; therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.

I do stand more for the liberty of my people, than any here that come to be my pretended judges … I do not come here as submitting to the Court. I will stand as much for the privilege of the House of Commons, rightly understood, as any man here whatsoever: I see no House of Lords here, that may constitute a Parliament … Let me see a legal authority warranted by the Word of God, the Scriptures, or warranted by the constitutions of the Kingdom, and I will answer.

 If it were only my own particular case, I would have satisfied myself with the protestation I made the last time I was here, against the legality of the Court, and that a King cannot be tried by any superior jurisdiction on earth: but it is not my case alone, it is the freedom and the liberty of the people of England; and do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties. For if power without law, may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the Kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life, or any thing that he calls his own.
The other NFL owners have nodded in assent to Godell, just like the Roman Senate always did under the emperors.  But they should be careful.  If the richest and most visible can be dealt with arbitrarily, who will speak when the Bills, Browns, or Jaguars come into Godell’s sights?
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