Yoking the Choke – Part III

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

In the last two blog posts, I’ve talked about two events which took place at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm where I worked for twenty-five years before retiring as COO in 2011. 

The HBO movie (“The Last Innocent Man”) filmed, in part, at the firm in 1987 and the three-and one-half-day West Coast hearing for the Latrell Sprewell Arbitration with the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association, were both memorable.

Latrell Sprewell as a Minnesota Timberwolf in 2003 *1

* External Photo Attribution at the end of the Post

I’ve “teased” Beerchaser followers with the events leading up to the arbitration in the first post – the Choking and subsequent punching of Coach PJ Carlesemo at a Golden State Warriors practice on December 1, 1997, Sprewell’s immediate termination by the Warriors and the one-year suspension by the NBA – the longest of any non-drug related in NBA history.

In the second post, I also mentioned how Schwabe came to be approached by the NBA to host that hearing through the connection by former Blazer General Counsel, Mike Fennell, who worked as a Schwabe associate attorney after he graduated from law school.  At the end of this post, there’s a deserved tribute to this late colleague, who was a wonderful person and outstanding lawyer.

So let’s take it from the phone call inquiry from Mike, where Schwabe Management determined that we would accept the invitation to serve as the site.  We agreed to provide secure conference rooms; witness waiting areas; secretarial resources as required; telephone, fax and computer equipment they could use.

The assistance would also include logistical support such as transportation from lodging and catering plus coffee, refreshments, etc. during the hearing.  Of course, the firm would charge both the NBA and the Players’ Association for providing these services.

The Preparation

While we were used to having hearings, legal conferences and other events at the firm, an event of this notoriety and scope was uncharted ground – it presented many questions. These resulted in negotiations based on the demands of the parties – primarily the NBA.

As I stated in a 1998 letter to Ronald Klempner, Associate Counsel for the Players’ Association, following the arbitration (after they objected to the firm’s billing…) we surprisingly did not have any contact with the Player’s Association (hereafter “PA”) until the weekend before commencement of the proceedings.

“Although we tried to get a contact name from the Players’ Association and made requests through the NBA, we had no contact from the Players’ Association until the Friday before the hearing (began the next Monday) when I talked to Bob Lanza (General Counsel). 

By that time, of necessity, we had made all the arrangements including limousine service, catering, security, secretarial service, etc.” 

And firm personnel did a lot of advance work – but only with the NBA who communicated with us.   Our Client Relations Department worked with a caterer to plan continental breakfasts, lunches and snacks – different for each day and potential dinner menus since the hearing was supposed to continue into the evenings – the first day, it lasted eleven hours until 8:30 P.M. (The PA had to go along with the menu selected by their adversary in the proceeding!)

We reserved a secretarial station outside each Association’s conference room, with a Schwabe secretary on-call there (into the evenings) to type memos, etc. send faxes, make calls or dinner reservations, etc.

P1010993 (3)

Legal Secretaries were on call

While after twenty-four years, my recollection has dimmed on some of the specifics, the following account of the interactions and incidents are my best effort to convey what were stimulating and sometimes humorous occurrences – from the negotiations to the hearing itself, to contact with the parties afterwards.  I’ve also relied on conversations with Schwabe colleagues.

Our initial contact was with Rick Buchanan, the then young, Assistant General Counsel for the NBA.   From the outset through the culmination, Rick was a class act and it does not surprise me that recent internet research revealed that this Harvard Law graduate is now General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer for the Association. 

RickBuchanan8x10_8456-240x300

A younger Rick Buchanan *2

I didn’t meet Ron Klempner, from the PA, but he is now Senior Counsel, Collective Bargaining for the PA and graduated from the Maurice A. Dean School of Law at Hofstra University.

Both Klempner and Buchanan had remarkably similar legal careers from their excellent law school educations – graduating in 1987 and 1988 respectively – and after notable judicial clerkships; worked at large, prestigious, multi-national law firms before they joined their organizations.  Both began this work in 1993 and Klempner and Buchanan are still working for their respective associations.

Klempner clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and was an associate for five years at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York City (now with fifteen offices and 1,132 lawyers with revenues of $1.7 billion and No. 17 on the The American Lawyer’s 2021 Am Law 200 rankings – Law.com.)   

*5

Buchanan clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals/D.C. Circuit and then for almost five years was an associate at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington DC. (now with thirteen offices and 1,174 lawyers with revenues of $1.3 billion and 25th on 2021 AM Law 200 Rankings  – Law.com

*6

Becoming an associate at this type of multi-national law firm is extremely competitive and new hires are the top students from the nation’s most prestigious law schools.

Interestingly, Klempner, in 2015, “served as acting executive director of the NBPA between the firing of former seventeen-year executive director Billy Hunter  for questionable hiring practices, financial decisions and other alleged misdeeds,” according to an article in Forbes.com. (Hunter is also a lawyer and played wide receiver in the NFL for the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. His story with the PA could comprise another two posts….) 

eyJidWNrZXQiOiJwaWN0dXJlcy5jLXNwYW52aWRlby5vcmciLCJrZXkiOiJGaWxlc1wvNjAxXC8xMDE0NTQ2LTMwMDg4OC0xLmpwZyIsImVkaXRzIjp7InJlc2l6ZSI6eyJmaXQiOiJjb3ZlciIsImhlaWdodCI6MjAwLCJ3aWR0aCI6MjAw (1)

Billy Hunter  *7

And after all these years, the parade of lawyers involved continues:

“The election of Michele A. Roberts, a former Partner at law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates, marked the first time a female was elected to the highest position of a major sport’s players association within the United States.”

And if you thought Buchanan and Klempner worked at large law firms, Skadden-Arps  with 1,594 lawyers generated revenues of $2.6 billion in their twenty-one offices, earning a ranking of fifth on the 2021 AM Law 200. 

(Michele Roberts probably took a cut in salary as the profit per partner at Skadden-Arps was a staggering $4.3 million).  One wonders if Skadden still maintains their Moscow office!  Both Covington and Weil have Beijing and Shanghai offices, but none in Russia. 

I digress, but can’t help noting that Roberts was succeeded as Executive Director for the PA in September, 2021 by Tamika Tremaglio. (Elected for her first four-year term in January, 2022.) 

You guessed it – Tremaglio is not only a lawyer, but also an accountant most recently serving as the Managing Principal for Deloitte Financial Services in their DC office and “where she has worked as an advisor and consultant to the NBPA since 2012.”  (Sports Illustrated.com)

Security, Security and More Security!

From the outset the NBA was extremely concerned with security.  They knew that both the East and West Coast hearings would receive intense media coverage.  

On site reporting would not only be by sports media but given the initial reports of “The Choke” (hereafter “TC”) and the personalities involved such as the NBA stars and high-profile NBA Coaches and even famous attorney, Johnnie Cochran; national and even international general print and broadcast media would be there. (We started getting calls from media outlets ten days before the hearing.)

One of Sprewell’s early legal advisors * 10

The Chief NBA Security Officer flew out from New York (totally at NBA expense) as were the security personnel during the proceedings. He met with firm management and representatives from the PAC West Center – obviously Building Management was very concerned about disruption for the other tenants in the 33-story building.

To give some perspective on the importance of this position to the NBA, the current Chief, Leon Newsome, commenced his position in 2021, after serving as Deputy Director of the United States Secret Service. He is a 1992 Princeton graduate where he starred in football and in his new position will:

“…..oversee all aspects of security operations for the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and soon-to-launch Basketball Africa League as well as the NBA’s 15 offices worldwide.”

dbbb3a77-727e-42f6-b32c-671705d44ad0.sized-1000x1000

Leon Newsome – now Chief Security Officer for the NBA  * 11 

The NBA Security guru, while in Portland, proceeded to visit the multiple high rises in the adjacent blocks (see photo below) where he evidently got permission from building management to go up on the roofs to see what visibility the east side of the Pacwest Center would present to photographers who attempted to film the hearing and witnesses (Really!?). 

Since the hearing room had curtains, we rejected the request that we put up construction paper on the east-facing windows on the 17th – 19th floors where there were no curtains.

The Pacwest Center is in the lower center of the picture *12

The NBA security team which traveled to our offices from New York for the hearing, appeared to be former FBI agents and had personalities befitting that background – no smiles during initial days in the Pacwest Center.

They were adamant about protecting the sanctity of the hearing and the privacy of the witnesses and the parties. (The Players’ Association never inquired about security or media issues.)

And we understood the need for these constraints.   After all, NBA teammates of Sprewell including Joe Smith, Bimbo Coles and Felton Spencer, would be at the Portland hearing. And this would be the first time since The Choke, that Sprewell and Carlesimo would sit face-to-face. (New York Times 1/29/1998)

Joe Smith (pictured) Bimbo Coles and Felton Spencer – all who played for multiple NBA teams, were Sprewell’s teammates on the Warriors. *13

That said, we were operating at 125-lawyer firm, with at that time, four floors in a high-rise building with clients, attorneys representing opposing parties and vendors/consultants needing access to our people and facilities.

At that time, we had a receptionist on each floor with access to the public. (Now, with five floors, Schwabe has only one reception area at the firm’s Conference Center on the 19th floor, where all external parties initially check in). 

Schwabe 19th Floor Conference Center Reception

The NBA’s initial position was that we needed to lock down all of our floors with access only through clearance by a receptionist on one floor.  We calmly responded that this was overkill since the hearing would be located on the 19th floor large hearing room with the parties each having conference and temporary office facilities on the 17th and 18th floors.

The Pacwest Center made additional conference rooms available for the firm’s business, if necessary.  We compromised and agreed on a partial lockdown – having all firm personnel come up to the 16th floor and then using internal staircases. We could greet clients on the 16th floor.  As a result, no unauthorized persons gained access during the event.

While they initially came across as “hard asses”, the NBA security guys turned out to be reasonable and interacted amicably with firm personnel. We worked cooperatively to develop practical security solutions and they were quite personable once the hearings started. 

Gag Order

No one talks to the Press! *14

Their anticipation on the level of media coverage turned out to be well-founded.   The hearing took place on Tuesday through mid-day Friday.  The intent was to get the current NBA players and coaches in as witnesses early on Tuesday so they could make games later that week.

On Tuesday morning, the PacWest Center lobby was filled with anywhere from 25 to eventually about 50 reporters – hungry to interview the parties and witnesses or anybody who could offer any insight on what was transpiring nineteen floors above.

Pacwest Lobby – Picture this jammed with media people

This was in spite of the announcement that all involved parties agreed to a gag order prior to the hearing:

“Chris Brienza, the league’s director of media relations, has tired to discourage a media stampede. ‘I’ve been telling those guys, this will go from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every night, the proceedings will be closed and our guys are not going to have much to say,’ said Brienza. 

Still, the league is sending one media relations person out for the hearings. ‘Crowd control,’ Brienza said.” (The Sunday Oregonian , 1/25/1998.)

Surreptitious Entry!

The standard method for an external party to access Schwabe offices would be to come in through the main entrance on 6th Avenue, or if they were driving, to enter the parking garage, to park with the valet on the first level and then take the elevator to the lobby.  Once in the lobby, a second set of elevators would access the high-rise office facilities.

This would present a problem, because the media knew by sight, the players and coaches and would descend on them en-masse the minute they appeared.  So we cooperatively developed an alternative. 

We had arranged town-car limo service from their hotels, and the drivers were instructed to enter the parking garage on Jefferson Street. Rather than stop at the valet, they would proceed to the third level where we had reserved spaces for them.

Although not befitting a prestigious law firm, the visitors to Schwabe would then proceed through the entry to the freight elevator and take that very cumbersome and slow lift to the 17th floor or 18th floors where they would exit and then proceed to their assigned quarters.

It was masterful and none of the correspondents or their photographers discovered this surreptitious entry until it was too late.

That said, on the third morning of the hearing, those that were still there (about half-left when they got frustrated with lack of contact) did have an exciting moment. The Manager of the firms Copy Room and related support functions was a wonderful employee named Wendell King.

Wendell was a tall, good looking, always impeccably dressed and articulate Black man who was an exemplary manager.  He decided to make his first trip that week to the Starbucks located in one corner of the Lobby for a latte’. 

When the elevator reached the lobby and Wendell walked out with some other people who worked in the building, the press (assuming the stereotypical NBA forward) took one look and congregated around him “battering” him with questions about how the arbitration was going, was he testifying on behalf of Sprewell, etc.  It was one of the most humorous moments during the event.

(Unfortunately, Wendell passed away in 2009 and to recognize the standard he set for client service and performance, the firm created the “Wendell King Best of Schwabe Award” which is still given out each quarter to the Schwabe employee who best meets the standard Wendell set.)

Towards the end of the hearing, things got more relaxed although the press was still hanging around.  Latrell asked our attractive and personable sixteenth floor receptionist, Jenny, out for dinner (she politely declined….)  and some of those involved would go to Starbucks for coffee.   Dave Bartz, the future President of the firm, related in a recent e-mail:

“My elevator ride was down the main elevator (from the 17th floor). There was a rush – hubbub, in the lobby. I was in the elevator. The door opened and they jumped in (Sprewell and some suits  – I assumed some handlers or lawyers).  I moved to the back. Spre and I exchanged a nod and a hello.” (and rode back up in the elevator!)

Mark Long – Managing Partner and Dave Bartz – President —Two outstanding leaders at Schwabe from 2001 to 2017 *15

Dave also related:

“I learned that PJ’s favorite Italian restaurant in Oregon was the West Linn (where Thebeerchaser now lives) spot, Buggatis.  (Pretty high praise for a NJ boy.)”

Favored by Coach Carlessemo *16

A Tribute to Mike FennellFacebook

In the last blog post, I mentioned how Mike Fennell, General Counsel for the Portland Trailblazers, was responsible for making the connection between our law firm – Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt PC and the NBA – regarding hosting the West Coast portion of the Latrell Sprewell arbitration hearing.

Mike had a great career and rose in the ranks for the Trailblazers from handling a few matters as outside counsel to in-house General Counsel from 1992 to October 2012.

Portland Trailblazer General Counsel – an outstanding lawyer *17

He was an associate attorney with Schwabe after graduation from University of Oregon Law School in 1983. He was regarded as a very good corporate and securities lawyer and just a great colleague. Mike became a key member of the Trailblazer Executive Management Team, providing strategic direction for the company in day to day operations

“Mike loved his ‘work family’ at the Trail Blazers and was extremely grateful for his amazing colleagues.” Upon his departure, Sarah Mensah, who the was the Trailblazer’s COO stated:

“The imprint that Mike leaves as a legal strategist, counselor, negotiator and front office executive is a lasting one,” said Mensah. “It’s hard to see him go, and on behalf of the entire Trail Blazers organization, we extend our deepest gratitude to Mike for his significant contributions, and wish him continued success as he pursues a new phase of his career.”

Mike passed away far too young (61) in December 2018 after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2014.

In Closing…

This post got way too long, but we’re not yet done with the Sprewell story.  Stay tuned to Thebeerchaser!  And in closing, to my amazement, parents can still purchase the item below at Amazon. 

Micheal Pellowski is a children’s author who wrote a number of books including Karate Bear and Double Trouble on Vacation in the late ’80’s. The Sprewell offering is still available for $23.93 and is recommended for kids from six to twelve.  The book:

“Examines the personal life, college years, and professional career of NBA basketball star, Latrell Sprewell, who now plays for the New York Knicks.”

Children reading the book might want to have adult supervision!

Pellowski is a New Jersey native who graduated from Rutgers and is now 73 years old.

Role Model for Cover of Composition Notebook? *18

Cheers!

External Photo Attribution

*1  Latrell Sprewell Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/123246144405531/photos/pb.100042176306027.-2207520000../123246191072193/?type=3)

*2  “The Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law” (https://harvardjsel.com/2016/02/interview-with-nba-general-counsel-rick-buchanan/)  26 February 2016.

*3  The Org.com (https://theorg.com/org/nba/org-chart/rick-buchanan

*4  Linked-in.com – Ron Klempner (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ron-klempner-36aa247/)

*5    Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weil,_Gotshal_%26_Manges#/media/File:Weil,_Gotshal_&_Manges_LLP_logo.svg) Author: Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

*6  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons –   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covington_%26_Burling#/media/File:Covington_logo.svg)  Author; Covington & Burling.

*7  C-Span – Billy Hunter (https://www.c-span.org/person/?1014546/WilliamBillyHunter

*8   “Wesleyan University Magazine”  (https://magazine.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2019/05/20/a-smooth-crossover-from-the-court-room-to-defending-nba-players-rights/)  20 May 2019.

*9  (Linked in – Tamika Tremaglio (https://www.linkedin.com/in/tamikatremaglio/

*10 Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnnie_Cochran#/media/File:Johnnie_cochran_2001_cropped_retouched.jpg) By Mark Winograd (Personal photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

 *11 The Daily Princetonian – (https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2021/03/leon-newsome-princeton-university-ivy-league-secret-service)  4 March 2021.

*12  Google Earth (https://earth.google.com/web/@45.515254,-122.6794129,35.6438696a,418.81430678d,35y,102.83948888h,0t,0r)

*13   Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joe_Smith_Cavs2.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  Author: Keith Allison  27 April 2008.

*14 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Censorship.svg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: Time3000, Tomchen1989, Mozilla.  28 March 2008.

*15  Daily Journal of Commerce.com (https://djcoregon.com/news/2012/03/16/leadership-in-law-mark-long-and-david-bartz/)

*16  Bugattis Italian Ristorante Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/bugattisristorante/photos/a.252041161513560/2261514310566225/)

*17  Oregon Live (https://obits.oregonlive.com/us/obituaries/oregon/name/michael-fennell-obituary?id=15737681)  

*18  Amazon Prime (https://www.amazon.com/Latrell-Sprewell-Super-Sports-Star/dp/0766018113/ref=sr_1_16?crid=JXJ6XILZ5W7H&keywords=latrell+) ” “Latrell Sprewell (Super Sports Star)”.  Author: Michael J. Pellowski 

Yoking “The Choke” – Part II

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

In the last post on Thebeerchaser, “Yoking the Choke – Part I” – I described two interesting events not directly related to our clients at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt PC – the law firm where I served as the COO before I retired. 

The filming of some scenes of “The Last Innocent Man” – an HBO movie in 1987 and hosting the three and on-half day West Coast hearing of former NBA star, Latrell Sprewell’s arbitration in 1998, both brought some well-known Hollywood celebrities, athletes and coaches to our offices.   

Sprewell choked his coach, PJ Carlesimo in December,1997, an incident which garnered not only national, but international attention.  “The Choke” (hereafter referenced as “TC”) and its related events read like a bad sports novel, but before telling you about our law firm’s connection, let’s go back twenty-five years for context and recollections that might depress you.

1997 is not a year ingrained in most of our memories.  Why would you want to remember “Bitch” (No. 15) and Madonna’s  “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (No. 87) – two of the “Billboard Year-end Hot 100 Singles” that year?  (Madonna didn’t even edge out No. 82 “Macarena” – inexplicably down from its No 1 ranking in 1996.)

And neither television’s Seinfeld at No. 1 (Seinfeld then announced that 1997 was the final season) or “Men in Black” on the big silver screen in 1997, are exactly cultural icons that pull us back.  (Seinfeld fans will remember Art Vandelay, President of Vandelay Industries who was a Beerchaser-of-the-Month in this blog in 2014.)

Art Vandelay – President of Vandelay Industries

But if you look at a chronology of significant events occurring in December of that year from “On This Day.com” besides those below which I thought were interesting, you’ll find five references to Latrell Sprewell – shown following the vivid description of TC itself:

12/1 – “Howard Stern Radio Show” premiers on Davenport Iowa radio station KORB.

12/11 – Delegates from 150 industrial nations attending a UN climate conference in Kyoto, Japan, reach agreement to control heat-trapping greenhouse gases.  (Obviously, we’ve made incredible progress….!!??  See note at the end of the post)

*6 Map of Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – Orange and Red are not parties.

12/17 – Saturday Night Live Comedian, Chris Farley, died of an overdose of a combination of cocaine and morphine, commonly known as a “speedball.”

Embed from Getty Images

12/29 – Hong Kong begins slaughtering all its chickens to prevent bird flu. (I guess this taught us a lot about containing pandemics….)

12/31 – More Swedes died than were born in 1997 – 1st time since 1809. (I couldn’t resist that one….)

The Actual Incident

But before listing the Sprewell items, let’s look at a detailed description of the incident as described in the subsequent 2001 US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Spreewell v Golden State Warriors:

“Tensions between Sprewell and Carlesimo climaxed during a closed-door practice on December 1, 1997, during which Carlesimo told Sprewell to pass the ball to a teammate for a quick shot. Despite Sprewell’s contention that he passed the ball ‘admirably, as one would expect of an All-Star,’ Carlesimo rebuked Sprewell for not putting more speed on his pass.

When Carlesimo subsequently repeated his criticism, Sprewell slammed the ball down and directed several expletives at Carlesimo. Carlesimo responded with a similar showing of sophistication. Sprewell immediately either walked or lunged at Carlesimo and wrapped his hands around Carlesimo’s neck. With his arms fully extended, Sprewell moved Carlesimo backwards, saying ‘I will kill you’

Carlesimo offered no resistance. Sprewell grasped Carlesimo’s neck for approximately seven to ten seconds — the time it took for other players and coaches to restrain Sprewell. Sprewell then left the practice floor, saying ‘trade me, get me out of here, I will kill you,’ to which Carlesimo countered, ‘I am here.'”  

*7 Courtesy of I-80 Sports Blog

Note:  The above images are courtesy of Paul Eide, the creator and author of a great sports blog (I-80 Sports Blog).  It covers all major sports and is a wonderful source of articles and opinions. 

Paul is a freelance journalist since 2000 and has had his work published via AskMen, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Busted Coverage, and Autotrader.  You should check it out and subscribe to his e-blast.  His description of The Choke can be accessed at the link above.

As  promised, the December, 1996 Sprewell Chronology from the LA Times Archives:

* Dec. 1– Sprewell attacks Carlesimo at a practice; the Golden State Warriors suspend Sprewell without pay for at least 10 games.

*8 Coach PJ Carlesimo

* Dec. 3 –The Warriors terminate Sprewell’s $32 million contract.

* Dec. 4 — The NBA suspends Sprewell for one year, with Commissioner David Stern saying, “A sports league does not have to accept or condone behavior that would not be tolerated in any other segment of society.”

* Dec. 5 — The Players’ Association files grievances against the NBA and the Warriors (on behalf of Spreewell).

* Dec. 9 — In his first public comments on the attack, Sprewell says his conduct was unacceptable. “I am a good person and I’ve never had any situation like this come up before,” he says. “I feel 10 years of hard work shouldn’t be taken away for one mistake. My career didn’t happen overnight and I don’t feel it should be taken away overnight.”

* Dec. 10 — “With six former teammates behind him and famed attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. at his side, fired pro basketball star Latrell Sprewell apologized publicly Tuesday to his former coach for choking him last week.” (emphasis added) Buffalo News 1/10/1996

What’s somewhat both ironic and humorous – as are a lot of elements of this story – is Johnnie Cochran serving as a member/advisor of his legal team.  That’s because Sprewell then made a comment in a January 23, 1997 interview with the New York Post stating: (LA Times Archives)

“I’m not as bad as everyone has made me out to be. It’s as if I’m another O.J. Simpson. Yes, I was wrong, but I didn’t kill anybody. I’m not a double murderer.” (Emphasis added)

The Law Firm Connection

Readers who have made it this far may be asking, “Okay Beerchaser, so what’s the link with the law firm and the Sprewell arbitration that you’ve mentioned?” In the next post, I will go into detail about the interactions and logistics of that multi-day hearing, but first, why did they select Schwabe’s Portland office as the site?

The NBA and Players’ Association knew with the witnesses testifying, it made economic and scheduling sense to break the arbitration into West Coast and East Coast hearings.  Since PJ and some Golden State coaches and players who were testifying, were in the midst of the 1997-8 season, it had to be scheduled around the NBA games.

Golden State had a game with the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday, January 29th and with Seattle on Thursday the 31st (they beat the Blazers and lost to the Sonics!) so their appearances could be worked into that window. 

The NBA contacted the Blazers about a site for the Portland hearing – one with multiple large conference rooms, comfortable waiting areas, business equipment such as computers, faxes, etc. and most importantly, secure facilities to prevent media and interested fans from interfering or disrupting the proceedings.

The late Mike Fennel, was a Schwabe associate attorney after he graduated from law school in 1983 and subsequently spent five years as one of the Trail Blazer’s outside counsel at another firm doing primarily basketball related work.

When the Trail Blazers decided to build the Portland Rose Garden, they wanted to have an in-house General Counsel and Mike’s experience with the basketball side made him the prime candidate.

Mike Fennell – an outstanding lawyer and gentleman *13

In 1992 he became the first in-house General Counsel for an NBA team as Senior Vice President/General Counsel for the Trail Blazers from 1992 to October 2012. During his time at the Blazers, he assisted with all of the Trail Blazers legal matters including providing support on player contract negotiations, other team-related issues and the building of the Moda Center.  Additionally, he served as General Counsel for other Paul Allen affiliates that operated in Portland.

Mike contacted us at Schwabe towards the end of 1997 and asked if we would be willing to discuss hosting the hearings.  We agreed to negotiate the details with the NBA and Players’ Association.  Those discussions and the following negotiations on the logistics were some of the most stimulating I experienced in my twenty-five years at the firm. 

In the next post, I’ll also make a tribute to Mike who passed away far too young (61) in December 2018 after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2014.

Note in Closing on the Kyoto Protocol and Beyond…..

Climate change is a critical global issue (among many these days).  As stated in a 3/1/22 article entitled ” Another Troubling Climate Report:”

“A highly anticipated report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded there is a ‘brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.’ It warned of certain ‘tipping points’ that could increase climate risks if global temperatures exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (it’s already increased 1.1 degrees).”

How effective was the Kyoto Protocol?  According to an October, 2020 post from Earth.org.

“The U.S. was originally part of the agreement, but dropped out in 2001 due to the concern of an economic turndown. George Bush, the former US president, stated that complying with the Protocol would mean limiting the country’s growth and argued that there could be other ways to cut emissions without harming the economy.  

When Canada withdrew in 2011, many thought the Protocol had failed. A year later, estimates showed a 20% drop in developed countries emissions (vis-à-vis 1990 levels). Despite global emissions rising by an overall 38% over the same period, Kyoto Protocol’s effect remains significant. 

…It is more reasonable to see the Kyoto Protocol as a first step toward a greater international commitment to reversing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”

Fortunately, the Paris Agreement, adopted by 196 Parties and effective on 4 November 2016, is now a legally binding international treaty on climate change.  

“The Paris Agreement is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process because, for the first time, a binding agreement brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.”

On January 20, 2021 – his first day in office – President Biden signed the instrument to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement.

* 14 The Paris Agreement – Blue = Parties, Yellow = Signatories, Black = Parties also covered by European Union ratification

Cheers

External Photo Attribution

*1  (https://www.amazon.com/Last-Innocent-Man-Ed-Harris/dp/B000CN9VS2

*2  Latrell Sprewell Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/123246144405531/photos/pb.100042176306027.-2207520000../1131335593596576/?type=3)

*3  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Madonna_Rebel_Heart_Tour_2015_-_Stockholm_(23051472299)_(cropped).jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  Author: chrisweger 14 November 2015.

*4  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seinfeld.svg)  This logo image consists only of simple geometric shapes or text. It does not meet the threshold of originality needed for copyright protection, and is therefore in the public domain.

*5  Public Domain – Wikimedia Common (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Men_In_Black_logo.png)  This logo image consists only of simple geometric shapes or text. It does not meet the threshold of originality needed for copyright protection, and is therefore in the public domain.  Author: Universal Orlando – 1997.

*6  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyoto_Protocol_parties.svg)   I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. Author:  User:CanuckguyUser:Danlaycock  – 2 October 2014.

*7  I-80 Sports Blog (https://i80sportsblog.com/latrell-sprewell-chokes-pj-carlesimo/)

*8   Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P._J._Carlesimo_2015_cropped.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author: MavsFan28 – 26 September 205.

*9  Latrell Sprewell Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/123246144405531/photos/pb.100042176306027.-2207520000../123246191072193/?type=3)

*10  Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnnie_Cochran#/media/File:Johnnie_cochran_2001_cropped_retouched.jpg) By Mark Winograd (Personal photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

*11  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basketball.png) This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Reisio. This applies worldwide.  Author:  Reisio 26 January 2006.

*12  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rockefeller_Park_td_(2019-03-09)_101_-_Basketball_Courts.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author: Tdorante10  9 March 2019.

*13  Oregon Live (https://obits.oregonlive.com/us/obituaries/oregon/name/michael-fennell-obituary?id=15737681)

*14  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ParisAgreement.svg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author: L.tak  22 April 2016.