Here Is Why Baseball Fans, And Almost Everyone Else, Are Ignorant Of How The Law Works…

Last night, while I was watching a lousy Red Sox loss to the Oakland A’s, the Boston broadcasters announced their mid-game poll: “Do you agree with the Supreme Court decision on sports betting?” Viewers were supposed to text one number for yes, another for no. It was quite clear that the Sox announcers themselves had no clue what the decision was, however, as Jerry Remy and Dave O’Brien began debating the pros and cons of legalizing sports betting. The debate was edifying, but had nothing to do with the Court’s decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association whatsoever.

They and thousands of Red Sox fans had no clue what the decision was, and their ignorance didn’t stop them from voting on what they thought it was. What they thought it was came from second and third hand social media posts, and misleading headlines (“Supreme Court Strikes Down Anti-Sports Betting Law”) as well as brain-dead reports on the meaning of the majority ruling. (“Today the Supreme Court opened the door to legalized sports betting by declaring the federal law banning it unconstitutional…”). On a local news channel in the D.C. area, a reporter was dispatched to “investigate” if the reporting on the decision was accurate. “We began by reading the decision itself,” he said,

Wow! What a concept! Read the opinion rather than depend on ignorant reporters who don’t know the Constitution from “Hiawatha” to explain it based on what they think they know, which is not remotely like knowing anything!

Quoting again from ScotusBlog, here’s what “the decision on sports betting” was…

The 10th Amendment provides that, if the Constitution does not either give a power to the federal government or take that power away from the states, that power is reserved for the states or the people themselves. The Supreme Court has long interpreted this provision to bar the federal government from “commandeering” the states to enforce federal laws or policies. [The] justices ruled that a federal law that bars states from legalizing sports betting violates the anti-commandeering doctrine…

…In a decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the court began by explaining that the “anticommandeering doctrine may sound arcane, but it is simply the expression of a fundamental structural decision incorporated into the Constitution” – “the decision to withhold from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the States.” And that, the majority continued, is exactly the problem with the provision of PASPA that the state challenged, which bars states from authorizing sports gambling: It “unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do.” “It is as if,” the majority suggested, “federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals. A more direct affront to state sovereignty,” Alito concluded, “is not easy to imagine.”

Later on, Alito makes it clear that the decision isn’t pro-sports betting or anti-sports betting. The decision is anti-the federal government telling the states that they can’t pass certain kinds of laws, and the subject matter of those laws are irrelevant to that principle. The decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association  no more approves legalized sports betting than it approves speed limits over 90 or letting felons vote in state elections. The decision says that while the federal government can pass its own laws, it can’t order the states not to pass laws.

Never mind! Thousands of Red Sox fans had opinions based on misunderstanding the decision, just as many bloggers and online commenters worked themselves into a frenzy about the evils or benefits of sports betting, aided by journalists who literally, not figuratively, didn’t know what they were writing about, and didn’t have the integrity or common sense to find out.

Good job, everybody!


16 thoughts on “Here Is Why Baseball Fans, And Almost Everyone Else, Are Ignorant Of How The Law Works…

  1. Actually, I hadn’t read the decision, either. If it hadn’t been for your analysis, Jack, I would have stayed as blissfully ignorant as most of the ‘Sox fans. Thanks.

      • Here’s CBS: “After Monday’s Supreme Court decision that essentially OK’d wagering on college and pro sports games in many states”…No, it didn’t “OK” sports betting at all. Here’s Fortune: “The Supreme Court Killed a Prohibition on Sports Betting”…no, it did NOT! It killed a prohibition on legalizing sports betting, which is not the same thing at all. Here’s CNBC: “Sports betting gets a green light.” NO! It did not get a green light! The States got a green light to make their own laws, which the Constitution assured anyway.

        Good grief: why does anyone trust these hacks? Come on, you Defenders of the Enemy of the People, tell me: they can’t be relied upon to accurately report on a Supreme Court decision that only requires reading the damn opinion! Why are they worthy of trust or respect? I don’t want to repeal their Constitutional immunity from the consequences of being incompetent and irresponsible. I just want to end the myth that they aren’t.

  2. The problem is that most people don’t want an accurate summary of the case. Very few people, statistically speaking, care about the 10th Amendment, but lots of people care about the possibility of sports betting becoming legal outside of Nevada. It seems to me the media does not have to bore its readers, especially in the headline. It just needs to avoid being misleading. “Supreme Court Decision Allows States To Legalize Sports Betting” would have been fine.

  3. So this brings up a couple of questions in my mind.

    First, the principle. The federal government cannot tell the states that they have to pass specific laws.

    That seems to be a synopses of the principle at work. This leaves me wondering about things like the Concealed Carry Reciprocity act (currently stalled before the Senate) which makes a uniform law for the carrying of a concealed weapon at a federal level. Another would be some of the Anti-Discrimination laws. There were plenty of states that were forced (literally with the army) to integrate, and to do away with Jim Crow.

    So, this is where I get lost. The government cannot say “You cannot pass a law allowing sports gambling” but they can say “You cannot pass a law allowing discrimination based on race”. I am not seeing the difference. And don’t get me wrong… I am not in favor of discrimination based on race, I am just wondering how one is not okay and the other is. They seem like the same principle.

    • Alito does a pretty good job of explaining the distinction between pre-emption (OK) and commandeering (not OK.) The feds could pass a law making discrimination illegal, or gambling illegal. Those laws pre-empt a state’s laws when both are in conflict. But the Feds cannot end-around states’ rights by directly ordering them not to pass specific laws. That’s commandeering.

    • Sports gambling is not protected by the Constitution. Discrimination based on age, sex, religion, race, sexual preference, etc. is mentioned and banned. Thus, by the Constitution, discrimination is banned. Therefore, States cannot make discriminatory laws.

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