Last week Mark Cuban, owner of the newly-crowned NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, set the sports-news cycle on fire again by filing what one national outlet called "the ultimate 'fuck-you' legal brief." In response to a lawsuit by a minority partner accusing Cuban of mismanaging the franchise, Cuban filed a legal paper of his own: It consisted of a photo of the basketball team celebrating its victory, with teammates crowding Dirk Nowitzki as he hoists the NBA's iconic championship trophy in the air. Boom. Scoreboard. Case closed — at least in the court of public opinion (as of press time, the issue has yet to be decided by the actual court).
To think that results on a big-league playing field could significantly affect real-world lawsuits. With Cleveland's attention so fixed on recent sporting events in Dallas, it's especially hard not to ask: If it can happen there, why not here? Whatever else our sports history lacks, we have conclusive results in spades. So what do those results have to say for justice in America? What would Cleveland's "scoreboard" legal brief look like?
If scoreboards are to have anything to do with it, it'll look a lot different than the brief just filed by Cuban, of course. The example that's easiest to picture here involves LeBron James celebrating an NBA championship before the Cavaliers do. If this happens, the people of Cleveland win for sure, because Cavs owner Dan Gilbert promised us last July: "I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former 'king' wins one. You can take it to the bank."
If a LeBron championship wouldn't be an open-and-shut case for a full refund for every Cavs ticket purchased after Gilbert made his promise, then what's a guarantee? Why even have words? Or banks? Boom. Scoreboard. Think of the jolt to the local economy.
Recent Supreme Court decisions upholding governments' rights to use eminent domain to seize private assets for "public use" gives Cleveland sports fans even more reason for optimism. With four different general managers, five different head coaches, and zero playoff wins to count in the 11 NFL seasons passed since the Lerner family took custody of the Browns, it's becoming increasingly clear that a clan of chipmunks could run the team just as well. Leave aside the question of whether Clevelanders have a constitutional right to disassociate their sports karma from the heir of a man who helped Art Modell move the real Browns to Baltimore; the authorities simply wouldn't have required Modell to leave the name, logo, and history in Cleveland if the Browns franchise wasn't a public trust important enough to be wrested from the control of chipmunks. Boom. Scoreboard. The publicly-owned reigning Super Bowl champs in Green Bay provide a handy blueprint.
But maybe none of the rest would be necessary if we could only succeed in abating the public nuisance represented by the modern world's last acceptable racist caricature: the Indians' red sambo logo, Chief Wahoo. A typical public-nuisance case might involve discharge of a pollutant into the air or a river, and the applicability of this body of law to Wahoo ought to be clear enough here. But even if you're not bothered by Cleveland's continued embrace of a cartoon that mocks the genocide of America's first people, consider its impact. For all the legend surrounding the vanquished "Curse of the Bambino" in Boston, the prevalence of a "Curse of Chief Wahoo" on so much native burial ground in Northeast Ohio explains Cleveland's unprecedented sports misery as well as anything does.
In fact, the continued survival of the singularly dehumanizing mascot, viewed alongside the continued historic failure of Cleveland's professional sports franchises, is the strongest evidence there is for the worth of the most basic metaphysical principle governing the U.S. legal system: What goes around comes around. Boom. Scoreboard. Fifty-plus years over. Cleveland's loss is civilization's gain, and thanks to Mark Cuban's legal team, that couldn't be more clear. We knew this Mavericks championship would be good for something.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.