Do You Believe He Can Fly? Royce White and Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act for NBA Players with General Anxiety Disorder and Fear of Flying
University of New Hampshire School of Law; Sports Illustrated/SI.com
December 12, 2012
Pepperdine Law Review, Forthcoming
Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 19-12
This Article examines the potential legal fallout of an employment dispute between Royce White, an NBA player with general anxiety disorder and a severe fear of flying, and his team, the Houston Rockets. This dispute is without precedent in sports law and, because of the unique aspects of an NBA playing career, lacks clear analogy to other employment circumstances. This dispute also illuminates broader legal and policy issues in the relationship between employment and mental illness.
This Article argues that White would likely fail in a lawsuit against the Rockets and the NBA under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Case law disfavors recognition of his conditions as workplace disabilities, and even if a court recognizes them as such, there appears to be no reasonable accommodation that doesn't necessitate him flying. The Rockets, moreover, have voluntarily offered substantial workplace accommodations to White.
The Article also contends that if White cannot adequately resolve his health issues, it would be advisable for him - and the Rockets, NBA and Players' Association -- to find creative resolutions. Such an approach would be far preferable to litigation. One such approach could be loaning White's employment to another pro basketball league where all or almost all games are played within driving distance. In that circumstance, he could develop his game against talented pro basketball players and, hopefully, gradually overcome his health issues. The Israel Super Basketball League (Ligat Winner Sal) is one such league. During time in another league, White's NBA employment rights would remain with the Rockets.
Alternatively, White's contract could be terminated so that he can play in this driving-friendly type of league. If his contract is terminated, this Article recommends compensation to the Rockets in the form of a first round pick in the 2013 NBA draft -- either #16 to replace his selection from the 2012 draft or a supplemental pick at #31. This Article maintains that the NBA commissioner has legal authority to add a draft pick as compensation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: Americans with Disabilitis Act, ADA, reasonable accommodations, National Basketball Association, NBA, NBA Draft, Royce White, collective bargaining, union represenstation, antitrust law, labor law litigation process, contract law, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC, phobias, fear of flying
JEL Classification: K2, K12, K21, K31, K42Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: June 29, 2012 ; Last revised: December 12, 2012
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