Looking back over the past few months, I've noticed that for a lawyer who blogs, I don't write about the law. (Well, I did mention a joint tenancy in my review of The Break-Up.)
That will have to change. I'll use baby steps to get there, just as the best physical therapist in Pittsburgh might suggest to the recently injured Ben Roethlisberger. That's not my best segue, but I did want to talk about motorcycles and professional athletes.
Do they mix? As a matter of attitude, oh yes. Motorcycles have thrived for decades as an expression of virility. As a matter of public relations, oh no. Pro franchises do not want to take the hit of losing one of their athletes to a motorcycle injury, and face the question of whether to cut their losses or voluntarily keep the player on the roster as he heals.
But as a matter of contract law? The answer is less clear. Specific agreements between teams and players may directly address motorcycles (Roethlisberger's contract apparently did not), but according to the Sports Law Blog, the standard NFL contract says:
3. OTHER ACTIVITIES. Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury. Player represents that he has special, exceptional and unique knowledge, skill, ability, and experience as a football player, the loss of which cannot be estimated with any certainty and cannot be fairly or adequately compensated by damages. Player therefore agrees that Club will have the right, in addition to any other right which Club may possess, to enjoin Player by appropriate proceedings from playing football or engaging in football-related activities other than for Club or from engaging in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.
This clause, taken alone, seems to address activities during the season and offseason. Which makes sense: an NFL team doesn't want its player to moonlight by playing in some rival upstart summer league. Or participate in extreme weight-lifting competitions. Or wrestle alligators.
But would riding a motorcycle qualify as "any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury"? Possibly. There are precedents where athletes on motorcycles hit a curb, pole, or wet spot and injured their arms or legs.
Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback who won the Super Bowl last season, suffered injury not because his motorcycle took a spill, but because a woman in a Chrysler hit him. He was thrown off the motorcycle, and his head came into direct contact with the pavement because he wasn't wearing a helmet.
Ah, no helmet. Now the picture is clearer: riding a motorcycle without a helmet involves a significant risk of personal injury. The Steelers coach and organization warned him, but Roethlisberger assured them he'd be careful. But anyone who's taken a defensive driving class knows that one driver being completely careful is only a small part of the story. You still have to worry about every other idiot on the road.
Perhaps his Steelers teammate Joey Porter said it best:
"Some guys are real good on motorcycles and know what they're doing, but accidents happen," Porter said. "I can't knock the guy for doing it, but it's probably not the wisest thing to do. I don't own a bike because I don't trust them."
Porter occasionally gets on a Jet Ski, but he said that's different from steering a motorcycle through heavy traffic. Roethlisberger acknowledged many drivers become distracted when they see him riding, shouting or waving at him.
"If I fall off a Jet Ski, I hit the water, and I like my odds," Porter said. "I'm going to get wet. What I say about motorcycles is that concrete is undefeated."