Overbearing Sports Dad or Racketeering Lacrosse Coaches?
Not a question one frequently has occasion to ask. Earlier this year, the father of a high school lacrosse player in Texas filed a RICO suit in federal court over what he describes as a “pay-for-play” scheme at some of the state’s premier high school lacrosse programs. (It’s literally the father who filed suit as he is a lawyer and one of the plaintiffs, along with his wife and son, and his firm is the plaintiffs’ counsel.) This suit follows a similar state court suit that the father filed last year in the son’s name, which is still pending.
In the RICO suit, the plaintiffs have sued a private for-profit travel team and various coaches. The son didn’t make the varsity lacrosse team, allegedly because the coaches were retaliating against him and his father for continuing to coach and play for a rival team rather than join and support the for-profit team. The plaintiffs claim that “[t]hrough the use of illegal and fraudulent conduct, including threats, intimidation, and even extortion, Defendants have tried to ensure that student athletes who want to play lacrosse in North Texas have to pay-for-play and have to go through Defendants’ enterprise.”
The defendants filed a motion to dismiss earlier this month. Their take on it is that for years the father “has used his position as a lawyer and owner of the law firm Munck Wilson Mandala, LLP, as a tool directed at various lacrosse coaches in the North Texas community whose only sin was failing to recognize and appreciate the athletic talents of” his son. The defendants further argue that it was the father, not the coaches, who was using threats, intimidation, and retaliatory tactics. They assert that the father was threatening to use his position as a lawyer to financially ruin the coaches and their families if his son wasn’t elevated to the varsity team. So the coaches acquiesced and put the son on varsity, but the son transferred high schools anyway. Despite the transfer, the defendants say, the father “was never able to let go of his anger” about his son not initially making the varsity lacrosse squad so he is retaliating with meritless litigation in state and federal courts.
The motion is presently pending. I’m siding with the coaches/team on this one. All of the adults involved might be guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct, but I doubt that benching the son – for whatever reason – amounted to racketeering. RICO was enacted to combat organized crime, not referee the politics of youth sports.