Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/12/13
A small army of attorneys including veteran sports lawyer David Cornwell and brash New York criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina will advise Alex Rodriguez when the appeal of his suspension begins on Sept. 30. Lawyers from the Major League Baseball Players Association will join Team A-Rod in the defense of the scandal-stained superstar; union chief Michael Weiner has publicly endorsed Rodriguez's decision to appeal the historic and unprecedented 211-game doping ban and pledged his organization's support. "We agree with his decision to fight the suspension" Weiner said in a statement released by the union shortly after Major League Baseball suspended Rodriguez and 12 other players on Aug. 5. "We believe the commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the union consistent with its history will defend his rights vigorously." But as the showdown with MLB that will determine Rodriguez's baseball future and legacy approaches the alliance between Team A-Rod and the Players Association is an uneasy one. Rodriguez and his advisers several sources have told the Daily News are deeply suspicious of the Players Association and fear that it will not do everything it can to help Rodriguez beat the suspension. The Players Association meanwhile has to balance a number of different and sometimes competing responsibilities as it defends Rodriguez including defending the drug program it operates in conjunction with MLB and the desire of a growing number of players who want a clean game and support harsh discipline to ensure a level playing field. "The Players Association has a broader stake in this fight" said Robert Boland a former prosecutor criminal defense attorney and sports agent who is now the academic chairman for New York University's Tisch Center for Sports Management. "The interests of the rank and file may not always be the interests of an individual member. This is a line that unions often have to walk and nobody walks it better than the Players Association." A-Rod's fears about the union stem from comments Weiner made that his advisers believe suggest the union chief thinks the Yankee star is guilty of using drugs banned by baseball's joint drug program and deserves to be suspended. In July for example Weiner told the Daily News that if there is overwhelming evidence that a player used steroids growth hormone or other banned substances those players should try to negotiate a settlement with the commissioner's office. "Our fight is going to be that they make a deal" Weiner said without referring to specific players. Weiner was speaking about a specific player however when he told Sirius/XM radio host Chris Russo on Aug. 6 that if MLB had offered a deal that would ban Rodriguez for a certain number of games he suggested A-Rod should take it. "I don't want to give a number but there was a number that I gave A-Rod and we advised him to take it" Weiner told Russo on Sirius/XM's Mad Dog Radio. "He was never given that number." Those comments especially irked A-Rod and his legal team one source told The News because they suggest that Weiner is convinced that Rodriguez used banned drugs. Rodriguez and his legal team have said that the baseball star was never treated by Anthony Bosch and never received performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis the now-shuttered anti-aging clinic just a few miles from the University of Miami baseball facility that bears A-Rod's name. The suspension they have said is the result of efforts by MLB and the Yankees' front office to exile Rodriguez - and his record-breaking contract - from baseball and the Bronx. A three-member panel that includes representatives from the Players Association and MLB as well as independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will actually hear Rodriguez's appeal. If the union has already decided that Rodriguez is guilty of doping Rodriguez and his advisers fear the battle has been lost before they even had a chance to present their defense. A spokesman for the Players Association citing the confidentiality mandated by the drug program declined to comment for this story. University of Illinois sports law professor Michael LeRoy however told The News that it is not unusual for labor leaders to urge members to negotiate settlements with management.
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