Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green was arrested for assault Sunday at approximately 2:40 a.m. in East Lansing, Mich. The arrest apparently followed an altercation involving Green and another man in a restaurant around the city's downtown district. No injuries were reported and the other man was not arrested. Green, who is from Saginaw, Mich. and played college ball at Michigan State, was released on $200 bail.
Green faces a simple assault charge (technically called “assault or assault and battery”). Under Michigan law, a conviction for simple assault carries a potential jail sentence of 93 days as well as two years probation and a $500 fine. Jail time for first-time offenders, however, is very rare. Often, a plea deal that carries no jail time can be reached long before any trial. Simple assault is distinguishable from the more serious charge of aggravated assault, which involves a victim suffering a significant injury and which under Michigan law carries a possible jail sentence of up to one year.
It should be stressed that an arrest of Green is only that—an arrest. It does not prove that Green committed a crime. An arrest more cautiously signifies that the arresting police officer had “probable cause” to conclude that Green committed assault. Probable cause generally means the officer reached a defensible conclusion, based on available facts and other objective circumstances. Probable cause requires a lower level of certainty than beyond a reasonable doubt, which is required for a conviction. It remains to be seen if the evidence against Green can hold up against a defense.
Green is scheduled for an arraignment in court on July 20. During the arraignment the charge will be read aloud, and Green will be asked by the judge to enter a plea. Green will likely plead “not guilty,” which would be recorded by the court clerk. A court date will then be set for the next hearing. As mentioned above, a plea deal could also be struck at any time.
Impact of arrest on Green’s NBA and Olympic careers
While the possibility of Green serving jail time is negligible, he could face other professional repercussions.
Green could face discipline by the Warriors or by the NBA. The Warriors could find Green’s conduct detrimental to the team and deserving of a fine or even a suspension. In addition, the NBA has enacted several policies that authorize punishments for player misconduct. The most relevant one is Article 35 of the league constitution. Article 35 is incorporated into the collectively bargained Uniform Player Contract. It empowers NBA commissioner Adam Silver to fine or suspend players for any “conduct that does not conform to standards of morality or fair play, that does not comply at all times with all federal, state, and local laws, or that is prejudicial or detrimental to the NBA.”
Do not expect any disciplinary action by either the Warriors or NBA until Green resolves the matter in court. Early reports indicate the incident was relatively minor. Still, in the unlikely event that the NBA fines Green in excess of $50,000 or suspends him in excess of 12 games, he would have the right, under Article XXI of the CBA, to request a review from a neutral arbitrator. In contrast, if Green faces any lesser punishment, such a sanction could only be appealed to the commissioner.
Even a one-game suspension would be costly for Green, who according to Spotrac forfeited $303,644 in salary over his first four NBA seasons due to disciplinary matters. Robert Raiola, the Director of Sports & Entertainment Group at PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP, tells SI.com that if suspended, Green would lose $139,368 in salary for each missed game.
Endorsements and morals clauses
Green reportedly has signed several endorsement deals during his NBA career, including with the fantasy sports gaming network Major League Fantasy. Endorsement deals often include “morals clauses,” which are contractual terms that allow the endorsed company to suspend or even terminate a deal when the athlete attracts public controversy or is accused of breaking the law. At this point, Green’s arrest for a misdemeanor is unlikely to motivate any companies to cut ties with him. But the arrest likely empowers the endorsed companies with the choice to take action.
Olympic eligibility and ability to obtain a visa
Green’s arrest could potentially impact his place on the Team USA roster heading to Rio next month. The team will play in the 2016 Summer Olympics from Aug. 5–21. While it is unlikely that Green would lose his spot on the roster due to what appears to be a relatively minor incident, USA Basketball and the U.S Olympic Committee will likely review Green’s situation. They would do so for at least a couple of reasons.
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First, they want to ensure that the alleged incident does not warrant his expulsion for failing to meet the conduct expected of U.S. Olympians. In addition to being spectacular athletes, U.S. Olympians are representatives of their country and are expected to exhibit abide by laws and display sound character. While Green has not been convicted of any crime and while the alleged incident seems relatively minor, it will warrant review.
Second, and of likely greater concern to USA Basketball and the U.S. Olympic Committee, an arrest of Green could interfere with his eligibility to enter Brazil. In many cases a misdemeanor charge does not prevent admission into a foreign country—so long as the person seeking a visa first obtains clearance from that country’s immigration officials. It would not be surprising if immigration attorneys hired by the U.S. Olympic Committee have already reached out to Brazilian immigration officials to alert them of Green’s situation and to resolve any issues as soon as possible. As many know, immigration matters can sometimes take months, or even years, to resolve. Green has only a few weeks. While administrative matters can be expedited, it will be worth monitoring to see how USA Basketball and the U.S. Olympic Committee handles Green’s situation.
Michael McCann is a legal analyst and writer for Sports Illustrated. He is also a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. McCann also created and teaches the Deflategate undergraduate course at UNH. He serves on the Board of Advisors to the Harvard Law School Systemic Justice Project and is the distinguished visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law at Mississippi College School of Law. He is also on the faculty of the Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute.