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Draymond Green’s spot with Team USA likely secure after plea deal

Warriors star Draymond Green accepted a plea deal in his Michigan assault case, but he might not be out of the woods yet.

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Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, who was recently charged with assault after allegedly slapping another man, has reached a plea agreement with East Lansing (Mich.) prosecutors. In exchange for a misdemeanor assault being dropped, Green accepts responsibility for a noise violation. Such a violation is a civil infraction, meaning it is akin to receiving a speeding ticket or a fine for failure to wear a seatbelt.

Green, who has earned almost $17 million over his first four NBA seasons, will have to pay a $500 fine and a $60 restitution fee. Green also agrees to refrain from any contact with Jermaine Edmondson, the other man in the altercation, for one year. The agreement should ensure that Green retains his spot on the Team USA roster and can enter Brazil without accompanying immigration hurdles.

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The incident that gave rise to the assault charge reportedly began with an argument between Green and Edmondson, who at the time played cornerback for the Michigan State Spartans, inside an East Lansing, Mich., restaurant on July 10. At some point, the argument escalated into a physical altercation. Green is alleged to have slapped Edmondson across the face. Neither man was injured but Green was arrested and charged with a simple assault charge that, under Michigan law, carried a maximum jail sentence of 93 days.

As I explained in a recent article, the assault charge came at a particularly disruptive time for Green. He is set to play in the 2016 Summer Olympics from Aug. 5-21. In order to enter Brazil, Green, like any American, needs permission from the Brazilian government in the form of a visa. Even a misdemeanor charge over a relatively minor incident can be viewed as a red flag for immigration officials who are entrusted with deciding who may enter. Further, visa problems sometimes take many weeks to be resolved. It was thus critical for Green and his legal team to get his assault case settled quickly and in a way that transforms the criminal charge into a mere civil infraction.

Green’s arrangement with prosecutors also makes it unlikely that he’ll face any discipline from USA Basketball or the U.S. Olympic Committee. Green recently apologized to Team USA for the arrest. The apology prompted USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo to issue a statement that supported Green for taking responsibility. Every indication suggests that Green’s place on Team USA is secure. A noise violation shouldn’t alter that dynamic, particularly since Green’s plea deal guarantees that he will not be required to travel to Michigan to appear in court.

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Not out of the woods yet

While Green’s plea deal clears his path to play in the Olympics, his altercation with Edmondson could present future legal problems.

The NBA would be within its rights to punish Green under Article 35 of the league constitution. Article 35 enables NBA commissioner Adam Silver to punish Green 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.” Green admitting to a noise violation is technically an admission that he did not comply with the law at all times. According to Robert Raiola, the Director of Sports & Entertainment Group at PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP, Green would lose $139,368 in salary for any game in which he is suspended. At this point, however, it seems unlikely that the NBA will suspend Green. A noise violation is a relatively innocuous offense and the question of whether Green hit Edmondson has not been answered in court.

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Green could also face a personal injury lawsuit. Edmondson could sue Green for battery if Green hit him. Edmondson could also sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress over any accompanying emotional harm. While initial reports indicate that Edmondson was not injured, it remains to be seen if those reports prove correct. Also, alleged injuries are sometimes asserted weeks or months after-the-fact. Under Michigan law, Edmondson could wait a couple of years before filing a lawsuit.

Rather than waiting for the possibility of being sued, Green’s attorneys might reach out to Edmondson’s attorneys in an attempt to settle the matter. A settlement would entail Green, or possibly his insurance company, paying Edmondson an undisclosed amount of money. In exchange, Edmondson would contractually relinquish any possible claims he has against Green. Such a deal would provide closure for all involved, which means there’s a good chance that it will happen.

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.