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Commisioner Stern: No Selective Prosecution, Bring Obama to Justice

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Today's newspapers report two LeBron James stories. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 for "tampering" -- NBA contract speak for making comments about LeBron James playing for the Mavericks while James is under contract to another NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers:

Cuban confirmed the fine through his Twitter account shortly before the league announced its punishment for Cuban's remarks which violated the league's anti-tampering rules

See "Cuban/Kerr Fined by NBA" for more.

NBA Commissioner David Stern is famous for "sternly" fining coaches and owners for any comments he interprets to violate the league ban on speaking about a player who is the property of another team. In a second NBA story, the New York Times reports that President Barack Obama offered comments about LeBron James possibly signing a free agent contract with the Chicago Bulls:

If LeBron James is unsure he can win in Cleveland, President Obama thinks there is an opportunity with his hometown Chicago Bulls.

"You know, like I said, I don't want to meddle," Obama told TNT. "I will say this: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah -- it's a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well there."

The motive of the offender is clear: should President Obama not be re-elected to another term (with its fringe benefit of subsidized housing blocks away from the Verizon Center, home court for the Washington Wizards) and return to Chicago, in the third year of a new contract the former President could watch LeBron help his hometown Chicago Bulls compete for NBA championships.

If Stern is to maintain his credibility as one of the most powerful professional sports league Czars -- empowered to levy fines for comments about players under contract -- he must immediately announce a fine for President Obama just as he did for Mark Cuban. The violation is clear and equity demands as much.

The amount of the fine could, however, be adjusted to reflect the assets available to each violator for paying the fine. Obama heads an institution that is several trillion dollars in debt and has a current budget deficit of billions. Cuban is a billionaire without such debt problems. So President Obama could be fined a symbolic, nominal sum -- say $1 -- and equal justice will have been done.

An interest in sports as a participant and fan makes a President seem less remote to ordinary Americans. The Hoopster-in-Chief's NCAA brackets remained intact longer than most. Promised legislative solutions for the BCS are said to be on the drawing board. Reports are circulating of late night sessions with a bowling instructor on the lanes in the White House basement. Of course, this season's first pitch was a bit embarrassing, especially for lefties of a certain age (who normally are counted on to get one late inning out with pinpoint accuracy.)

All in all though considering the array of problems on his plate, President Obama's sophomore year is following up on a pretty good rookie season. Looking down the road, that MLB or NFL commissioner gig might still be a possibility. Succeeding Bud Selig as MLB baseball commissioner could provide the pundits with material for drawing parallels with his POTUS succession to George Bush.

But the President's advisers should urge him to show restraint when it comes to violating the rules of the fraternity of rich NBA owners. One team owner, Senator Herb Kohl, is a powerful member of the Senate. And now, another team owner is a Russian oligarch with even more money than Mark Cuban. These are not people whose fraternity rules you want to flaunt.

Mr. President, my advice is this: Be a little more circumspect. Commissioner Stern may treat this first offense lightly. But, unless you want to risk a term-ending suspension such as that levied by Stern against Gilbert Arenas, zip it.

You may think this advice runs afoul of the First Amendment. But don't overlook the fact that you are responsible for packing the Supreme Court. With Sotomayor and Kagan added to that bench, it will have four members who grew up in New York City.

In the 2000 election, only the presidency was at stake. When the stakes are even higher -- an NBA title for the Knicks should they win the competition for the services of LeBron -- you shouldn't put much stock in the impartiality of judges. Ask Al Gore about that worked out for him.

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