Law in Contemporary Society

Join Them, Or be Buried by Them

-- By AngeloAngelino - 01 Mar 2018

Asking for Advice

Earlier in the semester, I reached out on Twitter to a lawyer from D.C. named Paul. I ended up meeting him downtown for lunch not for the job that he offered, not for the network that he would help me access, but to listen. After graduating law school, Paul moved to D.C., started his own practice focused on anti-corruption and anti-doping in sport, and spent the next 12 years serving as a campaign manager for various FIFA presidential candidates. Until he didn't.

I spent the morning reviewing the Russian doping scandal, the various FIFA corruption trials, and the more recent NCAA corruption investigation. I wore my new, blue, not-too-skinny tie with a floral design thinking it would be perfect for the business formal/casual balance I was going for. I was prepared for the same conversation I have had so many times before about my passion for sport and its [potential] role in our society. The usual response? “Angelo that’s great, you clearly know what you want and you’ve done everything right to get there. Advice? Just keep doing what you’re doing and...uh...try to end up at Proskauer.” I say “thank you”, they say “great to meet you”, we shake hands, and I walk away having gained nothing.

Paul wore jeans and a leather jacket. I felt silly in my suit. Pleasantries were exchanged, and I knew as I took a seat that he wasn’t like the others. He asked me about myself, why sports, why law school. His response?

“Angelo that's great, you clearly know what you want and you’ve done everything right to get there.

Advice? Don’t do it.

You think working for FIFA or the International Olympic Committee will let you pursue what will make you happy and what you think is right. For the first few years? Yeah, maybe. But there’s going to be a project, a conversation, a wink, where you’ll have to choose to join them, or be buried by them. There’s no third option”.

My Options

Would I join them?

I used to think so. I’d joke with my friends about accepting bribes, fixing games, and flying around the world to watch our preferred game of the day. Corruption is really the only thing American’s associate with FIFA, so there was always a good joke or two to be made after being asked what I wanted to do with my life. All I ever considered was the joy the Serie A, the MLS, the Champions League, and the World Cup brought to my life, and what made me happier was thinking that I was only one in a billion-plus around the world who felt that passion and inspiration. Sport can provide purpose, escape, support, and I do genuinely still believe that. But FIFA is merely the governance...the oppressor. Fresh out of high school, dreaming of a role in this corporate structure, I was surprised to hear that FIFA “let” the Brazilian government divert hundreds of millions of dollars away from their impoverished citizens so that they could build stadiums that would only be used twice for the tournament, and never again in the four years since. Today, people are dying in Qatar to plan a World Cup that should never happen. This time, I understand that FIFA isn’t “letting” the Qatari people do this, they are promoting it, and I won’t let myself be a part of it.

Would I let myself be buried by them?

I could never, it terrifies me. Nothing scares me more than not being able to be who I am meant to be. I always thought I wanted to be the president of FIFA, or the head of their development arm, and as long as I was who I am, I could at least have a chance to get there. Do I just take them on? Probably not the best way. From my conversation with Paul, it seems like that’s what he did. He got comfortable with the lifestyle associated with international soccer, but wasn’t willing to make the choices necessary to sustain it, so they buried him because he was in too deep. Paul sounded resentful when he told me that today he mostly works on intellectual property cases to make a living as he can only get the scraps of the anti-corruption and the anti-doping cases in sport.

My grandpa joined a seminary in the aftermath of World War II so that he could eat. After three weeks, they gave him an ultimatum: quit his soccer team because it was affecting his studies, or leave. So he left, excited to fill his now free days with more soccer. I couldn’t be happy knowing that every day, for the rest of my life, I won’t be able to do what I love. Just the prospect of being blacklisted is enough to keep me from following that same path. Maybe I’m not meant to be who I thought I was.

Why does it need to be one of these options?

We He spoke for nearly two hours and I like to think that I was as excited to listen as he was to speak about it. I said “thank you”, he said “great to meet you”, we shook hands, and I walked away rattled.

A month away, I still don’t know what I think about the conversation. In the moment, my first thought was that there had to be a third option, even if he couldn’t see it. But the more I think about it, the more I am ok with the idea of crafting my way to never even put myself in that position. My next step is to figure out which way that is.

You've told the story very well. The extent of its meaning is lost neither on you nor on the reader. I don't think there's really any need to try to improve it: you have done the job.

Now comes the real job, of course. A month is not that long: you have time to consider deeply what matters to you and how to spend your life doing it. Corruption causes emigration: human beings move to find justice. Yours is not a geographic emigration, or necessarily even an emigration from law school (though that would be neither pusillanimous nor inadvisable if your thinking led you another way). It's about finding a vocation to replace one that, however strong, cannot be followed with integrity. A very worthy search, in every sense.


Webs Webs

r2 - 02 Apr 2018 - 16:26:49 - EbenMoglen
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