If Rep. Ron Mottl (D-OHIO) has his way, the next time Willie Jones -- or any other defensive end -- slams Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann to the ground, the penalty won't be 15 yards. It will be a $5,000 fine or a year in jail. Or both.
Mottl last July introduced the "Sports Violence Act of 1980," a bill that would make it a federal offense for professional athletes to engage in excessive violence in the course of a sports event.
Basketball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn will lead a parade of witnesses who will give their views on what is and is not excessive Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee's crime subcommittee. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien were asked to attend but indicated they would rather testify at the second hearing, which is yet to be scheduled. The presences of NHL President John Ziegler and NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam are doubtful and questionable, respectively.
Other witnesses include Ed Garvey, executive director of the Nhl Players Association; Rep. Larry Winn (D-Kan); former hockey player Henry Boucha, whose career ended after he was smashed with a stick by Dave Forbes; Boucha's attorney, Brian Smith, who has handled numerous sports violance injuries; Dr. Stanley Cheren of the pshychiatry department of Boston University's School of Medicine, and Rich Horrow, law clerk to Senior United States District Court Judge George Hart and author of "Sports Violence: The Interaction Between Private Lawmaking and the Criminal Law." Horrown helped Mottl draft the bill.
Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), a former New York Knick, also may attend. Should Ziegler not appear, his place would be taken by NHL Vice President Gil Stein.
The witness will discuss a bill Mottl says would not affect normal, physical contact that is naturally a part of sports, but would punish contact that is beyond the bounds of fair play.
"This bill is directed toward the kinds of vicious, dangerous contact that a civilized society should brand as criminal whether it occurs inside or outside the sports arena -- conduct in which the player actually steps outside the role of athlete and sportsman," Mottl told the House when he introduced the legislation.
Mottl also said that a line can be drawn "to serve notice on the professional sports world that extreme acts of excessive violence on the field are as repugant as street corner muggings, and will be punished accordingly. Players, team organizations, fans and sports themselves would all benefit from a statute making it clear that you cannot play rough and hard, but you cannot play to deliberately or recklessly hurt someone."
For a player who "knowingly uses excessive physical force and thereby causes a risk of significant bodily injury to another person involved in that event" shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisioned not more than a year, or both.