The five people on Rep. Ron Mottl's most wanted list are still at large.
Mottl, an Ohio Democrat who last July introduced the Sports Violence Act of 1980, had been hopeful that the commissioners of the five major professional sports would attend yesterday's hearing on his bill before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime. When none appeared, he was not pleased.
"This is a real affront to the subcommittee," Mottl said in response to the absence of football's Peter Rozelle, baseball's Bowie Kuhn, hockey's John Ziegler, basketball's Larry O'Brien and soccer's Phil Woosnam. "I think communications subcommittee when it involves the big bucks for television and radio but they won't appear when it ivolves violence in sports."
Kuhn, in a letter read by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), pleaded pressing playoff and World Series business as the reason for his no-show, and submitted a written statement. So did Rozelle, who reportedly was in California to testify in one of the myriad suits regarding the Oakland Raiders' move to Los Angeles. Ziegler is in Europe. The whereabouts of O'Brien and Woosnam were not disclosed.
Both Kuhn and Rozelle opposed the bill, which Mottl told the subcommittee "would make it a federal crime for professional players to use excessive force during the game -- force that creates a significant risk of injury, when that force has no reasonable relationship to the competitive goals of the sport, is resonably violent, and could not be reasonably forseen or consented to by the intended victim." The penalty would be a $5,000 fine, one year in jail or both.
Of the seven witnesses who testified yesterday, only Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association and a longtime Rozelle antagonist, was opposed to the bill. In addition to Mottl, cosponsor Larry Winn (D-Kan.), former NHL player Henry Boucha, whose career was ended by a head injury, and his attorney Brian Smith, Rick Horrow, a lawyer and author who helped Mottl draft the bill, and Dr. Stanley Cheren, a psychiatrist from Boston University Medical School, strongly supported the proposed legislation.
"Proffesional baseball strongly opposes HR 7903, which would establish a new category of federal crime relating to the conduct of professional athletes on the playing field," Kuhn wrote. "No reason is apparent why existing state criminal and civil law cannot deal effectively with the infinitesimal number of cases where the judicial process must be invoked. The introduction of a federal statute subjecting professional athletes to another layer of criminal penalties is unnecessary and without measurable public benefit."
Rozelle sang much the same tune, decrying what he claimed was the intrusion of the federal government into an area where it has no business, especially since, he said, the league is doing an excellent job taking care of its own.