Loyalty is a funny thing. Professional loyalty is even funnier. By “funny,” I don’t mean “ha, ha” funny, I mean that it can be tough to figure out where loyalty should lie sometimes, and when competing loyalties butt up against one another, sparks can fly.
Such is the case recently for Dr. Eva Carneiro. Dr. Carneiro holds a position that might seem unusual for any follower of American sports. She’s a female team physician for Chelsea, F.C., of the English Premier League, more than arguably the premier professional soccer (or football, depending on where you’re from) league in the entire world. Chelsea is one of the perennial contenders for the league championship, having won the league last season. Though it is having a rough time so far this year, Chelsea is a club to be reckoned with.
And “reckon” is exactly what Dr. Carneiro is doing. During a match against Swansea on August 8, Carneiro went on the pitch to treat Eden Hazard in the late stages of the match. The score was tied 2-2, but Chelsea was fighting for its survival, being down a man following the sending off of its keeper, Thibault Courtois. Under FIFA rules, if one of your players gets sent off, you play the rest of the match with one fewer players. Consequently, Chelsea was already playing ten on eleven. And then Dr. Carneiro stepped on the pitch to treat Hazard. And that meant that Hazard had to leave the pitch until such time as the referee stopped the match and would let him back on. The latter doesn’t happen until there is a natural stop in the action, such as the ball going out of bounds, and even then, the referee has to react. So, in the eyes of Chelsea manager and soccer guru Jose Mourinho, Dr. Carneiro hung his team out to dry with nine players on eleven in the late going of a tied match. The match ended in a draw, but there will always be the question of whether Chelsea could have done more with more players, and, of course, this being professional sports, team loyalty is a persistent question.
Chelsea stripped Dr. Carneiro of her duties with the first team, and it is not coincidental. Her character has been attacked, and paparazzi have suddenly turned up outside her door, even as stories about her sex life appeared on vicious websites. (There are links out there. I will not dignify them by linking them here.) The character assassinations and intrusions aside, can the club do this? Because Dr. Carneiro is a doctor. She’s a professional. And, in that moment, lying on that pitch, Eden Hazard was her patient, not just a soccer player. Where does her loyalty lie? With getting him off the pitch or with the club’s getting him back on? The word is that Dr. Carneiro is consulting employment lawyers, and it will be interesting to see where this goes. Even FIFA has criticized Mourinho, and it’s hard to imagine FIFA actually being morally in the right.
This is the kind of stuff that lawyers have to deal with fairly frequently. We have a duty of “zealous advocacy” on behalf of the client, and we’re not allowed to put the interests of anyone else–including ourselves–before them. Those who represent insurance companies are supposed to remember that they represent the policy holder, not the company that might ultimately pay any judgment. As an appellate lawyer, it’s also a concern for me. I have to keep the client first and foremost in my mind, even if it’s trial counsel that brings me into a case. That client is the one I’m working for, and I want to make sure everything at the trial level makes for the best appeal. I’m fortunate enough to work with excellent trial counsel, and I’ve never had an issue with anything they’ve done before I’ve gotten the case, but it always helps to be in early. The best way to avoid divided loyalties is unity of mission: see the doctor before you get sick.