William W. Bradley, 74, served in the US Senate from 1979 to 1997 representing the state of New Jersey. Before his time in the Senate, he was an All-American basketball player at Princeton, a US Olympic gold medalist in 1964, and a ten year NBA player with the New York Knicks from 1967—1977 during which time they won two NBA championships. In 1982, he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He currently is managing director of Allen & Company LLC.
In the Senate, he was the force behind the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, known as the Bradley Act. This bill, which outlawed sports betting—with the exception of some states—was deemed unconstitutional last month by the US Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision. I interviewed Bill Bradley for his thoughts about the Supreme Court decision
Dave Zirin: Please give your reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on sports gambling.
Bill Bradley: I think it was an unfortunate ruling. I think it was a ruling that had no basis in what sport really is. I think that it was, once again, the Supreme Court being kind of nit-picking, and having a small-minded reading of the law, without understanding the implication for society as a whole.
When you repeal sports betting, the ban on sports betting, you open up betting in states, because there will never [again] be a national law. The year there’s a national law, I’ll take you to dinner.
And, therefore, each state will have it’s own [gambling industry]. Now you can bet on high-school games. You could bet on AAU games with 14-year olds. You can bet on college games. There’s no prohibition whatsoever. And so various states would have to establish a law, if they wanted to to curb this. If they didn’t you could have betting on anything because the national law says that it’s open.
What this reminds me of, quite frankly, is [the Supreme Court Rulings on] Citizens United where, the Court made a decision that money is speech. They came up with this convoluted decision on Citizens United that ends up greasing the skids for more and more money in politics and it’s destroying the democracy. They had a very, very narrow reading of what is speech. It also reminds me of the Voting Rights Case, where they invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, on the grounds of, well, there is no discrimination anymore. And thus was born the movement to suppress votes in this country. The day after the Supreme Court ruled on that issue, because there was no more discrimination, North Carolina and Texas passed laws that were extremely discriminatory. If you take what Koch state legislatures have done between 2012 and 2014, in 41 states, they introduced roughly 120 laws to narrow who could vote and how people could vote. So, this is the same kind of thing, in my view. It’s with no understanding what is going to be the impact on society. The court says, “Well, this is really a state issue.”