On the September 26, 2010 premiere of Eastbound and Down on HBO, former baseball all-star Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) makes his return – south of the border. The show opens with Kenny (with cornrows in lieu of the traditional mullet) partaking in the time-honored sport of cockfighting. Powers convinces a number of the locals to throw their money down on his rooster, Big Red. Big Red then proceeds to defeat his opponent, and Kenny becomes a little richer. There are a number of legal issues to be found in this episode, “Chapter 7,” but a few stand out. First, is cockfighting legal in Mexico? Next, are there any states in the US that still allow cockfighting? And finally, what would be the repurcussions for Kenny if he were to make it back to Major League Baseball and then face charges for cockfighting?

As for the first issue, cockfighting is still legal in Mexico. For many people, it is a way of life and a major form of entertainment. According to the ASPCA, families bring their children to organized fights that occur in virtually every community throughout the country.  Although cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, people fear that immigrants continue to bring the sport into America from Mexico. There are numerous raids on cockfighting rings across the US.

The last state in the US to make cockfighting illegal was Louisiana. On Friday, August 15, 2008, the Louisiana Legislature finally banned the activity. A year earlier, the Legislature attempted to make the activity less attractive by outlawing gambling at cockfights, but citizens and lawmakers alike felt as if that law did not get to the heart of the problem. The punishment for cockfighting is said to be much less severe in LA than in other states, as a first conviction carries up to a $1000 fine and is classified as a misdemeanor. Federal laws, however, provide for a penalty of up to three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if one is caught with the birds in interstate commerce.

As for Kenny Powers, one can’t help but think of former Atlanta Falcons and current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and his conviction for running a dog-fighting operation in 2007. Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison. The NFL wasn’t too harsh on Vick, however, as he was reinstated nearly immediately after he completed his sentence. Judging by Major League Baseball’s habitual leniency toward its offenders, it would be easy to conclude that if Kenny Powers did make it back to baseball, he would be met with nothing more than a slap on the wrist and a fine. Luckily for Kenny (SPOILER ALERT!), Big Red will soon meet his demise, bringing both of their futures in the cockfighting industry to a very quick end.

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