The sports law roundup is on vacation this week. Here’s a sports law story from the sports law archives.
- Tennis revenue sharing: During the 1983 U.S. Open, John McEnroe, then the world’s top-ranked player, engaged in verbal sparring with a courtside fan named Christopher Schneider during a preliminary-round match. The latter was no fan of the former, and the former did not appreciate the latter’s expressions of support for the former’s on-court opponent, an unranked player named Trey Waltke. (A brief sidebar on Waltke, who appears to have established himself as something of a provocateur earlier in the year, when, at Wimbledon, he “caused a stir when he donned 1920s era long flannel pants, a white buttoned-down long-sleeved shirt, and a necktie for a belt” during a first-round victory. Prior to that, Waltke had defeated McEnroe in the first round of an April tournament in Las Vegas. Waltke had beaten McEnroe in a tournament in Memphis in 1981, a year in which he also beat Jimmy Connors.) After the match, Schneider, the fan, sued McEnroe seeking $6 million (nearly $15 million in 2017 dollars) and alleging that McEnroe, who cursed at Schneider during the match and flung some rosin dust in his direction, caused him “grevious [sic] physical and mental injuries.” Judge Francis X. Becker of the Nassau County Supreme Court oversaw the case, and the opening to his final order suggests he did not hold a high opinion of McEnroe:
Its disciples consider tennis to be a cosmopolitan game. Played and watched by men and women a cut above the average “jock” and “fan” of other big time sports. The facts giving rise to this action make it eminently clear however that a fair amount of “Roller Derby etiquette” has found its way to center court.
Defendant, John McEnroe, is a professional tennis player. The best player in the world today, he is not noted for his court decorum. . . .
Judge Becker nevertheless ruled in McEnroe’s favor on all counts, issuing a brief and delightfully worded order that is available in full right here.
Sports court remains in recess.