Sports Law Roundup – 9/22/2017

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Dominican politics: A court in the Dominican Republic has convicted former MLB player Raul Mondesi on charges of political corruption in connection with his activities as mayor of San Cristobal, his hometown. The court sentenced Mondesi to eight years in prison, fined him the equivalent of $1.27 million, and barred him from holding public office for the next ten years. Mondesi, the 1994 National League rookie of the year, earned over $66 million in his thirteen-year career mostly spent as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Reports indicate Mondesi embezzled funds while serving as mayor of San Cristobal.
  • Penn State child abuse: A court dismissed a defamation lawsuit former Penn State University Graham Spanier filed against Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who investigated the the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal inside PSU’s football program and produced a report of his investigation that named Spanier and served as part of the basis for subsequent criminal charges against Spanier. In June, a court sentenced Spanier to two months in jail and eight months on house arrest following his conviction on a misdemeanor count of child endangerment. That conviction, the judge in Spanier’s defamation case explained, barred the defamation claims, although he observed that Spanier could revive the case if an appellate court reversed his criminal conviction.
  • Three on three on three on three: Ice Cube’s (real name: O’Shea Jackson) Big3 Basketball, a popular three-on-three basketball league for former NBA players with an FS1 television deal, responded to a lawsuit from new rival Champions League by filing a lawsuit of its own alleging that Champions League defamed Big3 by falsely telling investors that the reason Champions League had not yet launched was because Big3 has blocked its players from joining Champions League. Champions League’s previous suit against Big3 alleged that Big3 violated agreements to allow players to play in both leagues.
  • NFL head injuries: A Boston University study on the brain of Aaron Hernandez concluded that Hernandez had “stage 3 CTE.” Initial reports indicated that Hernandez’s family intends to file suit against the NFL and the New England Patriots and, on Thursday, Hernandez’s now four-year-old daughter, Avielle, filed an action against those entities. Her complaint alleges that negligence by the league and team resulted in a loss of parental consortium. Related filings state that she is seeking $20 million. The complaint further states that Hernandez had “the most severe case of [CTE] medically seen in a person of his young age” by the Boston University researchers. According to the complaint, there are four stages of CTE, with stage 3 typically being associated with players with a median age of death of sixty-seven. Hernandez was twenty-seven when he committed suicide.
  • OSU trademark: Oklahoma State University and Ohio State University have settled their conflict over the use of the “OSU” trademark, with both universities agreeing that they may use the mark nationwide. The dispute initially arose after Ohio State sought a trademark for “OSU” and Oklahoma State submitted an objection to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office claiming that it held rights to that mark. Under their agreement, each school will not use “OSU” in connection with the colors or mascot of the other and will use “Ohio State” and “Oklahoma State” in promotional materials to help avoid confusion. The agreement also includes a non-disparagement provision precluding the schools from using phrases like “wannabe OSU” or “copycat OSU.”
  • Beverly Hills Ninja Bikes: Make Him Smile Inc., a company that owns the intellectual property rights associated with late comedian Chris Farley, sued the Trek bicycle company over its marketing of a “Farley” bicycle designed with fat tires and a fat frame. Trek, the plaintiff alleged, paid nothing for trading on Farley’s name and likeness. The complaint seeks $10 million in damages.

Sports court is in recess.

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ESPN: Child Actually a Man

ESPN reports: “Manute Bol’s son Bol Bol is truly a man among boys on the basketball court.” And it’s true. Just look at the video. In it, we see the younger Bol among boys on a basketball court. Bol, the man, is at least a foot taller than even the tallest of the boys among whom he is on the basketball court, and, in terms of playing basketball, mature human Bol is superior to his infantile competition in every observable way. Further confirming the ESPN report are the facts that Bol is married with children, has a mortgage and a 401k, has completed a vision quest, goes to bed early, drives a sensible car, wears suits to church, hired a CPA to do his taxes and monitor his credit score, tells lame jokes, has a union job, may go to Home Depot, if there’s time, and (actually sadly) no longer lives with his father. Bol truly is a man among boys on the basketball court.

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Previously
No, ESPN, this very much could be someone’s granddaddy’s top five

A Statistical Appreciation of the Washington Generals And Harlem Globetrotters (via FiveThirtyEight)

gtRed Klotz, the founder and longtime coach of the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotters’ perpetually feeble opponents, died at age 93 last week (I highly recommend Joe Posnanski’s remembrance). Klotz’s all-time record as a head coach of the Generals and their namesakes was something like six wins and 14,000 losses — they lost 99.96 percent of the time.

How exactly did the Generals lose so consistently? How much of it was their conceding games on purpose, as opposed to simply being really bad at basketball?

Let’s first get a sense for how good the Globetrotters were. … Read More

(via FiveThirtyEight)

DataBall (via Grantland)

Early in the spring semester of 2013, Cervone and D’Amour proposed a new project to measure performance value in the NBA. The nature of their idea was relatively simple, but the computation required to pull it off was not. Their core premise was this:

Every “state” of a basketball possession has a value. This value is based on the probability of a made basket occurring, and is equal to the total number of expected points that will result from that possession. While the average NBA possession is worth close to one point, that exact value of expected points fluctuates moment to moment, and these fluctuations depend on what’s happening on the floor.

Furthermore, it was their belief that, using the troves of SportVU data, we could — for the first time — estimate these values for every split second of an entire NBA season. They proposed that if we could build a model that accounts for a few key factors — like the locations of the players, their individual scoring abilities, who possesses the ball, his on-ball tendencies, and his position on the court — we could start to quantify performance value in the NBA in a new way.

In other words, imagine if you paused any NBA game at any random moment. Cervone and D’Amour’s central thesis is that no matter where you pause the game, that you could scientifically estimate the “expected possession value,” or EPV, of that possession at that time.

If we can estimate the EPV of any moment of any given game, we can start to quantify performance in a more sophisticated way. We can derive the “value” of things like entry passes, dribble drives, and double-teams. We can more accurately quantify which pick-and-roll defenses work best against certain teams and players. By extracting and analyzing the game’s elementary acts, we can isolate which little pieces of basketball strategy are more or less effective, and which players are best at executing them.

But the clearest application of EPV is quantifying a player’s overall offensive value, taking into account every single action he has performed with the ball over the course of a game, a road trip, or even a season. We can use EPV to collapse thousands of actions into a single value and estimate a player’s true value by asking how many points he adds compared with a hypothetical replacement player, artificially inserted into the exact same basketball situations. This value might be called “EPV-added” or “points added.” … Read More

(via Grantland)

Charging for content? The WSJ agrees: Addition by subtraction is the way to go

Sometimes I like to rag on the Wall Street Journal (recent examples here and here), but when their lead sportswriter comes out in agreement with an expressed opinion of mine, for the same reason, no less, you can be sure I’ll link to the article. From their NCAA tournament championship preview article today:

You will watch Monday night’s final even though there were some dodgy calls at the end of those Saturday games. Syracuse got hit with an offensive foul call in the final minute, down just two points. Now there are people who believe it was an honest-to-goodness charge and people who believe it was not a charge, arguing that the Michigan defender was not set, and the proper call would have been a block, sending the Orange to the line with a chance to tie. It was not the worst whistle or the best whistle ever—it was simply not clear. What is clear is that referees truly enjoy calling the offensive foul—it’s a showy call, with a flashy arm maneuver that looks like a dinner theater actor pointing the way to the restroom. Perhaps the solution to the pervasiveness of offensive foul calls is to make it less exciting to call. If a referee only got to slightly rub his or her temples, would ringing up a charge lose its appeal?

Read the whole article here. Watch a truly absurd officiating moment that would have lead this post had it been a charging call in a college game here.

This is what is wrong with Grantland

I was reading a recap of Michigan’s curb stomping of Northworstern last week and they mentioned what is called a “Kobe assist”.  So I thought that term sounded funny and googled it and the first result was a Grantland article on the subject.  More precisely a 3,100 word Grantland article on the subject.  I got like a paragraph in and lost interest.  No one needs a 3,100 word article on whatever a Kobe assist is.  That is why ALDLAND will always be the best “land,” other than of course Super Mario Land.

Salaaaaam

Nearly two weeks ago, I touched down in South Africa for a 6-week field school (alternately known as a way to do some international research on my graduate institution’s dime). Most of the time thus far has been spent in a tour bus, seeing various parts of Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Flats. Today, however, was different. We pulled up at 7:30 am to a high school in a township notorious for its high incidence of gang violence, dropout, and teen pregnancy. We were there to speak with some students about their thoughts on the school, their community, and what might inspire their peers to stop showing up (which approximately 75% of them will do by the time they reach Grade 12). My final set of interviews was with two 13 year old girls, who happened to still be on campus because they had softball practice. For the next 30 minutes, they told me about their experience of growing up in the surrounding community and at the school. Their stories were heartbreaking, but more importantly, their attitudes were inspiring. They distinguished themselves from their surroundings, aspiring to graduate, enroll in university, and pursue careers (of bank teller/author and fashion designer, respectively). Throughout their narratives, they continuously returned to the roll that softball had in their day-to-day life. For them, it was way more than a sport, but a safe place, a collective of like-minded peers, and a way to be young and have fun, something that is not often acknowledged as a luxury.

Upon reflection, their stories correlated with that told by David Fine’s documentary debut Salaam Dunk. I must admit on the front end that the director was one of my college roommates, so perhaps I’m biased. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, if it comes to your city, you’ve got to see it. The film spotlights the women’s basketball team at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani and their American coach. While it could very well have documented the strife of growing up a young woman in northern Iraq during a time of national unrest, it instead focuses on the resilience of the young women. The surrounding context is exceptional, but in many ways, the girls’ experience on the team is similar to that of anyone who played (and truly loved) a sport at any time in his or her life. Of course, I blubbered (both with pride and at the story line) at multiple points. However, I walked away feeling great.

If you live in New York City, please go catch this film this weekend at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. It’s just so good. I flew to San Francisco for a showing in March, and it was just phenomenal (if you don’t believe me, ask friend of ALDland, Alice Wheat and various other unaffiliated sources, such as Variety, ESPN, etc.). And while you’re there, give Buddy David a big ole hug for me.

Is Bruce Pearl a Legend?

ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth reports:

The Texas Legends are making a hard push to hire former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to replace Nancy Lieberman as coach of the D-League franchise, according to NBA coaching sources.

Pearl told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that he will interview with the team Thursday in Dallas.

“When the world champions call you have to listen,” Pearl said. “Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have been great and I’m looking forward to talking to them.”

Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson heads the management team as Legends co-owner.

Sources told ESPN.com that there have been ongoing negotiations between the parties.

Said one source: “The job is [Pearl’s] if he wants it.”

Mark Stein calls it “a logical step for Pearl in his quest to break into the NBA,” while acknowledging Pearl’s viability as a college basketball analyst. Keep reading…