Sports Law Roundup – 2/17/2017

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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:

  • Baseball human trafficking: The federal criminal trial began this week in Miami in a case in which an agent and trainer were indicted for their alleged roles in a smuggling network designed to move baseball prospects from Cuba into the MLB system.
  • Boxing non-fight fight: Boxer Alexander Povetkin sued fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder after the latter withdrew from the pair’s scheduled fight last May following the former’s positive test for meldonium, the same banned substance for which Maria Sharapova was banned from tennis competition. This week, a jury returned a verdict in Wilder’s favor, but Povetkin’s attorney wants to keep fighting, alleging that Wilder’s lawyer engaged in “gross and extensive misconduct” during the litigation and implying that he would seek a mistrial.
  • NFL turf: In what the Houston Texans are calling “a case of first impression,” former NFL linebacker Demeco Ryans is suing the team for damages arising out of an alleged career-ending, noncontact Achilles tendon injury Ryans says he suffered when he landed on a seam in the turf while playing in a game against the Texans as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ryans is seeking $10 million, but the Texans say the court should dismiss the case because the NFL collective bargaining agreement preempts his claims. Ryans is hoping to avoid CBA preemption by relying on a prior case involving Reggie Bush, in which Bush injured himself after running out of bounds and slipping on a concrete surface surrounding the field during a game in St. Louis. In Bush’s case, the court ruled that the CBA did not apply, since the injury happened outside the field of play. Ryans’ lawsuit, the Texans highlight, deals with the in-bounds playing surface itself, which, the team argues, is a critical distinction that renders the Bush case inapplicable.
  • Lance Armstrong fraud: A False Claims Act lawsuit against Lance Armstrong will proceed after a judge’s ruling on various motions this week. The case involves allegations that Armstrong, while lying about his doping practices, received millions of dollars from the federal government in connection with his cycling team’s sponsorship by the U.S. Postal Service. Although the government’s case can go forward, Armstrong’s side will be able to argue in mitigation that the government’s benefit from the sponsorship reduces the amount of financial harm it actually suffered.
  • Student-athlete scholarships: Last week, we mentioned a settlement agreement under which the NCAA will pay an average of approximately $7,000 to current and former football and men’s and women’s basketball players who played a sport for four years and were affected by alleged athletic scholarship caps. Now, one of the plaintiffs, former USC linebacker Lamar Dawson, has objected to the settlement, which requires court approval before it’s finalized. Dawson’s concern is that the settlement includes a release of certain labor law claims that were not litigated in that particular case and which he is pursuing separately in a wage-and-hour lawsuit against the NCAA.
  • NBA fan app: A court partially dismissed a fan’s lawsuit against the Golden State Warriors, ruling that, although the fan had alleged facts sufficient to show that she had suffered an actual injury as a result of the team’s smartphone app’s alleged secret recording and capturing of her private communications, she had not stated a claim for relief under the federal Wiretap Act because she had not shown how the team intercepted and used her communications. The judge is allowing the fan the opportunity to amend her complaint.
  • Tennis commentator: After ESPN fired him in connection with an on-air remark about Venus Williams during this year’s Australian Open broadcast, Doug Adler, who worked for the network for nearly a decade, has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against his former employer, alleging that he was dismissed for saying something he never said. While some heard Adler use the word “gorilla” in reference to Williams, he maintains that he used the word “guerrilla” in describing her approach during the match he was broadcasting. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can render your own judgment after viewing the clip here.
  • Penn State child abuse: Earlier this month, a court ruled that three former Penn State University administrators will face criminal child endangerment charges stemming from the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal inside the university’s football program. The trial is supposed to begin next month, but the three defendants are attempting an immediate appeal of the ruling that they must face trial, arguing that a two-year statute of limitations bars the charges, and that Pennsylvania’s child-endangerment laws don’t apply to officials in their positions. In other news, Sandusky’s son, Jeff, has himself been charged with sexually abusing a child.

Sports court is in recess.

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Sports Law Roundup – 11/18/2016

aslr

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:

  • Baseball stadium netting: On Wednesday, the trial court dismissed a lawsuit seeking increased fan-safety measures in baseball stadiums, including expanded safety netting behind dugouts and along the foul lines, based on a lack of standing. I previously wrote about this case over at TechGraphs (see here, here, and here), generally discussing the ways in which it– despite the legal weaknesses in the plaintiffs’ position– already was effecting change. Although those legal weaknesses proved to be the downfall of this suit, the court’s ruling was not without its admonitions to Major League Baseball. For example, an early footnote contains this observation: “Why Major League Baseball, knowing of the risk [foul balls pose] to children in particular, does little to highlight this risk to parents remains a mystery.” The order also expressly suggests the possibility that future litigation along these lines may be more availing in other states, where the “Baseball Rule,” which makes it very difficult for fans to recover against baseball teams and leagues, has fallen under attack: “Thus, it is conceivable that, under the right set of circumstances, a plaintiff could obtain the type of relief that plaintiffs seek here. Given the changing nature of both the baseball game experience and the injuries at issue, which are far different from those in 1914, what is a ‘reasonable expectation’ on an ‘ordinary occasion’ is not a static concept.
  • Football painkillers: Attorneys for retired NFL players in a lawsuit against the league alleging that team doctors dispensed painkillers “‘as if they were candy’ regardless of long-term effects” are seeking permission to depose team owners Jerry Jones and Jim Irsay. Outside of football, Irsay, who inherited ownership of the Indianapolis Colts from his father, is known for collecting famous guitars– including Jerry Garcia’s Tiger, Les Paul’s Black Beauty, and Prince’s Yellow Cloud— and having a history of abusing painkillers. The plaintiffs also have amended their complaint to add a RICO claim, which, among other things, introduces the potential for tripling their financial recovery in the lawsuit.
  • NCAA transfer rules: Johnnie Vassar, a former Northwestern basketball player, filed a putative class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, alleging that the rule forcing transferring students to sit out of their sport for their first year at their new school violates antitrust laws. Vassar claims that he attempted to transfer from Northwestern but was unable to do so, because all of his target schools only would accept him if he could play immediately. In recent years, Northwestern has emerged as a cradle of anti-NCAA legal activity.
  • Triathlon death: A wrongful death claim brought in connection with the drowning death of a competitor in the 2010 Philadelphia Triathlon cannot proceed, a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled, concluding that the triathlete knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of participating in the event when, in the course of registering for it, he executed a detailed liability waiver.
  • Cuban baseball-player smuggling: In a federal criminal case against a sports agent accused of conspiracy to smuggle Cuban baseball players into the United States, the government has listed numerous professional players, including Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, as trial witnesses. For more on this general subject, ESPN The Magazine’s feature on Yasiel Puig is a must-read.
  • Boxing fraud: The defendants– Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, HBO, Top Rank, and others– in twenty-six lawsuits alleging that they improperly concealed Pacquiao’s shoulder injury leading up to the fighters’ 2015 bout in order to boost pay-per-view sales admitted that the plaintiffs– fans and bars– had standing to pursue their claims, even as the defendants denied that those claims had any merit.
  • Gambling: West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin are asking the United States Supreme Court to review a Third Circuit decision rejecting New Jersey’s attempt to open up sports gambling in its state. The five states, together, filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s cert petition (formal request that the Supreme Court allow them to appeal the Third Circuit’s ruling), arguing that the manner in which Congress has regulated sports gambling is unconstitutional and threatens the balance of power between the federal and state governments. In an unrelated story, daily fantasy leaders FanDuel and DraftKings announced a merger agreement this morning.
  • Secondary football ticket market: Under pressure from state regulators, the NFL agreed to end its league-wide imposition of a price floor on game tickets sold on the secondary market that had prevented the resale of tickets at prices below face value. The agreement does not apply to tickets for the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, nor does it prevent teams from acting “unilaterally” to enforce price floors, meaning that the practice could continue.
  • Campus police records: The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a trial court’s dismissal  of ESPN’s lawsuit seeking the University of Notre Dame Police Department’s incident reports involving student athletes, deciding that the ND Police Department is not a “public agency” and thus cannot be compelled to produce the requested materials under the state’s open records law.

Sports court is in recess.

Muhammad Ali: Champion of the World (via The Ringer)

z9eyq7uMaybe there was a conventional explanation provided by a heightened mutual empathy and his ability to instantly connect with others, a super skill not found in one man out of a billion. But no one who met him nor even came close to him in a crowd would deny that Ali seemed to glow, or transmit, or vibrate in some nonverbal way. You could see him with your eyes closed. You could hear him when he wasn’t speaking. … Read More

(via The Ringer)

The fight in Claressa Shields (via ESPNW)

During the 2012 London Olympics, Claressa Shields stood in the ring, stone-faced and focused. Her opponent was tough, but was not nearly as tough as the obstacles Shields beat to get to this very moment. With every jab, every uppercut, every blow, Shields thought about why she needed to be triumphant. She needed to win for herself and her hometown of Flint, Michigan. Most importantly, she needed to win for her family.

It was a tall order for the then-17-year-old, but just as she was in the challenges before, Shields was tenacious in her quest for victory. The first American woman to win Olympic gold in boxing is a title anyone would be proud of, but the lack of attention — as well as endorsements — she received upon her return was disheartening. Unbowed, Shields remained hungry. With her insatiable appetite and support from friends and family, the 21-year-old will return to the ring at the 2016 Rio Olympics hoping to become the first female boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. From 2012 to 2016, photographer and filmmaker Zackary Canepari documented Shields’ Olympic journey. Here is how her story unfolded. … Read More

(via ESPNW)

Sports media member swings, misses at sports analogy

The football head injury conversation more and more people are having is a complicated and multifaceted one. One of the reachable conclusions is obvious, though: a confluence of related factors could conspire to bring about the “end” of football as we currently know it. Many people often immediately retort, “No!”, maybe because they like football a lot and don’t want it to end, but also, they say, there’s too much money in football, it’s too big of a business, and it’s way too popular and ingrained in our culture to go away. And the first person might then bring up boxing. To put the thesis statement at the end of this opening paragraph, the point, for those, like Jonathan Mahler, who might miss it, is that if a sport as widely popular and culturally ingrained as boxing could fall from prominence, so too could football; in other words, that football is America’s most popular, wealthy, culturally relevant sport is no defense to the claim that it might lose that status, because a once-similarly situated sport– boxing– did lose its status as such.

Mahler, a sports columnist for whatever Bloomberg View is, captured readers with the headline “Why Football Won’t Go the Way of Boxing (Yet)” and his thesis is that football won’t follow boxing’s decline because boxing’s decline was the result of television-related changes, not “brutality.” The issue that vitiates the analogy is not the specific reason for the decline, as Mahler believes, but it is the fact of the decline itself.

Continue reading

The next Floyd Mayweather?

Yes, Floyd’s still doing his thing, although his thing seems to be less and less about boxing these days. Mayweather is thirty-five years old and still undefeated, the pound-for-pound champion of the sport, the self-proclaimed face of boxing. His mix of wealth and outspokenness keeps him relevant even as, for a variety of reasons, he fights less frequently. Juan Manuel Marquez’s knockout of Manny Pacquiao earlier this month only serves to complicate the question of whether Pacquiao and Mayweather ever will fight.

Meanwhile, Grantland has the story of Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, a young fighter who, like Mayweather, has Grand Rapids roots, preaches a gospel of hard work and dedication, and doesn’t lose:


(Here‘s the original post.)

Ring tones: Two raconteurs battle to tell the tale of Boom Boom Mancini

Boxing is and remains at the nexus of raw athleticism and raw celebrity, and its literary and musical ties are no less strong today for the decrease in volume of evidence of those ties that reasonably tracks the decrease in the sport’s popularity. I don’t feel any special need to perpetuate the sport except that I would hate to see it go, which is why I try to keep an eye on it here. (Click the “boxing” tag at the bottom of this post for past coverage.)

I was looking forward to reading this interview with Boom Boom Mancini’s latest biographer, and although I did learn some interesting details about the fighter’s life, the interview wasn’t anything special. It did recall an earlier Mancini biographer, though, who gives a crisp, thundering delivery:

(I also think more boxing matches should take place outside.)

The future of boxing? M-A-R-S, Ali says

Unlike my more complete, early assessments of Bill Simmons’ Grantland and Clay Travis’ OutKick the Coverage, The Classical has been subjected to less exacting treatment here, in part, I think, because I have yet to pin down a describable essence of the site upon which to hang a similarly descriptive post. This is due, in part, I think, because The Classical itself hasn’t quite pinned itself down. A quick, supporting example: while David Roth’s emergence as a primary voice on the site is not in any way unpleasant, the apparent vanishing of The Classical’s star editor-in-chief, Bethlehem Shoals, is at least mystifying. If I had to register a conclusion at this point, it would be that, though still finding its way with its general readership, the site at least appears influential as a blogger’s  blog, evidenced, in part, by the emergence of the transcript-style dialogue features at places like Grantland and Deadspin. And now that I’ve wholly unnecessarily exhausted my quota of commas for the week, it’s time to move on to the substance of this post.

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Born of Kickstarter, The Classical does have an early, functional legacy in its support of other Kickstarter projects. One of these is the funded blank on blank, which “aim[s] to take recorded interviews that might not otherwise be heard and give them new, multimedia life.” One such recorded interview, which The Classical recently highlighted by way of updating readers on the status of blank on blank, was a 1966 high school radio interview of Muhammad Ali:

The interview was the result of a happy confluence: a champion who delighted in talking like virtually no athlete before or since, and some precocity cases from Winnetka, IL’s New Trier High School who had the pure high-school balls to cold-call that champion and get him out to a high school campus for an interview.

While Midwesterners certainly are non-shocked by the suggestion that there might have been some “precocity cases” at New Trier, this is a neat clip (and not just because it sends up a more recent, albeit alternative, presidential space program proclamation):

ALDLAND Pen Pal Project: Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather is in jail. He doesn’t want to be in jail, and he especially doesn’t want to be in solitary confinement. And even though his confinement hasn’t prevented him from winning a fourth ESPY as fighter of the year or becoming the highest paid athlete in the world (and interestingly, the only member of the top 25 on that list to get there with $0.00 in endorsements).

For Floyd, though, everything, including the money, really is all about the attention, which brings us to the tweet that showed up on his account this week:

Perhaps we, the writers and readers of ALDLAND, should collaborate to send Floyd a letter. Please add your contribution in the comment section, below.

What really happened in the Pacquiao-Bradley fight?

I do love conspiracy theories, and there’s no better way to end a Sunday or start a Monday than with a video like this. Timothy Bradley’s win by split decision over Manny Pacquiao was much maligned by media of all stripes, and even Bradley’s camp seemed a bit tentative in the aftermath of a victory over someone considered one of the top two fighters in the world.

I did not watch this match, so I don’t have my own opinion on it, but I’ve questioned the HBO announcers’ view of fights before, so I’m not shocked that someone else would do the same. Judge for yourself:

(via BigLeadSports)
(HT: Awful Announcing)