Sports Law Roundup – 12/9/2016

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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:

  • College football defamation: On Thursday, former Baylor head football coach Art Briles sued three Baylor regents and the university’s senior vice president and CEO claiming that they defamed him by stating that he had knowledge of sex crimes reportedly committed by his players and failed to provide that information to proper authorities. In addition, Briles alleges that the officials sought to prevent him from securing another coaching position elsewhere. He also included a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and, in total, seeks unspecified damages in excess of $1,000,000. Here is a picture of Briles’ longtime attorney, Ernest H. Cannon, riding a horse at a rodeo.
  • Football player suspension challenges: In related stories covered in this space last week, two NFL players represented by the same Ohio law firm launched collateral attacks on the NFL/NFLPA collective bargaining agreement targeting alleged procedural deficiencies in the suspension-appeal process after both were suspended for drug violations. The NFL and NFLPA now have taken action in one of those cases by appointing a third arbitrator to hear a rescheduled appeal by Green Bay Packer Mike Pennel. The absence of a third arbitrator is central to the claims Pennel raised in the lawsuit he filed in Ohio federal court. In connection with that suit, Pennel also sought a temporary restraining order, which the responsive actions by the league and union were designed to moot. On Tuesday, Pennel agreed to drop his lawsuit in exchange for a reduction– from ten games to four– in his suspension, which will allow him to play in the postseason should his Packers secure a playoff berth. (Pennel’s attorneys also represent Philadelphia Eagle Lane Johnson, who filed similar complaints with the National Labor Relations Board and U.S. Department of Labor around the same time Pennel filed his lawsuit.)
  • Student-athlete classification: The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected claims by a group of former Penn student-athletes that they are employees entitled to minimum-wage compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The trial court granted a motion to dismiss the defendants– the NCAA, Penn, and more than 120 other NCAA member schools– filed, and the appellate court affirmed. The court agreed that dismissal as to the non-Penn defendants was appropriate because of a lack of standing; the plaintiffs had attended only Penn and had no basis to recover wages from any school they didn’t attend. The court also agreed that dismissal was appropriate as to Penn, because the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim for relief from Penn. Noting the “revered tradition of amateurism in college sports” and the weight of judicial and regulatory precedent holding that student-athletes are not employees, the court concluded that the FLSA does not apply to student-athletes. While many disagree with this outcome, it is consistent with the original meaning and purpose behind the “student-athlete” designation. (In a concurring opinion, Judge Hamilton cautioned against broad application of the court’s decision, noting that the plaintiffs participated in a non-revenue sport– track and field– for a school that does not offer athletic scholarships, and suggested that he might have voted differently had the plaintiffs been student-athletes on athletic scholarship in a revenue sport.)
  • Hockey head injuries: A group of former NHL players suing the league for its alleged failure to warn them of known risks of head trauma now have requested class certification in that case for two classes of former players based on the different measures of relief sought: damages for those already diagnosed with neurological injuries and medical monitoring for others. Attorneys from a number of large law firms, including Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, are representing the NHL in this case. Skadden is the anchor tenant in a new commercial real estate development in Manhattan that also will be home to the NHL’s offices when it opens in 2019.
  • Minor League Baseball lobbying: MiLB has created a political action committee in order to boost lobbying efforts. The impetus for this move likely is the class-action lawsuit minor-league players filed alleging that their compensation violates federal wage and hour laws and the leagues’ attempt to snuff out that suit by way of congressional action. The proposed Save America’s Pastime Act would create a carve-out in the Fair Labor Standards Act exempting minor-league players from minimum-wage and overtime protections. There has been essentially no action on the bill since Rep. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky introduced it in June, leaving plenty of time for MLB to say dumb things about it.
  • Soccer ban: The Court of Arbitration for Sport denied former FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s request to overturn his six-year ban from all national and international soccer-related activity and fine of 50,000 Swiss francs for his involvement with bribes and kickbacks during his leadership of FIFA.
  • Canadian Super Bowl commercials: There is a thing in Congress called the House Northern Border Caucus, and four of its members, representing districts in North Dakota, New York, and Washington, sent a letter asking the Canadian government to reverse its decision to block Canadian advertisers from running commercials on the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl. Canadian broadcasters used to have an agreement with the NFL that allowed Canadian commercials on the Canadian broadcast of the game, but, in 2015, Canadian regulators changed course in response to viewer demands to see the popular American commercials that run during the game. Canadian broadcasters and advertisers and the NFL, which is losing out on Canadian advertising revenue as a result, all oppose that change. The company that holds the Canadian broadcast rights to the Super Bowl, Bell Media, also has sued the regulatory body in an attempt to reverse the policy.
  • Hockey logo: Things are off to a rough start for Las Vegas’ first major professional sports team after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the Golden Knights’ registration application, citing a “confusing[] similar[ity]” to a mark registered by the College of Saint Rose. Arguable visual similarities aside, I didn’t even know there was a Saint Rose, much less a College of Saint Rose, and I certainly didn’t know the school’s mascot is the Golden Knights, and neither did you, which means that, however similar these marks might be, the likelihood of confusion here is very low. This likely is little more than another instance of the USPTO seeking a moment in the sports sun.
  • Gambling: The nation of Antigua and Barbuda has issued a threat to the United States if the U.S. does not meet a year-end deadline to comply with a 2003 World Trade Organization order ruling that American online sports betting and gambling laws violate international law. If the U.S. does not comply with the WTO order, which also carries an annual noncompliance penalty of $21 million and has accrued to over $250 million, Antigua and Barbuda intends to suspend intellectual property protections for Americans, effectively permitting Antiguans to establish websites hosting royalty-free downloads of American IP (e.g., books, music, movies, television programming, etc.).
  • Baseball ambassador: Bobby Valentine, former MLB player and manager of the Mets and Red Sox, reportedly is under consideration by president-elect Donald Trump for the position of ambassador to Japan. Valentine, who currently serves as athletic director at Sacred Heart University, is popular among Japanese baseball fans thanks to two successful stints as manager of a professional baseball team there.

Sports court is in recess.

Book Review: Up, Up, & Away

jonahkeriupup&awayJonah Keri has completed the keystone work of his young life with Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. While Keri surely will continue to be one of the top baseball writers of this generation, he was born to write this book about his dearest baseball love.

The book tells the full story of the Expos franchise, beginning with pre-Expos baseball in Montreal, which included the minor league Montreal Royals, a team that counted Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente among its alumni, through the bitter end and the franchise’s departure to Washington, D.C. Readers learn about Montreal and the men who brought Major League Baseball to that city (and Canada) and administered it while it was there, but Up, Up, & Away really is a fan’s story of the talented characters who wore the red, white, and powder blue.

The Expos generally had two peaks in their thirty-five-year history. The first came in the early 1980s, Continue reading

ALDLAND Podcast

Hello ALDLAND listeners, its the ALDLAND Podcast team, and we have quite the episode for you this week. Lip service is paid to the end of the Olympics and Canada is blamed for things that are assuredly their fault. If that’s not enough, your two favorite co-hosts get deep into discussing the NCAA tournament bubble.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

ALDLAND Podcast

Few things call for a special emergency ALDLAND Podcast, but the US playing Canada in hockey is one of them. Join your two favorite cohosts and a special guest as we run down why the United States of America is the best country ever and why Canada comes up short. For real though, we love Canada and our Canadian readers/listeners. Just not today. Or tomorrow. And you have to give us Neil Young and Rush if we win. Sorry.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Great White Northern Jam

A timely observation of my Thanksgiving tradition was a casualty of my recent relocation, but I was able to restore order, albeit belatedly, this week with the assistance of Commodawg. Considering anew how a group of (mostly) Canadians had such a substantial impact on American music, I found myself wondering what group of Canadians was the most Canadian, and, in turn, what Canadian song was the most Canadian Canadian song ever.

I immediately knew the answer, having reached the conclusion some years ago. The group: the hit-making Bachman-Turner Overdrive precursor The Guess Who. The Jam:


Tell me I’m wrong.

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Related
Canadians commit most Canadian crime ever

2-4-1 Beers with Bryce Harper and Sir Charles

When a certain Nashville restaurant decided to stop being an obvious organized crime front and take the business above board, one of the succession of attempted ventures in the space was a sports bar so desperate for customers it was almost giving away beer. The question was, is “two-for-one” beer the same thing as half-off beer, and if not, which is preferable?

Anyway, you need not choose, because here in a single post are two quick hits about beer and guys who don’t want any of it. First up is the now “viral” (HT: Laura) Bryce Harper:

Straight up Gongshow.

Next is a guy we hope isn’t viral, even if his late-night driving errands suggest he’s at an increased risk:

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to revoke the Round Mound’s knighthood.

The Weekend Interview: Ricky Williams

The Weekend Interview is back, and this time, the subject is Ricky Williams. A top pick out of the University of Texas, the running back played in the NFL for New Orleans, Miami, and Baltimore, and in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts, before retiring in February.

Williams was one of the most curious characters: supremely talented, but with interests that strayed far from– and at times took him off of– the gridiron. At just thirty-five, Williams is a vocal person in retirement, recently confounding Dan Le Batard and Dan’s father (and anybody else watching) on the topic of head injuries and football.

Usually I have to subtly toss the “imaginary content” tag on these interviews, but not this time. Here‘s Williams and me on Monday (holiday weekend) afternoon:  Keep reading…

Free Ski Friday Jam

The Deseret News reports:

SALT LAKE CITY — Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke succumbed to injuries Thursday morning that she sustained in a fall Jan. 10 while training in the superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort.

University of Utah officials confirmed in a statement that Burke, 29, passed away at 9:22 a.m. surrounded by her family. As a result of the fall, she suffered a ruptured vertebral artery, one of the four major arteries supplying blood to the brain. The rupture of this artery led to severe bleeding. Emergency personnel performed CPR at the site of the accident, during which time she remained without a pulse or spontaneous breathing, the statement said.

She remained in a coma and on life support from the time she arrived at the hospital. Doctors conducted numerous neurological examinations and tests and revealed that Burke had sustained severe, irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after the cardiac arrest, the statement said. In accordance with her wishes, her family donated her organs “to save the lives of others.”

With her death, the world loses a world-class athlete, a tireless advocate for women’s athletics and a kind and generous soul.

Burke fought fiercely for the sport’s inclusion into the Winter Olympics. Last spring her efforts were recognized when the IOC announced ski superpipe would be included in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Burke said it was the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

“In many ways, Sarah defines the sport,” Judge said. “She was one of the first people to get into the pipe and bring skis to the pipe. She’s always been very dedicated in trying to define her sport, and it’s never been about just winning. It’s been about pushing the limits. She’s always been more concerned about making herself the best, rather than comparing herself to other people.”

“I was often the only girl at the comps and competed against the boys for the first few years,” shes writes on the website. “I got my first sponsor when I was 17 (years) old. I had skipped training for Junior Nationals in Whistler and went off skiing in the park. Before I knew it I was traveling and competing all over the world. Ten years later I am still doing what I love and riding for the best companies out there. I have taken countless crashes and broken many bones but I love skiing more and more every year and plan to do it as long as I am enjoying it.”

“I plan to stick around for the 2014 Olympics so don’t be thinkin’ I am going anywhere!” she wrote. “I am really looking forward (to) skiing pow with my friends and pushing my boundaries. I would never have imagined that a girl from little ol’ Midland, Ontario, would be where I am today. So always dream big … you can make it happen.”

You can see a video of one of Burke’s X Games gold medal runs here. More related ski safety news is here.

On the day I learned of Burke’s death, I was in the process of planning my next ski adventure, and all of this had me thinking about what I like to listen to on the way to and on the mountain. Bluegrass for sure. If a heady jam is required, this is a good go-to (contextually legitimated by the appearance of a pedal-steel). I’m all for the celebration-of-life approach, but it feels like something a little more somber may be the order of this day:


(Will you look at that? It’s our boy Bruce. I really did not intend that. The venue also reminded me that I needed to amend my bio here.)

Many times, I associate a song or a group with a particular season. Few bands have a repertoire as extensive as the Dead’s, though, so it probably isn’t surprising that they have solid winter and summer catalogues. In terms of substance and presentation, the above clip clearly draws from both.

Tragic accidents like this are a reminder that athletic pursuits are not a diversion or mere hobby for everyone. In an age in which social reform focuses on the salvation of the minds of our undereducated and underprivileged children, it may be worth remembering that mind and body are connected, and that, for worse or for better, the fate of one is directly tied to the fate of the other.

The Weekend Interview: Chris Osgood

The first newspaper I read seriously and regularly was the Wall Street Journal. A test preparation company gave me a free print subscription, and I milked it as long as I could by doing things like stopping delivery when I was away, which had the effect of tacking more issues onto the end of the subscription. When it finally dried up, a friend on his way out at Dow Jones, the family driven organization that used to control the Journal before News Corp took over, lined me up with an online subscription, which carried me another year or so. By that time, newspaper websites were in full bloom, and a subscription really didn’t mean anything. When the family split and Rupert Murdoch took over, a digital lockdown followed closely on the heels of a substantial (if sometimes misguided) increase in content. No worry, though, as a free and easy workaround makes it simple to get behind the Journal’s paywall. All you have to do is…. Well, I don’t want my cell phone hacked, but, as Jimmy Cliff said, you can get it if you really want, and frankly, it isn’t even that tough.

Uh, hockey? Right. The WSJ has a regular feature called The Weekend Interview, a full-page study of one person, accompanied by an illustrated portrait by Ken Fallin. For reasons that make sense to me, Fallin inspired my photographic selection for this post, above. Because ALDLAND is neither the Journal nor The National Sports Daily, though, more often than not, the interviews are going to have to be imagined.

Chris Osgood is the right subject for this site’s first Weekend Interview. When the Detroit Red Wing goalie retired last month, my immediate reaction registered on the sadness side of the line. It wasn’t totally shocking, although I had thought he’d be around another year or two, especially given Captain Lidstrom’s decision to stay on. And Osgood is likeable, if not a perpetual fan favorite (but few goalies are). Osgood also is the type of player for whom the immediate hall of fame question is more than an element of the motions through which to go the media has obligated itself for every retiree; for him, it’s a real question, an interesting question, a debatable question, and possibly ridiculous that it is a question at all, and like Jim Gray, I promise I’ll promise you I’ll get to that question right away. Here goes… Keep reading…