Sports Law Roundup – 2/24/2017

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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:

  • Gymnast abuse: The Michigan Attorney General has charged a doctor with ties to USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States; Michigan State University; and a gym in the Lansing area, who already is facing multiple civil and criminal accusations of improper sexual conduct, with twenty-two additional criminal counts in connection with his alleged sexual abuse of young female athletes. USA Gymnastics and Michigan State terminated their relationships with the doctor following the earlier accusations. Some of the new charges involve victims who were younger than thirteen at the times of the alleged acts, and all of the charges are felonies that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
  • Cheerleader wages: The judge overseeing the proposed class-action lawsuit filed last month by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader, who alleges that the NFL and the twenty-six NFL teams that have cheerleaders conspired to suppress cheerleader wages below market value, has denied the lead plaintiff’s request that she be permitted to use a pseudonym (“Jane Doe”) for purposes of her participation in the lawsuit. Rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that revealing her name would subject her to harassment, injury or embarrassment, the judge found that the plaintiff failed to cite specific threats of harm to her personally. He is allowing her to identify herself only by her first and last initials “for the time being,” however.
  • 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. Last week, the three defendants asked for an immediate appeal of the ruling that they must face trial, which remains scheduled for next month. Now, the judge has granted the prosecutor’s request to add a conspiracy charge to the list of criminal counts pending against the defendants, whose appeal request remains unaddressed by the court.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 2/3/2017

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.

After a week off to attend a fancy law conference, we’re back with the top sports-related legal stories from the past week or so:

  • Baylor sexual assault: The scope of the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University continues to expand. Last week, a former Baylor student sued the university because, she alleged, she was the victim of a group rape committed by two football players in 2013 that the school ignored. The plaintiff also alleged that football players were responsible for numerous other crimes “involving violent physical assault, armed robbery, burglary, drugs, guns, and, notably, the most widespread culture of sexual violence and abuse of women ever reported in a collegiate athletic program.” She further claims that, between 2011 and 2014, thirty-one Baylor football players committed a total of fifty-two rapes, including five gang rapes. The complaint makes out claims under Title IX and common-law negligence theories. One significant hurdle for the plaintiff is that both types of claims are subject to two-year statutes of limitations. Since her alleged rape occurred in 2013, the university is likely to seek a dismissal on that basis.
  • College football defamation: In more Baylor football news, former head coach Art Briles now has dropped the defamation lawsuit he filed just two months ago against three Baylor regents and the university’s senior vice president and CEO for their statements that Briles was aware of sex crimes reportedly committed by his players and failed to provide that information to proper authorities, among other claims. As of this writing, no one has made an official comment on Briles’ behalf explaining the dismissal, but it appears to be connected to documents some of the same defendants in the Briles case filed in a new defamation case brought this week by former Baylor football director of operations Colin Shillinglaw. Those documents supposedly demonstrate Briles’ awareness of and attempts to cover up his players’ wrongdoing. If you’re the TMZ type, you can read more about the contents of the alleged Briles communications here.
  • Wrestling ban: Iran has announced that it will not allow the American wrestling team to compete in the 2017 Freestyle World Cup, which the Iranian city of Kermanshah is hosting this month. The ban comes as a form of retaliation for President Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order temporarily blocking people from entering the United States from Iran and six other majority-Muslim countries.
  • Football head injuries: A state court judge in New York denied the NFL’s motion to dismiss a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the son of deceased player Arthur DeCarlo Sr., who, his son alleges, died as a result of CTE he contracted from head injuries sustained while playing football. This is the only CTE case against the NFL that is outside of the federal multidistrict settlement based in a Pennsylvania federal court. Addressing a statute-of-limitations issue, the New York judge likened the case to asbestos claims by describing CTE as a latent condition, the manifestation of which is not discoverable until the completion of a posthumous autopsy. Meanwhile, on Monday, a group of former college football players filed suit against helmet manufacturer Riddell seeking class-action status and alleging that Riddell made false claims about its helmet’s ability to protect against concussions. This is the fifth active concussion-related lawsuit pending against Riddell.
  • Cheerleader wages: A former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader filed a complaint against the NFL and the twenty-six NFL teams that have cheerleaders, alleging that they conspired to suppress cheerleader wages (which are between $1,000 and $1,500 per year, according to the complaint) below market value. The unnamed plaintiff is seeking to represent a class of all NFL cheerleaders employed in the past four years.
  • Child abuse: 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. PSU’s former president, senior vice president, and athletic director were successful in quashing charges of failing to report child sexual abuse, but their trials on the remaining charge will go forward next month.
  • Student-athlete rights: The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued an official memorandum stating that football players at Division I FBS schools “are employees under the [National Labor Relations Act], with the rights and protections of that act.” The precise legal consequences of this memorandum are unclear, at least to this writer, but the practical consequences likely will include an increase in unionization attempts and unfair labor practice filings among student-athletes at the covered schools. The memorandum already has generated critical comments from some members of Congress who believe it would have “devastating consequences for students and academic institutions[,] puts the interests of union leaders over America’s students, and . . . has the potential to create significant confusion at college campuses across the nation.”
  • Baseball hacking: As punishment for their hacking of the Houston Astros’ database, MLB fined the St. Louis Cardinals $2 million and forced them to forfeit two 2017 draft picks (the fifty-sixth and seventy-fifth overall picks) to the Astros. In addition, the league banned the currently jailed St. Louis employee who hacked the Houston system multiple times from future MLB employment. Most commentators and team officials regard the sanction as a light one.
  • Daily Fantasy Sports: The European island nation of Malta has granted daily fantasy sports website DraftKings a license to operate in that country, and that license may allow the site to operate in other European jurisdictions that recognize the Maltese license as well.
  • Live game streaming: MSG has entered into an agreement with the NHL to broadcast the four New York and New Jersey hockey teams (Sabres, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils) on the network’s live streaming service, MSG GO, which is available for free to MSG subscribers. Meanwhile, another New-York-area network, SNY, will begin streaming Mets games on its own website and the NBC Sports app. (NBC previously reached a streaming agreement with MLB Advanced Media for in-market access to Cubs, White Sox, Phillies, Athletics, and Giants games starting this year.)

Sports court is in recess.

Can Jaguars Swim?

british jaguars

The NFL has not disguised its efforts to develop its brand abroad, and it appears to be moving toward establishing a team in another country. With expansion, which probably would reduce current owners’ revenues, unlikely, the only ready option is to relocate an existing team across the boarder.

The obvious choice is Canada. The Buffalo Bills already have some sort of timeshare arrangement with Toronto, but so long as Roger Goodell remains NFL commissioner, that move will not happen. (Goodell:Bills::Selig:Brewers, sort of.) Mexico doesn’t quite seem to be happening for the NFL either.

Instead, the league has set its eyes on Europe, and London in particular. Even though it abandoned NFL Europe, the league is pressing its product there more than ever, and it’s doing so in a targeted way. The team to go? The Jacksonville Jaguars.

I watched last night’s crime against football on Sky Sports, a British broadcasting operation. During breaks, they were airing commercials for some UK version of fantasy football that featured three Jags cheerleaders and chances to win gear from “your favorite team,” spoken over the image of a Maurice Jones-Drew jersey. (You can view the commercial here.) Jacksonville is playing Atlanta in the NFL’s now-annual game in London, but the commercial doesn’t include any Falcons imagery. It’s all about establishing a long-term connection between European fans and the Jaguars.

The newish Jags owner is on board with that long-term connection– Shad Khan, a native of Pakistan who moved to America at age sixteen and became a billionaire through the automotive-parts industry, called the Jaguars “the home team for London.” Khan also bought a London-based soccer team, Fulham Football this summer, and in Khan’s eyes, that’s no coincidence: “Obviously, there would be some practices, some synergies we’d like to take advantage of [between the Jaguars and Fulham],” he said. Khan also pointed out that the Jaguars will be playing one home game in London at least for the next four seasons.

U.S.-based fans may just now be hearing about the prospect that a team, possibly the Jaguars, could be making a more permanent connection to London, but from the looks of things like the commercial I saw last night and Kahn’s actions, the NFL may have already made a decision.

Gender Politics in a Cheerleader Jam….Maybe?

During last weekend’s Pop Music Symposium at SUNY Clinton, I heard for the first time Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” and late Wednesday night, reader Cactus William sent a/the music video, which will serve as this week’s Jam.

There’s a lot at play here. First, the song itself: I’ve only listened to it twice, and for different reasons, neither listen was a careful one, but it seems to be comprised of two fairly devastating pop hooks cycled as many times as three minutes and change will allow, and one less interesting bridge-ish segment with lyrics confusing in light of the purported plot. As for the singer herself, I’ve never heard of Jepsen before, and I can only assume that she comes from the Rebecca Black School of Corporate Music Manchurian Candidates, a vehicle to deliver said hooks and smile as her creators reel in the money.

Still, the financial circumstances of a song’s conception need not dictate its real value, and here I think we may have something of broader importance. I wrote earlier that Brad Paisley’s channeling of Arthur Conley with “Old Alabama” signaled country music’s arrival as America’s popular music genre, and I think something very roughly analogous is happening with “Call Me Maybe” vis-a-vis dynamics in popular gender politics. The thesis is that this song stands for a tipping point in male-female relations that sees a woman asserting herself, though just barely, as the first mover in the courtship context, contrary to traditional expectations. This thesis doesn’t ignore strong, demanding women of the past (Janis, “Tell Mama”) or even aggressive women of the present (e.g., Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”), but it is operable to the extent it can bracket such apparent counterexamples as being either out of the mainstream or persistently reactionary despite their aggressiveness and focus its comparative backdrop on the likes of Taylor Swift, ALDLAND’s favorite anthro-feminine alien. On the other hand, this paragraph may have set back gender relations by a few decades or at least demonstrated my ignorance of contemporary popular music. Moving right along.

Next is the video, which stars members of the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad. The first question here is, what motivated this? Was this just a sunny day romp around South Beach after cheer camp let out? Or, in Bring It On/Mean Girls fashion, was this a response to the leaked photo shoot of Lauren Tannehill, wife of Miami’s rookie quarterback and number eight overall draft pick Ryan Tannehill (who, if he didn’t outkick his coverage with his bride, certainly did with his draft position), in varying amounts of Dolphins-colored gear? To the extent this is knowable, determining the answer would initially involve comparing the dates of the leaking of the photos and the posting of the video, something I’m not going to do. Precision like that likely becomes less important when you’re striving for attention and HBO’s cameras are rolling.

To the extent that there’s any sports angle here, this video eventually will make you remember that, whether it’s the Hard Knocks curse, the implications of merely having cheerleaders, or the fact that Miami actually drafted Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins are not going to be good this year, so enjoy this while you can, which is forever, because the internet is forever, unlike Dan Marino:

ALDLAND Podcast

Brace yourselves, listeners.  ALDLAND’s latest podcast features a very special guest.  I don’t want to spoil anything, so fire up the podcast and find out for yourself who it is.

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Not Every Team Needs Cheerleaders (via WSJ)

If the Dallas Cowboys don’t win the Super Bowl this year, owner Jerry Jones should turn his ire to the sidelines. No, not head coach Jason Garrett—the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

Based on recent history, having cheerleaders on the sidelines may be the ultimate championship killer. There are six teams in the NFL that don’t have cheerleaders: the Bears, Browns, Giants, Lions, Packers and Steelers. Those franchises have won four of the last six Super Bowls and have made up half of the Super Bowl participants during that span.

Last year, Green Bay beat Pittsburgh in the first-ever Super Bowl that did not include cheerleaders from either squad. The Steelers won Super Bowls XLIII (2009) and XL (2006), while the Giants stunned the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (2008). The Bears played in Super Bowl XLI (2007), but not having cheerleaders wasn’t enough to overcome the Indianapolis Colts.

This season is no exception. The Packers and Steelers are once again among the best teams in their respective conferences, while the Lions have clinched a wild-card spot and the Giants remain in playoff contention. (The Browns are in last place, but some teams are simply beyond help.)

Of course, at least one of the six teams that doesn’t have cheerleaders may be wishing it still did. The Bears disbanded their cheerleading squad, the Honey Bears, right after the 1985 season—the last time they won the Super Bowl.

(via WSJ)