Sports Law Roundup – 11/3/2017

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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:

  • Soccer relocation: Citing a duty to taxpayers, a judge in San Antonio is calling for a criminal investigation of the Columbus Crew’s announced proposal to move the team to Austin. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff had been involved in San Antonio’s attempt to secure an MLS franchise, which includes a joint purchase by the city and county governments of an $18 million soccer stadium. According to Wolff, Mark Abbott, the head of MLS, was supportive of San Antonio’s campaign for an expansion franchise in 2015 and said that MLS would not place teams in both San Antonio and Austin. Wolff has asked the Bexar County district attorney to investigate the situation.
  • NFL hiring collusion: Last month, free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick filed a labor grievance with the NFL alleging that the league’s member teams are colluding to keep him out of a job because of his leading role in player protests during the National Anthem. According to a report this afternoon, team owners Jerry Jones (Cowboys), Robert Kraft (Patriots), and Bob McNair (Texans) will be called to answer questions under oath about Kaepernick’s claims and disclose their cellular telephone records. According to the report, “others owners, teams and league officials also will be deposed, but those individuals have been confirmed for now.”
  • NASCAR pit crew: In June, a judge allowed a wrongful termination case by Brandon Hopkins, a former NASCAR pit crew member to proceed against his former employer, Michael Waltrip Racing. Hopkins injured his shoulder when a race car hit him during a race. Treatment from MWR’s training staff was ineffective, and surgery was necessary. Surgery was delayed for reasons the parties dispute, however. Days before the scheduled surgery, Hopkins met with a supervisor, who assured Hopkins his job was safe. When Hopkins left the office to go home, he brought a particular tool– the design of which MWR considered confidential– with him, which, he said, was an accident. MWR did not believe Hopkins’ story and fired him the next day. Office security camera footage also showed Hopkins removing what may have been confidential documents from the office two days prior. The judge determined that there were sufficient facts that a jury could determine that Hopkins’ firing was connected to his injury, an impermissible basis for termination, or his misappropriation of confidential company information, which would be a permissible basis. The parties now have settled the case on undisclosed terms.
  • Daily fantasy sports: On Monday, Pennsylvania legalized daily fantasy sports, and Connecticut took similar steps on Tuesday. Pennsylvania will impose a fifteen-percent tax on operator revenue and other licensing requirements and makes it easier for that state to legalize traditional sports betting. The Connecticut policy, which includes a 10.5-percent tax on operators’ gross revenue, requires amendments to the state’s agreements with the two Indian tribes that operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun Casinos and will become effective only after those tribes approve the amendments.

Sports court is in recess.

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Sporting Geography: Soccer’s arrival in Atlanta stirs old conflicts

Major League Soccer is expanding, and, thanks in no small part to the city’s planned new stadium, Atlanta will be the home of a new MLS franchise circa 2017.

Soccer fans are an enlightened bunch, nowhere moreso than in Ohio, apparently, where Columbus-based Massive City FFC, a soccer fan entity of some variety, reacted to the expansion news by reminding Atlanta residents that Gen. William T. Sherman, an Ohioan, burned their city to the ground 150 years ago. (Ohio has a lot going for it, you may recall.)

A work friend who has been on top of this soccer news tells me the mascot for Atlanta’s new MLS team is expected to be the Locomotive, given the city’s railroad history. Locomotive isn’t bad, but the Sherman comment made me think of another potential mascot, the Phoenix, which is central to the city’s seal and flag (pictured above) for even more obvious historical reasons. I think it would make a great mascot for any team in this town.

As a name, though, the Atlanta Phoenix carries the slight possibility for confusion, with Phoenix also being the name of another major American city. I’m sure a lot of funny internet people would have a lot of really hilarious and original comments to offer about that name. Rather than steal their thunder by listing all of the joke they could tell, I thought it would be more interesting to come up with potential sports team names in which the mascot is the name of another American city. Here’s what I have so far:

  • the Atlanta Phoenix
  • the Colorado Boulder

Here are a couple stretches:

  • the Cleveland Pitts[burgh] (almost perfect)
  • the Boston Bangors (spelling issue)
  • the Boise Grand Rapids (possible obscurity issue)

This is a fun game. Maybe even more fun than soccer or Ohio. Add your ideas in the comments below. (If you want real soccer talk from Brendan and Marcus, tune in to our latest podcast.)