Sports Law Roundup – 3/17/2017

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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 that began last month 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, has concluded with a jury verdict finding the agent and trainer guilty of charges including alien smuggling and conspiracy. The agent, Bartolo Hernandez, faces between three and fifteen years in prison, while the trainer, Julio Estrada, faces between five and thirty-five years. The government also is seeking $15.75 million prosecutors say the defendants earned through their illegal acts. Sentencing is set for July 11. Defense counsel has indicated an intent to appeal.
  • Penn State child abuse: Earlier this year, 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. Earlier this month, the judge overseeing the case denied the defendants’ request for an immediate appeal of the ruling that they, in fact, must face trial later this month. Now, two of the three defendants– former PSU vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley– have pleaded guilty to one count each of endangering the welfare of children, a misdemeanor for which the maximum sentence in Pennsylvania is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The third defendant, former PSU president Graham Spanier, maintains his innocence. Reports indicate that the Schultz and Curley pleas were entered in connection with a deal with prosecutors, but the judge reportedly “emphasized . . . that he was not bound to honor any [plea] agreement.” Jury selection for the trial remains scheduled to begin on Monday.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 11/18/2016

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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:

  • 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.

Obama in Cuba brings the pain of loss to a Miami exile family (via Miami Herald)

I’ve never known anything but freedom. My grandparents and parents made sure that was so. But now my grandparents are dead, and my parents are old, and the Cuban regime that strangled them somehow lives on … lives on to play a baseball game with our country this week. America extends its hand toward a dictator who has the blood of my people on his own. And now my parents, old exiles, have to watch Obama and Jeter and ESPN throw a happy party on land that was stolen from my family … as the rest of America celebrates it, no less. That’s going to hurt, no matter how you feel about the politics. … Read More

(via Miami Herald)

Dan Le Batard is a writer for the Miami Herald and the host of a daily talk show on ESPN Radio, as well as a cohost, with his father and Bomani Jones, of Highly Questionable, a daily television show on ESPN.

Highlights from MLB Network’s visit to Detroit Tigers spring training

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As it has done in the past, MLB Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days” feature spends a day with each major-league team during spring training. They spent St. Patrick’s Day with the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida. Here are the highlights:   Continue reading

The Bacardi Bowl

Although we already find ourselves comfortably inside college football’s bowl season, ALDLAND’s coverage admittedly has been on the slim side. With the Outback Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Liberty Bowl sure to receive increased attention here in the coming days, we’ll continue the ramp-up with this story about the obscure Bacardi Bowl, which on all but one occasion featured a meeting between an American college team and some assemblage of Cuban players:

I think the Bacardi Bowl was a great idea for any number of reasons, many of which, as exexpatriate might say, fall under the category of “whimsy!” When I think of Havana, though, I think of two things. In no particular order, they are a) my first visit to Long Island, when I flew into MacArthur Airport in Islip and declared that, although I’d never been to Cuba, this certainly looked like Havana if I’d ever seen it (to be quite clear, I had not), and b) the Trio of Doom, a (basically) one-off post-bop/avant garde jazz super group– Jaco Pastorius, John McLaughlin, and Tony Williams– who played for twenty-five minutes together at the Havana Jam in 1979, resulting in one album. Video footage of the Havana Jam is scarce, but the following clip, while not featuring the Trio per se (I only can spot Jaco and the Mahavishnu for certain), should give you a sniff of the scene: