Sports Law Roundup – 7/28/2017

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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 fan libel: As first reported by your humble compiler, Deadspin, now part of the Gizmodo Media Group, which is the company Univision purchased in its acquisition of the remnants of the Gawker Media Group following Hulk Hogan’s successful libel lawsuit against that company, is facing another libel action. This time, it’s the much less famous Kevin Cheek, who has sued the website after it ran an article about fans engaging in homophobic chants at the first Atlanta United game that he says included a photograph of him taken at a different game. One potential problem for Cheek: the allegedly offending article contains a single picture, which shows the entire stadium, making it impossible to identify the face of any individual fan. It’s possible– maybe probable, in light of the existence of this lawsuit– that the article originally included a different photograph. If it did, though, it escaped the watchful eye of the Internet Archive, which first captured an image of the article five days after publication. It also is possible that the complaint actually is referring to one of the photographs following the article that are associated with one of the “Recommended Stories,” other Deadspin articles about the MLS. In that cached version of the identified article, two of the three photographs in the Recommended Stories section depict Atlanta United fans. If one of those pictures is the one that includes Cheek, it is unclear why his complaint doesn’t instead identify that article.
  • NASCAR trademark: A trademark dispute between one of NASCAR’s most prominent families will continue following an appellate court ruling that an earlier decision dismissing claims brought by Teresa Earnhardt, widow of Dale Earnhardt, against Kerry Earnhardt, Dale’s oldest son, was deficient. Kerry, whose mother was Latane Brown, Dale’s first wife, is a former driver who made his debut on NASCAR’s top circuit (then known as the Winston Cup) at Michigan in 2000, where the field also included his father and half brother, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. After his retirement from NASCAR in 2007, Kerry and his wife partnered with a custom home design company and subsequently sought to trademark “Earnhardt Collection” for use in that industry. Teresa, who owns Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and other “Earnhardt”-related marks, opposed her stepson’s registration bid. The matter now returns to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board for further adjudication.

Sports court is in recess.

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Juuuuuunnnior!

After four years and 143 races, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winning drought is over. It ended at the same track where he got his last win, in June of 2008: Michigan International Speedway. Once the rains cleared in Brooklyn, MI, Junior roared out to lead 95 of 200 laps and ran away from Tony Stewart and the rest of the field on the way to a comfortable victory, with speeds topping out at 212 mph along the long straightaway.

The 88 team has been having a good year. After 15 races, they have 11 top ten finishes, 8 of which were top fives, one of which was yesterday’s victory. This win has been a long time coming not only because it has been a long time since Junior’s won, but because he’s run pretty solidly during those four years, and particularly last year and this year, and he seems to have encountered more than his fair share of bad luck. The stretch, while probably longer than anyone would’ve liked it to be, did give Earnhardt the opportunity to show his critics that wasn’t going to lose due to being immature or a bad teammate. It’s been a long time since anybody could legitimately accuse him of being either. (And the persistent immaturity of the Busch brothers certainly provides a helpful foil.)

In the end, though, I feel pretty good saying that the reason Earnhardt Jr. finally broke through and made it back to victory lane was due to the black paint scheme on his Chevrolet yesterday.

Big Rain Fire: Matt Kenseth wins the 2012 Daytona 500

Originally scheduled to start on Sunday afternoon, the Daytona 500 eventually finished in the early morning hours Tuesday, when Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag. During that time, the Great American Race experienced a full rainout on Sunday, another rain delay on Monday, and a two-hour red flag on Monday night after Juan Pablo Montoya’s car locked up coming out of the pits on a caution necessitated by David Stremme’s engine blowup (his wasn’t the only one– Jeff Gordon’s blew up too) on about lap 157 and slid into one of the jet dryers that was cleaning the track during the caution. Montoya’s car tore a hole in the jet dryer’s fuel tank before bouncing to the infield and catching fire. As jet fuel poured out of the service vehicle, it too caught fire, and proved challenging to extinguish.

They eventually did, though, and Kenseth won the race when it restarted with forty laps to go, fending off Greg Biffle and a charging Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished second. If this race was any indication of what the 2012 season will be like, we’re in for a long and exciting one.

Potato Moon, “Big Rain Fire” – Carnival (2004)

Daytona 500 preview

Trevor Bayne: defending Daytona 500 winner.

Tomorrow, the first and biggest race of the NASCAR season rolls off for 500 miles in Daytona, Florida. Trevor Bayne, just 20 years old, introduced himself to the wider world with his surprising win a year ago, and although he ran a majority of his season on the second-tier Nationwide Series, he’ll be there tomorrow to defend his win. It will be an uphill battle for him to repeat, though: he starts in the 40th position.

Bovada (formerly Bodog) has a Bayne win at 16/1 and likes Kyle Busch (5/1), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5/1), and Tony Stewart (7/2). Stewart is the defending Cup champion, and after reeling off five wins in the ten-race Chase (the playoffs) to win it all last year, it’s easy to see why he’s favored in the season-opener this year. Kyle Busch has been strong in the first half of the season the last few years, so it makes sense that he would be a favorite too. Cynics might see Earnhardt Jr. as a sucker bet up there, slotted because his popularity, which outpaces his performance, will net the house some easy money, but he never can be counted out, especially at a track like Daytona, which best suits his driving style and where he has won before, and especially because he drives for Hendrick Motorsports, the best team in the sport. Roush is the next best team, and two of their drivers– Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle– are starting first and second on Sunday and have to be considered strong contenders as well.

Finally, Danica Patrick may be the biggest story going into Daytona this year, as she makes the jump from open-wheeled racing to stock cars on NASCAR’s biggest stage. She’s in good hands working with Stewart, but other successful IndyCar drivers have struggled to make the transition, and one has to expect that it will take her time to adjust as well. Still, she’s finding early success. Everyone’s focusing on a very bad wreck that was not her fault during the final lap of one of the pre-race races (I know), but she starts a respectable 29th on Sunday and has the pole position for today’s Nationwide race, remarkable for any rookie driver.

The full starting grid is here, and the top ten looks like this:

1 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal
2 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M
3 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1
4 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Best Buy
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard
6 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / CSX “Play it Safe”
7 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley
8 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s
9 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar
10 33 Elliott Sadler Chevrolet General Mills / Kroger

Other stories to read before tomorrow’s race:

  • How owner points deals determine who makes it into the 43-car field at Daytona – NASCAR.com
  • Two-time winner Bill Elliot’s backnot back – ESPN.com
  • How Tony Stewart spent his championship offseason – FoxSports.com
  • “Where have the Southern drivers gone?” – FoxSports.com
  • Why Danica Patrick can win – Yahoo! Sports
  • The latest on Jimmie Johnson’s “major” rule violation – Jayski
  • Blast from the recent past: Ex-driver Jeremy Mayfield says he’s the victim of a NASCAR conspiracy – ESPN.com
Finally, a programming note: ALDLAND will be hosting its first live-blogging event during tomorrow’s race. Check back here or on our new Podcasts & Live Blogging page for details.