Sports Law Roundup – 4/14/2017

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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:

  • Aaron Hernandez: This afternoon, a jury acquitted Aaron Hernandez, who played tight end for the New England Patriots and Florida Gators, of charges that he murdered two people in Boston in 2012. Hernandez already is serving a life term without parole for a 2013 murder. Despite the acquittal on the murder charges, the jury did convict Hernandez on a firearm charge.
  • St. Louis Rams: The City of St. Louis has sued the NFL and all thirty-two of its teams for losses related to the Rams’ departure to Los Angeles in 2016. The suit alleges that the team failed to make a good-faith effort to stay in St. Louis before leaving in violation of league rules. According to a public statement by the city’s mayor, the city spent a substantial amount of public money in the hopes of keeping the team, and it did so in reliance on the expectation that the team would comply with NFL team-relocation rules.
  • Baylor sexual assault: Earlier this year, 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. She 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 claimed that, between 2011 and 2014, thirty-one Baylor football players committed a total of fifty-two rapes, including five gang rapes. Now, the judge overseeing the case has largely denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, narrowing the plaintiff’s emotional distress claim but otherwise allowing her case to proceed, calling the allegations “disturbing.”
  • Volleyball sponsorship: Kerri Walsh Jennings, who won three Olympic gold medals for the United States beach volleyball team, is suing the Association of Volleyball Professionals for breach of a sponsorship contract. Walsh Jennings alleges that AVP still owes her $150,000 on a $450,000 agreement despite her compliance with all of the contract’s terms. Part of the backdrop of this dispute may be another dispute between Walsh Jennings and AVP over whether she will play in AVP’s 2017 professional tournament.
  • NFL memorabilia: What purports to be new evidence in two 2014 lawsuits against Eli Manning, Steiner Sports (a memorabilia company with which Manning has a formal relationship), the Giants, and a team equipment manager alleging that the defendants worked together to sell collectors “game-worn” items that were not, in fact, game-worn emerged this week in the form of an email exchange between Manning and the equipment manager. In it, Manning requests “2 helmets that can pass as game used,” and the manager responded that he “should be able to get them for tomorrow.” The collectors who filed the lawsuits contend that this exchange proves that Manning knowingly provided Steiner with “fraudulent” items to sell to fans. The team now says the email exchange was taken out of context, and that its release now constitutes an attempt to defame Manning.

Sports court is in recess.

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Super Monday

Winner: The New York Giants. They scored first, with a technical safety on the Patriots’ opening drive, when Tom Brady stood in his own end zone and intentionally grounded the ball, and they scored last, when Ahmad Bradshaw carried a little more momentum than he probably expected on a largely undefended running play, to beat New England 21-17.

Loser: The New England Patriots. Despite going down 9-0 early in the game, they took a lead into halftime, thanks for a field-traversing drive on which Tom Brady was 10-10 in passing. The Pats suddenly looked like their old, domineering, mechanistic, enemy-vaporizing selves. And they got the ball to start the second half! I sent a text message to Bdoyk at halftime: “Tide has turned.” Her response: “Don’t say that.” To the hyperstitious greater Massachusetts sports community, I’m sorry if that in-game prediction of victory caused your players to develop stone hands on the final drive.  Keep reading…

Special teams Monday

On Friday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves hung around long enough and took advantage of a Los Angeles Clippers’ offense that, despite dominating most of the game even without Chris Paul, stagnated after Mo Williams, who couldn’t miss, got himself ejected. Minnesota won the game on a Kevin Love 3-pointer off an in-bounds play with 1.5 seconds remaining. The 101-98 game-winning margin was the T-Wolves only lead of the night after going up 2-0 to start the game.

In college action, Michigan State was all over Purdue in East Lansing, 83-58, the Boilermakers being a much better team in West Lafayette than on the road. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, hasn’t quite been able to right its ship, dropping a tough one in overtime to #15 Mississippi State, 78-77. Other notable games included Virginia Tech upsetting UVA in a low-scoring affair (47-45), Notre Dame upsetting previously undefeated #1 Syracuse, and Florida State salvaging its season with an upset of Duke in Durham just a week after it blew out free falling North Carolina. There also was this neat fact:

Sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died after a battle with lung cancer.  Beyond the longevity of his tenure, recent information about his handling of the Jerry Sandusky situation has obscured and clouded Paterno’s legacy. One has to wonder, though, whether Paterno would be alive today if he had been allowed to remain in his post. It isn’t a sensational suggestion: he and others addressed this very question in years past (in an article, probably in Sports Illustrated, for which I spent a good amount of time unsuccessfully searching on Sunday). The other footnote on this story right now is the mishandling of the death announcement by the media– particularly CBS Sports, which lifted a premature story without attribution from Onward State, a PSU student site, and then attempted to blame that site when the error was revealed.

Sunday featured the NFL playoffs’ final four and saw New England and New York advancing to the Super Bowl. In each game, the losing team appeared to be in control at the end, only to commit crippling special teams errors that delivered the victory to their opponent. When the teams meet in the Super Bowl, Eli Manning will have the opportunity to double his brother’s championship total, while Tom Brady could join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. Super Bowl XLVI will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, which the Giants won 17-14, thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter catch by WR David Tyree.

In the Australian Open, Serena Williams lost 6-2, 6-3 to Ekaterina Makarova. Williams was the last American alive in the tournament.