Sports Law Roundup – 5/19/2017

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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:

  • Basketball mugging: Moses Malone Jr., son of NBA great Moses Malone, sued James Harden, claiming that Harden paid a group of people $20,000 to mug Malone Jr. at a Houston strip club last summer after critical comments by Malone Jr. about Harden’s youth basketball camp angered Harden. Malone Jr. posted a Facebook.com comment about the $250-per-attendee cost of Harden’s camp and then was beaten and robbed at the strip club. One of the men charged in the attack reportedly told Malone Jr. during the attack that Malone Jr. “disrespected James Harden and that he needs to be punished after that.” At this time, police have not established a connection between Harden and the attack.
  • Golf drugs: Vijay Singh won a victory in his lawsuit against the PGA this week when a court ruled that his claim that the tour breached an implied duty of good faith it owed to Singh could proceed. Singh’s case arises out of a 2013 suspension the PGA issued to him after he told a reporter he’d used a product called The Ultimate Spray, which contains “velvet from the immature antlers of male deer,” something that supposedly aids performance. The PGA suspended Singh based on his admission before checking with the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”), which maintains the tour’s agreed list of banned substances, to confirm that the spray in fact contained or constituted a banned substance. During Singh’s suspension, WADA issued a public statement clarifying that use of the spray was not prohibited. Singh’s contention is that the PGA should have confirmed this fact with WADA before it suspended him.
  • Football painkillers: The judge overseeing the proposed class action brought by former NFL players against the league’s thirty-two teams improper dispensation of painkillers dealt the plaintiffs another serious blow this week by dismissing almost all of the claims remaining in the case, and he does not seem to be impressed by the plaintiffs’ efforts: “perhaps the bloat of inapposite allegations is the product of some advocacy-based agenda rather than any attempt to comply with pleading requirements. For present purposes, however, this order makes clear at the outset that what matters is not whether plaintiffs have drawn attention to widespread misconduct in the NFL but whether each plaintiff has properly pled claims for relief against each individual club and, if so, whether those claims survive summary judgment.” At this time, the only claims that remain in the case are those brought by two individual players against three teams, the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, and San Diego Chargers.
  • Baylor sexual assaults: Amazingly, Baylor’s legal troubles continue to mount. After a former student sued the university earlier this year, alleging she was the victim of a group rape committed by two football players in 2013 that the school ignored; 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”; and that, between 2011 and 2014, thirty-one Baylor football players committed a total of fifty-two rapes, including five gang rapes, another former student has sued the school based on similar allegations. The new case, filed by a former volleyball player for the university, is the seventh Title IX lawsuit brought against the school, and it alleges that up to eight Baylor football players drugged and raped the plaintiff in 2012. The complaint explains that the attack was photographed and videotaped and happened in connection with a football hazing program.
  • NBA ticket devaluation: A San Antonio Spurs fan has sued the Golden State Warriors and one of that team’s players, Zaza Pachulia, claiming that Pachulia’s contribution to the injury of Spurs star Kawhi Leonard “devastated the quality of the Spurs’ chances of being competitive,” thereby diminishing the value of the plaintiff’s tickets to future Spurs playoff games. Video of the play in question is available here. It shows Pachulia moving in front of Leonard, who is in the air releasing a shot, and Leonard subsequently landing on Pachulia’s foot, resulting in an exacerbation of Leonard’s ankle injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the first game and all of the second game of the NBA’s Western Conference finals. Leonard did not participate in practice yesterday, and his status for tomorrow’s game remains undetermined.
  • MLB streaming: Facebook and MLB have reached a live game streaming agreement that grants streaming rights to the social media platform for certain Friday night games. Streams will be free to users in the United States, and it appears that blackout restrictions will not be enforced, meaning fans located in the participating teams’ geographical regions should be able to watch as well. The initial deal includes twenty games, beginning with tonight’s Rockies-Reds matchup. More games may be added later. It is not clear whether this announcement has anything to do with the new lawsuit filed earlier this month by fans seeking to enforce a previous settlement agreement that required MLB to provide more live streams of in-market games by 2017, but it sure seems like it does.
  • Football jokes: An individual who posts jokes on the internet has sued Conan O’Brien, alleging that O’Brien stole a joke from him about Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl MVP award two years ago. Super Bowl MVPs apparently receive pickup trucks as prizes, and Brady, having won multiple such awards and having no use for a truck, has been giving them to a teammate he feels deserves it. Following New England’s last-second victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX, Brady gave the truck to Malcolm Butler, who secured the game-winning interception. The essence of the joke was that Brady should’ve given the truck to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who, many thought, made a very bad play call on that play. I’m not sure what the statute of limitation is on joke-theft claims, but any joke that takes this long to explain probably isn’t worth stealing.  (It also seems kind of obvious, at least in retrospect.) A judge has ruled that the case will go before a jury, which will decide whether O’Brien infringed the individual’s copyright on that joke and two others.

Sports court is in recess.

Kate Upton has a point: Writers must do better with baseball awards voting (via Fox Sports)

111716-mlb-tigers-verlander-upton-pi-vadapt-980-high-75Kate Upton had a point. Her math is off, her facts are off, but she had a point.

Sorry, Kate, no writer should be fired for failing to vote for your fiance, Justin Verlander, for the American League Cy Young Award.

But, with all due respect to the Baseball Writers Association of America — of which I am a proud member — the omission of Verlander from the ballot by both Tampa Bay voters is indeed an indication that we can do a better job choosing the voters for our awards.

Judging voters too harshly is a slippery slope: I vehemently oppose penalizing anyone for holding an unpopular or even mistaken opinion. At the same time, it is the obligation of every voter to develop a sound rationale for his or her choices. Different answers are acceptable; it’s the process that matters.

The Tampa Bay voters, Bill Chastain of MLB.com and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press, cannot be held solely responsible for Verlander’s second-place finish, despite what Upton said in her epic Twitter rant Wednesday night. Verlander would have needed third-place votes or better from both to overcome Porcello – and seven other writers placed him fourth or fifth.

Chastain told the New York Daily News that he submitted his ballot with about a week left in the regular season; a curious choice, to say the least, when Verlander’s Tigers were still fighting for a playoff berth. Goodall, one of several AP writers who vote for BBWAA awards, does not solely cover baseball; he reports on a variety of sports in the Tampa Bay area.

Ultimately, though, each writer needs to take responsibility; if you are not prepared to engage in or capable of the necessary analysis, then don’t accept the ballot. Chastain and Goodall did not make indefensible choices — Chastain went Porcello-Britton-Kluber-Sale-Masahiro Tanaka; Goodall went Porcello-Kluber-J.A. Happ-Britton-Aaron Sanchez. But the complete exclusion of Verlander by both makes little sense.

Votes are subjective, differences of opinion expected. But the BBWAA has a responsibility, too — a responsibility to make sure that we select the most qualified voters, the best of the best, to get the optimal result.

If we fail to do that, shame on us. … Read More

(via Fox Sports)

HT: LRAD/MSN.com

Farewell, again, dear Prince

Nearly three years ago, Detroit Tigers fans said goodbye to Prince Fielder, whom the team traded in the 2013 offseason to Texas in exchange for Ian Kinsler. At the time, many were glad to see him leave, though some, including this author, were not. All must agree, however, that when Fielder left Detroit, he became barely a shadow of his former Ironman self. In his two years as a Tiger, he didn’t miss a single game. Excluding his rookie year, in the eight years he spent in Milwaukee and Detroit, he missed a total of thirteen games, playing the full 162 in four of those eight seasons. That’s an impressive accomplishment for any player.

If one wanted to be cold about it, one might note that, 2014, Fielder’s first in Texas, was a year of insult and injury for Prince. Not only did his trade replacement, Kinsler, make the All-Star team on his way to completing the second-best season of his career, but Fielder underwent season-ending neck surgery in late May, appearing in just forty-two games for his new club. He seemed to bounce back in 2015, posting a .305/.378/.463 line in 158 games, but it has been trouble again for Fielder in 2016. Despite his team’s success, Prince arguably was the worst position player of the first half of the season, and things weren’t looking up in the second half. After playing in all but five of the Rangers’ games through July 18, Fielder again went on the disabled list and, after undergoing a second neck surgery, is expected to miss the remainder of this season.

It may not just be the rest of the season he misses, however, as shocking reports emerged this afternoon that Prince’s career may be over:

If true, then, as a number of people have pointed out, Prince will finish with a .283/.382/.506 line, .304 TAv, .377 wOBA, 133 wRC+, 26.8 fWAR / 23.8 bWAR / 30.3 WARP, and 319 home runs, the same number of home runs his father, Cecil, with whom he seems to have reconciled, hit in a career just one season longer than his son’s.

Although serious injuries seemed to dim his wattage following the trade to Texas, I always will remember Prince Fielder as a complete hitter who was one of the happiest baseball players I ever saw. His friendship with Miguel Cabrera was particularly endearing.  What follows are some of my favorite images and clips from Prince’s playing days:   Continue reading

Statements both obvious and only slightly less obvious about the Detroit Tigers’ finances

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By now, everyone knows The Narrative governing all things Detroit Tigers baseball: the team needs to Win Now because they have lots of money locked up in a few long-term player contracts, and, as those players age, the team’s Window Is Closing. And it’s true: the team has some expensive contracts on the books. Here’s a rough visual, created from the data available on Baseball-Reference:

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(Click here for an expanded view.) Besides noticing that I have not recently viewed Anibal Sanchez’s player page, you can see that a number of today’s already-very-familiar Detroit baseball faces are likely to remain as such for a number of additional seasons, and at significant cost to the team. This is known and obvious. That this aggregated fact has real and, on balance, probably adverse consequences for the team’s future– the ability to re-sign J.D. Martinez comes to mind– also is, if less precisely quantifiable, known and obvious.   Continue reading

Window Shopping: Step Back From the Window, or, Thank You Very Much, Mr. Rebooto

The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline was an especially active period for the Detroit Tigers franchise, which made big moves both with player and front-office personnel.

Detroit traded three of the best players on its 2015 roster in the days and minutes prior to the trade deadline. The team’s biggest move, and arguably the biggest of one of the most active trade-deadline periods ever, was their decision to trade number-one starter David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays. They also sent closer Joakim Soria to Pittsburgh, and, in the final moments before the deadline, Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets.

The basic logic behind each of these moves is that, even prior to these trades, each of these players was, for all practical purposes, not going to be a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2016. That’s because each is in the final year of his current contract, meaning that each becomes a free agent at the end of this season. The Tigers would have no special ability to keep Price, Cespedes, or Soria in Detroit after the end of the 2015 season, and, given their individual successes, each is likely to fetch contract offers on the free market too rich even for Mike Ilitch’s blood. Rather than keep Price, Cespedes, and Soria for August and September on a team that’s unlikely to even make the playoffs, only to watch them walk away in the winter, the Tigers, with an eye on the post-2015 future, decided to cash in some of the value of these assets by trading them now. In doing so, Detroit converted these three expiring assets into six prospects, including five pitchers and one infielder.

Baseball analysts widely praised these transactions as beneficial to the Tigers, who, general manager Dave Dombrowski announced were “rebooting,” selling with the goal of remaining competitive in the near term, rather than undergoing a full rebuilding. The top return for Detroit was Daniel Norris, a now-former Blue Jay who lives in a van and shaves his beard with an ax. They also received Matt Boyd from Toronto, a younger starter who, in his recent Tigers’ debut, beat Johnny Cueto and the Royals.

Of course, the only real question for Detroit was not whom to trade but whether to trade. As July 31 approached, that question divided fans and, it later would be revealed, members of the team’s front office and ownership. As for the former group, most fans recognized the Tigers’ slim playoff odds and supported selling, although a minority that included this writer held out hope that the team could make one more postseason push before initiating a rebuild. Ultimately, Dombrowski’s “rebooting” seemed to satisfy both camps: Detroit would get close-to-ready prospects in exchange for their expiring assets. No long rebuilding process– a full surrender– was in store, just a quick retooling.

Two additional notes in the context of these trades: 1) one week before the trade deadline, Toronto, the biggest buyers, and Detroit, the biggest sellers, sat four and five games out of the last American League wild card position, respectively, and 2) while it isn’t at all likely that Price, Soria, or Cespedes will return to Detroit in the offseason, the effect of an unusual clause in Cespedes’ contract is that the Tigers actually increased whatever chance they have of resigning Cespedes by trading him.

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As the Tigers and their fans were settling into life without Price, Soria, and Cespedes, and enjoying their first trial run with Norris, who had a strong start on Sunday in Baltimore, unbeknownst to them, even more action was afoot behind the scenes.    Continue reading

The Sound of Madness

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Hello Madness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again,
because a vision loudly creeping
left its seeds while I was sleeping,
and the aural vision that was planted in my brain
still remains
within the sound of Madness.

Last night, Fox Sports Live teased us by announcing a late-March appearance on their program of the great Gus Johnson, the Detroiter who rose to prominence as a college basketball announcer for CBS, working the NCAA men’s basketball tournament from 1996 to 2011. If you don’t recognize his name, surely you’ll recognize his voice. In short, Johnson was the genuine article, calling wild tournament games with pitch-perfect passion. None were better. None could be better. Cry while you while away your day with the Gus Johnson Soundboard.

Cry because, in 2011, Fox Sports hired Johnson away from CBS, and CBS let him leave, but CBS retained the broadcast rights to the tournament. Fox’s attempt to convert Johnson into the American voice of soccer did not work.

In Johnson’s absence, CBS appears to have tabbed Bill Raftery as Johnson’s spiritual replacement, a role for which he is ill-suited because 1) Johnson himself is irreplaceable and 2) Raftery is not a good broadcaster. That second point is an Unpopular Internet Opinion, so you have to read another paragraph on the subject.

Raftery seems ok enough in one-on-one settings away from a basketball broadcast, such as this segment on last week’s episode of Garbage Time. Get him on an NCAA tournament broadcast, though, and he is the worst. In a word: unlistenable. I’ve never heard anyone work so hard to consciously fabricate an air of spontaneous passion. Raftery is the unintentionally funny kid in high school who became self-aware, realized why people liked him and thought he was funny, and then actively tried to replicate his past affect to gain popularity, something that’s even more tortured to witness than this sentence is to read. Raftery is Tony Montana, who becomes a reckless wreck after buying too deeply into his own product. I’d rather hear Brian Collins call a tournament game than Bill Raftery.

The present situation is untenable. There can be no missions accomplished, no peace in our time without a reunification of Gus Johnson and the NCAA tournament. Messrs. Berson and Shanks: Tear Down This Wall.

And the people bowed and prayed
to the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
in the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
and tenement halls
and whispered in the sound of Madness.”

#FreeGusJohnson

Flying Tigers: Detroit finds relief, but at what price?

Last night, the Tigers traded two of their top pitching prospects, Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson, to the Texas Rangers in exchange for reliever Joakim Soria. My immediate reaction was that Knebel and Thompson were a steep price to pay for Soria (or virtually any single relief pitcher), but two realities likely drove up the price: 1) in general, it’s a sellers’ market, because league-wide parity (some might say mediocrity) at this point in the season means there are more buyers than sellers as we approach the main trade deadline, and 2) everyone knows the Tigers need bullpen help and therefore have Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski a little bit over a barrel when it comes to negotiation leverage. However you weigh the trade pieces here, Detroit had to make a move like this if it wanted to contend this October, and the equities certainly are not as imbalanced as they were in some of the Tigers’ preseason moves.

Soria is a thirty-year-old relief pitcher who was born in Mexico and spent the first five years (2007-2011) of his career in Kansas City. After sitting out all of 2012 while undergoing Tommy John surgery, he joined on with the Texas Rangers in 2013. While a glance at his numbers suggests that he picked up in 2013 where he left off in 2011 (in a hitter-friendly park in Arlington), he has been absolutely excellent so far in 2014.

I’ve had my eye on Soria since he popped up in serious trade rumors in the past week or so, and I haven’t found much to dislike about him. Continue reading

R.C.M.P.: The Return of Canadian Mounted Podcasts

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I am not a television critic, and I haven’t had anything to say about podcasts not our own in a long time, but ostensibly uncoordinated events this week compel me to again address the field.

As I described at length a few years ago, I was never much for podcasts until I found The Jalen Rose Show. Although I still check in periodically, changes in my daily schedule caused me to fall off the regular listening (and now viewing) train. I did not think I would find another non-ALDLAND Podcast podcast that would entertain me and hold my interest.

Last year, however, I found two. The first was Norm Macdonald Live, a live video podcast with weekly episodes that started in March 2013. My insatiable appetite for Norm‘s material notwithstanding, I do believe the show worked on two levels: i) it had the basic element of funny guests being casually, unscripted-ly funny, and, ii) by its structure, it operated as a deconstruction of the talk-show format. (If I try to write any more than that, they’ll revoke my liberal arts degree and make me turn in my semicolon license.) After about a dozen episodes, the seemingly successful program inexplicably went off the air in the summer of 2013 with no indication that it might ever return.

The summer of 2013 offered new video podcast life, however, in the form of the (re)birth of the Jay and Dan Podcast. Jay and Dan are Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, the lead anchors of Fox Sports 1’s Sportscenter-ish program Fox Sports Live. Before joining FS1, Onrait and O’Toole held the same job at TSN on Canadian Sportscenter. Their podcast existed in some form in Canada, but they reinvented it as a weekly video podcast through Fox, targeted at a more heavily American audience. Like Norm’s, Jay and Dan’s podcast regularly makes me smile and laugh. Also like Norm Macdonald Live, the Jay and Dan Podcast inexplicably disappeared with no indication that it might ever return.

In perhaps the first Canadian comedy and entertainment conspiracy of the internet age, both podcasts made surprise returns to apparently regularly scheduled programming this week. While both were a little rough on reentry, it’s nice to have them back on a weekly basis. Watch for Norm Macdonald Live on Monday nights and the Jay and Dan Podcast on Wednesdays.

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Related
Smackland podcast: The Jalen Rose Show

The OKTC-Fox Sports merger is complete

I’ve been keeping an eye on Clay Travis’ SEC-football-oriented site, Outkick the Coverage, since its inception, more recently tracking changes associated with the site’s acquisition by Fox Sports. As detailed in the comments here, certain small changes indicating the Fox connection had been appearing on OKTC as early as last July, and today, that transformation appears to be complete, as evidenced by the site’s facade redesign.

oktcnewEven the base URL and browser tab icon have become those of FoxSports.com:

oktctabPerhaps most importantly, OKTC now has a permanent link on FoxSports.com’s college football portal page, favorably situated right under the College Football header.

fscomThis can only portent well for Travis, who has continued to expand his television role with Fox Sports 1, even parlaying that into a Super Bowl assignment. Travis has been public about his expiring contract with what has been his main employer, WGFX, 104.5 FM in Nashville. While Clay seems unlikely to leave Music City and the SEC football beat entirely, he definitely is expanding his reach and the scope of his coverage. The only thing that seems unlikely for Travis in the near future, given his deepening ties with Fox and a possibly distant relationship with Paul Finebaum (or at least Finebaum’s callers), is a move to ESPN’s SEC Network, which launches this August. Fox undoubtedly recognizes the value of the SEC and the Southeast. How heavily they’ll rely on Travis to bring that audience to Fox remains to be seen, but they certainly aren’t running away from him.

Comprehensive Super Bowl XLVIII Preview

As you can see from the above graphic, this year’s Super Bowl, already dubbed the Snow & States’ Marketing Rights Bowl, pits New York against New Jersey in a battle for subpar beach superiority. You do not have subpar taste, however, because you’re reading ALDLAND’s Super Bowl preview, the only one you’ll need to prepare yourself for the game on Sunday. What follows is a compilation of the most interesting, entertaining, and essential Super Bowl XLVIII content, concluding with the least interesting, entertaining, and essential Super Bowl XLVIII content, my game prediction:

  • First and most important: the game begins at 6:30 Eastern on Fox.