Sports Law Roundup – 8/18/2017


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 is a top sports-related legal story from the past week:

  • Golf suit suit: On Monday, Augusta National Golf Club filed suit against an online auction memorabilia company in an attempt to halt sales of three of the club’s famous green jackets. According to the club, the jackets, which it issues to club members and winners of the Masters tournament, remain club property and may not leave the premises, with only one exception: the Masters winner may take his jacket off club grounds during the first year following presentment. The site claims to have for sale the 1966 Masters champion jacket issued to Byron Nelson, as well as member jackets belonging to John R. Butler, Jr. and George King. This list of club members USA Today published in 2002 names Butler and identifies him as a resident of Texas affiliated with J.R. Butler and Co., which appears to be an oil and gas consulting company. King’s name does not appear on the 2002 list, and reports on this lawsuit indicate that he was a member of the club only “briefly.” The auction site describes King as “an early Augusta National member from Wisconsin, never returned to Augusta National after” World War II. The auction company claims to have previously sold three other Masters champion jackets, including one belonging to the tournament’s first champion, Horton Smith, for almost $700,000 in 2013. There is no indication that the club sued the auction company in connection with any of its prior sales. Yesterday, a judge granted the club’s motion for a preliminary injunction halting the auction of the jackets, which the club alleges constituted stolen property.

Sports court is in recess.

Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Cobb’s Braves Stadium Bond Deal (via Fulton County Daily Report)

The Cobb County Braves stadium deal is safe. The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday unanimously upheld the bond issue for up to $397 million to finance the deal, affirming a ruling by Cobb County Superior Court Judge Robert Leonard.

But the high court also underscored some of the concerns brought up by the three plaintiffs who challenged the deal. In the opinion, written by Justice David Nahmias, the justices said, “We do not discount the concerns” raised in the three appeals “about the wisdom of the stadium project and the commitments Cobb County has made to entice the Braves to move there.”

Cobb County surprised Atlanta in November 2013 with a deal to lure the Braves away from downtown and into a suburban site near Interstates 285 and 75 off Cobb Parkway. Construction is underway on the new SunTrust Park, which will supplant Turner Field.

The court said the residents’ objections to Cobb’s financial incentives “lie predominantly in the realm of public policy entrusted to the county’s elected officials for decision, not in the realm of constitutional or statutory law. And to the extent the concerns affect whether the bond proposal is sound, feasible and reasonable, we defer to the trial court’s findings on those factors, which were supported by evidence in the record.”

The court concluded with a warning. “If the stadium deal does not fulfill the high expectations that have been set for it, there may be a significant political price to pay for those who negotiated and signed onto it,” Nahmias wrote. “But under the law of Georgia as construed in the precedents of this court, we cannot say that the trial court erred in validating the bonds or that the validation process was deficient. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.” … Read More

(via Fulton County Daily Report)

Judges Take Swings at The ‘Baseball Rule’ (via Fulton County Daily Report)

A panel of the Georgia Court of Appeals on Tuesday tested the Atlanta Braves’ argument that the team should be insulated from suits by fans hit by flying bats or balls.

The Braves’ lawyer, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, said the appeals court should adopt the so-called “baseball rule,” which says teams are immune if they provide enough seats behind home plate shielded by a net to meet demand.

Hearing the case with two colleagues, Judge Michael Boggs wondered why the baseball industry should get its own rule. “The concern being, of course, if you carve out a rule for baseball, if we adopt the baseball rule, next week we’ll be adopting the hockey rule, and the week after that we’ll be adopting another rule,” he said.

The case was filed against the Braves by a parent of a 6-year-old girl who was hit by a foul ball while attending a game at Turner Field in 2010. A Fulton County judge has refused to dismiss the case.

Backed by the commissioner of Major League Baseball, the Braves say the baseball rule is used in the majority of states that have adopted a rule around errant balls and bats at baseball venues.

On Tuesday, Sears told the judges that the Braves need to know exactly what their duties to spectators are. “The baseball rule is a clear rule,” she said, “and, quite frankly, its clarity is its virtue.”

Arguing for the girl and her family, Atlanta lawyer E. Michael Moran of Law & Moran said it didn’t make sense to adopt a rule created for baseball in another jurisdiction about 100 years ago. “The game has changed,” he said, noting high rates of speed of balls hit by players today. … Read More

(via Fulton County Daily Report)