Sports Law Roundup – 6/23/2017

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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:

  • Football trademark: As predicted (not by me) back in 2015, the Supreme Court heard and now has ruled on a trademark case involving a band called The Slants that has a direct effect on the Washington Redskins, whose trademark registrations were revoked under the same policy applied to The Slants. That policy sought to ban registration of trademarks that were disparaging or offensive, but a unanimous (8-0) Court held that the ban violated the First Amendment. “It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend,” Justice Samuel Alito explained.
  • NFL fan access: A Green Bay Packers fan has sued the Chicago Bears because the Bears won’t allow him on the sidelines before games at Soldier Field while he’s wearing Packers attire. The fan is a Bears season-ticket holder who built up enough “points” to receive an award in the form of a pregame warmup sideline experience. Despite his entitlement to that experience under the terms of the Bears season ticket program, the Bears refused to allow him to participate while wearing Packers clothing.
  • Daily Fantasy Sports: The inevitable merger between DraftKings and FanDuel announced last November has hit a probably inevitable regulatory hurdle. The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the merger, which, the FTC says, would create a single company that controls ninety percent of the daily fantasy sports market. On Tuesday, a judge granted the FTC a temporary restraining order that halts the merger for now.
  • Golf drugs: The PGA has asked a judge to reconsider her May ruling that the tour breached an implied duty of good faith it owed to Vijay Singh in connection with 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 golf performance. The PGA’s arguments in support of reconsideration involve evidentiary matters pertaining to witness testimony regarding the financial consequences of Singh’s suspension and the judge’s understanding of whether the PGA reviewed materials from 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, and Singh argued that the PGA should have confirmed this fact with WADA before it suspended him.

Sports court is in recess.

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.

Can Golf Save Congress? (via Hot Dogs and Golf)

An article on NPR posited the idea that if members of Congress played more golf together, like in the olden days, they would get more work done.

It’s an interesting idea — one that has been proposed many times over in different forms. If members of Congress drank together, ate dinner together, took trips and retreats together. If their spouses did volunteer work in DC together, if they moved their family to DC so their kids could go to school together, we could break through the incivility and gridlock.

In the late 1990’s, the Aspen Institute hosted 3-day retreats hoping to bring members of Congress from both sides of the aisle together to get to know one another — and face the issue of incivility in Congress head on. Around 200 Members, their spouse, and children attended. Did it work? Sort of.

But, what of this idea of bi-partisan golf? … Read More

(via Hot Dogs and Golf)

On the Road Again: A study of NHL rink variation

One of the important background dimensions to comparative baseball statistics is known as “park adjustments,” a set of corrective factors applied to account for the physical differences (e.g., outfield wall depth) between each park. Among American sports today, only Major League Baseball and NASCAR (and golf, I suppose) permit such structural variation between the competitive arenas themselves.

Professional hockey used to be in that group too. More than merely adjusting, adding, and subtracting lines on the ice to affect the flow of play, as the NHL continues to do (cf. the NBA three-point line), the rinks themselves used to be different sizes. League rules mandate a uniform rink size, but so-called “small rinks” persisted in the NHL as late as the 1980s and 1990s in Boston, Chicago, and Buffalo.

While hockey does not face the structural differences present in baseball, there still is a need to apply rink-by-rink statistical adjustments. That’s because the compiling of basic hockey statistics (e.g., shots, hits, turnovers) requires statisticians to make judgment calls to a more significant degree than in a discrete-event sport like baseball.

By way of limited background, the NHL collects basic gameplay statistics through a computer system known as the Real Time Scoring System (RTSS). A benefit of RTSS is that it aggregates and organizes data for analysis by teams, players, and fans. A vulnerability of RTSS is the subjectivity alluded to above that comes when human scorers track a fluid, dynamic sport like hockey.

While others have noted certain biases among the RTSS scorers at different rinks, a paper by Michael Schuckers and Brian Macdonald published earlier this month analyzes those discrepancies across a spread of core statistics and proposes a “Rink Effects” model that aims to do for subjective rink-to-rink differences in hockey scoring what park adjustments do for structural differences between baseball parks.    Continue reading

ALDLAND Podcast

The middle of July is one of the slowest times in sports, but the MLB came through by banning Ryan Braun for the remainder of the season for violating its drug policy and provided us with more than enough fodder for a podcast. Listen as Marcus and I discuss the Braun story and related subplots, as well as our thoughts and advice on workout gear and a recap of Lefty’s big win in Scotland.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Langston Golf Course Celebrates Its Heritage (via The Washington Informer)

For many, like Ray Savoy, who regularly tees off at the historic Langston Golf Course in Northeast, the 74-year-old sports cathedral is a home away from home.

ESPN recently noted that the famed course is the only one in Washington, D.C., where you can still get breakfast at 6 p.m. More importantly, Langston has been both a playground and a meeting ground for generations of African-American golfers.

An African American renaissance in golf began based on the creation of Langston, which essentially became the Mecca for black golfers.

World Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, famed Big Band leader Billy Eckstein, singers Dionne Warrick and Lena Horne and Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays counted among the famous to patronize Langston.

Former President Gerald Ford, entertainer Bob Hope, and PGA champion Lee Trevino are among the notable non-African Americans who have played 18-holes at the fabled course.

Northwest resident and golfer Luke Watson is also a regular at Langston and his review of the course on his “hot dogs and golf” blog echoes the thoughts of many who have had tee-times there. … Read More

(via The Washington Informer)

Wrapping up the 2013 Masters

Just over a week ago, Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, beating Angel Cabrera in a sudden-death playoff to claim the green jacket.  It’s true that such a playoff in a major golf tournament always is exciting, but the way we arrived at this one– Scott holding steady as numerous golfers faded back to (in Cabrera’s case) or below him on the leaderboard– felt a little anticlimactic. Still, among those leaders, Scott did the best job of holding steady while the course conditions did anything but, and after near-misses on his putts all day, he finally sunk them when he needed to on eighteen and the playoff hole.

A big thanks to guest blogger Luke Watson, who stopped by to lend ALDLAND the benefit of his golf acumen and insight as a guest blogger. (His posts are here and here.) Back at his own site, Hotdogs and Golf, he recently published a very thoughtful post-Masters post that’s worth your time.

While Luke’s collaboration with this site was the big media story of the tournament, another story about a broken golf collaboration has received almost no attention anywhere but these very pages. Continue reading

The 2013 Masters: Pimento Cheese is the New Hummus

masters menuGuest blogger Luke Watson is here this week to cover the Masters. Read his first post here. -Ed.
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The Masters is known for many things but probably the most delectable item is the pimento cheese sandwich.  Now, I’m typically just about hot dogs and golf, but once a year I think it’s important to take a closer look at the snack that’s quickly making its way to parties all across this glorious land.

As a young boy growing up in Texas, I was accustomed to a nearly weekly pimento cheese sandwich. My mother would sometimes make her own version, using velveeta and shredded cheddar. On trips to the coast, we would stop off at the HEB and grab a tub of the good stuff, slather it on some wheat bread and get on down the road. Nothing says vacation in Texas like warm sandwiches, soggy tortilla chips, and a can of Dr. Pepper. But, this blog ain’t about Texas vacations, it’s about golf…

The Masters, apparently, has some mighty fine pimento cheese sandwiches. And, for a dollar fifty, it’s a heckuva deal. Those I’ve talked to tell me that they have a little more oniony kick than your typical southern style PCS, but they’re a great break from the sometimes awful heat and humidity. Coronas are a good option, too. Now, they come pre-made but I don’t think that’s all that awful — you’re there for the golf, not the freshness of the sandwich.

I’ve always said that if Old Crow whiskey is good enough for Ulysses S. Grant, it’s good enough for you. Same goes for pimento cheese. As a matter of fact, my favorite PCS recipe comes from Martha Stewart. It’s the Tabasco that does it. And, if Mrs. Stewart and the members of Augusta National Golf Club are fans, it’s fine for you to be one as well.

I brought some pimento cheese spread to a party a few weeks back. People were skeptical at first, until they tried it. And then they were all over the stuff. Made me proud. It’s definitely going to be a go-to for parties I attend in the future.

On the course, aside from a hotdog, it’s a fantastic choice for a mid-round snack. It’s benefits are many: it’s filling; it’s tasty; it stays together really nicely; and it can be scarfed down quickly.

A little update for those interested in golf and not pimento cheese:

  • It’s a pretty packed leaderboard. So far, my picks are doing ok.

    • Johnson: -5

    • Westwood: -2

    • Rose: -2

    • Dufner: E

    • Poulter: +4

  • The leaders are at -6. Who are they? It’s Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman. It should be known that I have Sergio Garcia as a pick in my office pool because someone else picked Rose.

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Luke is the author of Hotdogs and Golf, and he tweets @LukeGolf2012.