Sports Law Roundup – 5/5/2017

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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:

  • NBA profiling: In 2015, Mike Scott, then a member of the Atlanta Hawks, and his brother were pulled over and subsequently arrested after a search of their rented vehicle turned up marijuana, ecstasy, and $1,684 in cash.  The deputy sheriff who made the stop later was found to have been racially profiling drivers as part of a forfeiture scheme and placed on administrative leave. Records provided by the Scotts’ attorneys show that the deputy sheriff “pulled over more than 1,400 vehicles in 2015 and 2016 but issued only eight traffic citations. He also arrested 47 people, at least 44 of whom were minorities.” As a result of the profiling, the judge overseeing the Scotts’ drug case this week threw out the key evidence against the defendants.
  • Baseball broadcast settlement: In early 2016, MLB settled a fan antitrust lawsuit targeting the league’s television blackouts and other components of its broadcast system. While the blackouts survived, the fans did win reduced-price single-team subscription options for MLB.tv (I am a subscriber, to varying degrees of satisfaction), as well as a price reduction for the full MLB.tv package. The agreement also included a component that would allow MLB to raise prices in the future in exchange for providing more live streams of in-market games by 2017. That component now is at issue in a new motion filed by the fan group demanding that the court enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The fans allege that MLB raised prices without the required corresponding in-market streaming increase. They concede that the league may have agreements in place with local television providers to provide the in-market streams, but, the fans argue, “the obvious purpose of the settlement was not that ‘agreements’ of some kind be reached, but that the actual games be available.” The fans also argue that, contrary to what they were promised, MLB has failed to make the “follow your team” game broadcasts available when the selected team is playing the team based in the fan’s local broadcast market.
  • Cheerleader wages: The Milwaukee Bucks and Lauren Herington, a former cheerleader for the team who alleged that the team violated federal and state labor laws by underpaying her and her fellow cheerleaders, have reached a $250,000 settlement of Herington’s proposed class action lawsuit that provides for the settlement funds to be divided as follows: $10,000 for Herington; $115,000 for Herington’s attorneys; and unspecified shares of the remaining $125,000 to Herington and other would-be class members who opt into the settlement based on their hours worked during the three-year period (2012-15) at issue. While not insubstantial, the Journal Sentinel notes that Milwaukee’s $250,000 settlement amount is less than what other teams– for example, the Oakland Raiders ($1.24 million), Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($825,000), and Cincinnati Bengals ($255,000)– have paid to resolve similar lawsuits. Upon learning that Herington was wavering on whether to agree to the settlement, her lawyer, who wanted her to accept the deal, reportedly was overheard telling her that “it’s a Bucks dancer’s choice my friend, better take my advice.”
  • Minor League baseball wages: As predicted two months ago, the court overseeing  the minor-league baseball players lawsuit against MLB for higher wages and overtime pay will permit the parties to appeal its recent ruling certifying the case for class-action treatment. In doing so, the court also decided to stay the case pending resolution of the class-certification issues by the appellate court.

Sports court is in recess.

Haggard Jam

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Country legend Merle Haggard died on Wednesday, his seventy-ninth birthday. Without further ado, because Haggard didn’t seem to be the type who cared for any ado, here are two of his songs. The first seems a fitting choice for the occasion, and the second is a cover of one of his songs, the first one I remember knowing.


(Featured image from Alejandro Escovedo)

Injury Report Jam

It was a tough week on the health front for a couple folks we keep track of here at ALDLAND. First, Phil Lesh, best known as the bass player for the Grateful Dead, announced that he has bladder cancer. Lesh previously was forced to undergo a liver transplant due to a hepatitis C infection, so word of a new, serious condition was worrisome. The good news is that Phil’s cancer is “non aggressive,” and it sounds like he plans to make a full recovery soon.

Three days later, new Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris revealed that he’d been battling thyroid cancer this season. Norris’ cancer is malignant, and he will be undergoing treatment in the offseason.

For this week’s Jam, here’s Phil doing his warbly best with the Grateful Dead, twenty years ago in Memphis:

Ready to Die: Three Days of Drugs and Disintegration with The Grateful Dead (via Vice)

gd50We’re clacking and lurching on a Red Line car to the Roosevelt stop. This is the exit for Chicago’s Soldier Field, site of “Fare Thee Well,” the last three shows for the band formerly known as The Grateful Dead. Ask me why I’m here and I can only give you elliptical answers.

On most Sundays, the Grateful Dead are my favorite rock band of all-time, but this seems destined for pure farce—a Necrophiliac spectacle where the hallucinogenic ashes of Saint Jerry spike the Fourth of July fireworks. During intermission, the field will split open and he’ll ascend in a floating mausoleum, wax mannequin covered in tie-die, exhumation costs covered by the largesse of Ben and Jerry. A Jerry hologram was planned, but couldn’t be properly brought to fake life in real time. The Jerry impersonator from Half Baked was waylaid with prior Independence Day plans. One of these is true.

Somehow, four old guys, Bruce Hornsby, and Trey from Phish sold 65 percent more tickets per show than Taylor Swift—more than every summer festival except Coachella. And there may be more floral garlands here. The Golden Road to Devotion now costs a couple mortgage payments. No free press passes either. Entrance meant that you won the lottery, sold spare appendages on the black market, or finessed the Patchouli circuit plug. Maybe you’re one of the hundreds outside with a cardboard sign that reads: “Hoping for a Miracle.” … Read More

(via Vice)

Who’s conflicted about sports? World Series of Poker edition

While the idea of writing about the cartographic results of ESPN SportsNation polls long has percolated in my mind, it (obviously to you, erstwhile ALDLAND reader) never took off. In part I suspect this is because there’s little categorical variety in the types of conclusions we ordinarily draw from these maps, those being 1) the one state associated with the obvious minority view holds out, probably irrationally, against the weight of a nationwide majority and 2) shoot, there really aren’t too many people with internet connections in Mississippi are there? After a very short time, this would become boring to read and write.

We are living in the post-peak-SportsNation world, though, which means that, if this thing’s going to work at all, we’ve got to try it now, but with a slightly different angle of approach. Instead of focusing on the people who supported a poll choice, we’ll look at those states where the voters were not able to reach consensus.

For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of these voting maps, ESPN assigns colors to each of the poll options and presents each state as the color of the option most popular among that state’s voters. Where there is a tie between leading options, however, the state appears grey. These indecisive states are the focus here.

ESPN (I assume from the existence of this poll and Norm Macdonald’s late-night tweeting) has been televising the World Series of Poker this week, and SportsNation, in a totally happenstance, non-marketing-driven poll, casually asked, “How would you rate your poker game?” Here are the results:

nv-pokerWhile we could postulate that Louisianans spend too much time playing Three-card Monte and Arkansans are just people who picked up the rudiments of poker as a post-hoc character alibi while on the run from an out-of-state murder rap, but we don’t really know any of that for certain, and it’s more– though still, extremely mildly– entertaining to note that Nevada, home to the nation’s largest casinos, has no opinion on the matter.

UPDATE: A plurality of Nevada voters now say they do not play poker at all. Click the map above to see the very latest results.

Flying Tigers: Closing the Book on 2013

Rock and Roll never forgets, and neither does ALDLAND. Last season, I took a look at whether the Tigers struggled to score later in games, a trend that, if shown and in combination with the team’s bullpen woes, would make comeback wins less likely. While the preliminary numbers suggested I was onto something, the trend appeared even more pronounced with one-hundred games’ worth of data. The purpose of this post is to make good on the promise implicit in that last one by completing the full season’s worth of data.

First, an aside on data collection. I previously gathered and organized these inning-by-inning run totals by hand because I didn’t realize Baseball Reference actually tracks that information. In order to maintain the same error potential, and because B-R doesn’t separate the runs/inning between wins and losses, I’ve updated (a simplified version of) my chart as I did before.

r-in 2013

Continue reading

Previewing the 2013 NCAA Men’s Final Four

They say that the first Super Bowl preview show begins shortly after the prior Super Bowl finishes, and with the crowning of Kentucky as the 2012 national champs late last night, today is the perfect time to post the first preview of the 2013 Final Four. There’s already much to discuss, and we can be sure that the 2013 Final Four will look much different from the one we saw over the last few days.

For one thing, most of the top players from the 2012 tournament– including Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, and Vanderbilt’s Jeffrey Taylor– will be gone to the NBA.

Another reason the 2013 Final Four will look different is that it will be played in Eastern Europe.

In one of the great moments of stealth marketing, the NCAA subtly announced during last night’s championship game that next year’s Final Four would take place in Alanta, Lithuania, a town of 464.

This is a sensible choice for basketball and non-basketball reasons, and it’s a great way to expand the NCAA’s brand abroad.

Lithuania has a strong, proud, and hip basketball tradition most notably marked by its 1992 Olympic team, known as “The Other Dream Team.” Led by Arvydas Sabonis, the Lithuanian squad represented their burgeoning democracy and their sponsors– Grateful Dead Productions– well, taking home the Bronze Medal by defeating Russia, their former overlords, in the Barcelona games.

After surviving a Napoleonic invasion and two World Wars, Alanta has displayed a ruggedness that deservedly caught the eye of the NCAA and shows that it is more than capable of hosting next year’s Final Four.

Free Ski Friday Jam

The Deseret News reports:

SALT LAKE CITY — Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke succumbed to injuries Thursday morning that she sustained in a fall Jan. 10 while training in the superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort.

University of Utah officials confirmed in a statement that Burke, 29, passed away at 9:22 a.m. surrounded by her family. As a result of the fall, she suffered a ruptured vertebral artery, one of the four major arteries supplying blood to the brain. The rupture of this artery led to severe bleeding. Emergency personnel performed CPR at the site of the accident, during which time she remained without a pulse or spontaneous breathing, the statement said.

She remained in a coma and on life support from the time she arrived at the hospital. Doctors conducted numerous neurological examinations and tests and revealed that Burke had sustained severe, irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after the cardiac arrest, the statement said. In accordance with her wishes, her family donated her organs “to save the lives of others.”

With her death, the world loses a world-class athlete, a tireless advocate for women’s athletics and a kind and generous soul.

Burke fought fiercely for the sport’s inclusion into the Winter Olympics. Last spring her efforts were recognized when the IOC announced ski superpipe would be included in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Burke said it was the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

“In many ways, Sarah defines the sport,” Judge said. “She was one of the first people to get into the pipe and bring skis to the pipe. She’s always been very dedicated in trying to define her sport, and it’s never been about just winning. It’s been about pushing the limits. She’s always been more concerned about making herself the best, rather than comparing herself to other people.”

“I was often the only girl at the comps and competed against the boys for the first few years,” shes writes on the website. “I got my first sponsor when I was 17 (years) old. I had skipped training for Junior Nationals in Whistler and went off skiing in the park. Before I knew it I was traveling and competing all over the world. Ten years later I am still doing what I love and riding for the best companies out there. I have taken countless crashes and broken many bones but I love skiing more and more every year and plan to do it as long as I am enjoying it.”

“I plan to stick around for the 2014 Olympics so don’t be thinkin’ I am going anywhere!” she wrote. “I am really looking forward (to) skiing pow with my friends and pushing my boundaries. I would never have imagined that a girl from little ol’ Midland, Ontario, would be where I am today. So always dream big … you can make it happen.”

You can see a video of one of Burke’s X Games gold medal runs here. More related ski safety news is here.

On the day I learned of Burke’s death, I was in the process of planning my next ski adventure, and all of this had me thinking about what I like to listen to on the way to and on the mountain. Bluegrass for sure. If a heady jam is required, this is a good go-to (contextually legitimated by the appearance of a pedal-steel). I’m all for the celebration-of-life approach, but it feels like something a little more somber may be the order of this day:


(Will you look at that? It’s our boy Bruce. I really did not intend that. The venue also reminded me that I needed to amend my bio here.)

Many times, I associate a song or a group with a particular season. Few bands have a repertoire as extensive as the Dead’s, though, so it probably isn’t surprising that they have solid winter and summer catalogues. In terms of substance and presentation, the above clip clearly draws from both.

Tragic accidents like this are a reminder that athletic pursuits are not a diversion or mere hobby for everyone. In an age in which social reform focuses on the salvation of the minds of our undereducated and underprivileged children, it may be worth remembering that mind and body are connected, and that, for worse or for better, the fate of one is directly tied to the fate of the other.