Sports Law Roundup – 11/18/2016

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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:

  • Baseball stadium netting: On Wednesday, the trial court dismissed a lawsuit seeking increased fan-safety measures in baseball stadiums, including expanded safety netting behind dugouts and along the foul lines, based on a lack of standing. I previously wrote about this case over at TechGraphs (see here, here, and here), generally discussing the ways in which it– despite the legal weaknesses in the plaintiffs’ position– already was effecting change. Although those legal weaknesses proved to be the downfall of this suit, the court’s ruling was not without its admonitions to Major League Baseball. For example, an early footnote contains this observation: “Why Major League Baseball, knowing of the risk [foul balls pose] to children in particular, does little to highlight this risk to parents remains a mystery.” The order also expressly suggests the possibility that future litigation along these lines may be more availing in other states, where the “Baseball Rule,” which makes it very difficult for fans to recover against baseball teams and leagues, has fallen under attack: “Thus, it is conceivable that, under the right set of circumstances, a plaintiff could obtain the type of relief that plaintiffs seek here. Given the changing nature of both the baseball game experience and the injuries at issue, which are far different from those in 1914, what is a ‘reasonable expectation’ on an ‘ordinary occasion’ is not a static concept.
  • Football painkillers: Attorneys for retired NFL players in a lawsuit against the league alleging that team doctors dispensed painkillers “‘as if they were candy’ regardless of long-term effects” are seeking permission to depose team owners Jerry Jones and Jim Irsay. Outside of football, Irsay, who inherited ownership of the Indianapolis Colts from his father, is known for collecting famous guitars– including Jerry Garcia’s Tiger, Les Paul’s Black Beauty, and Prince’s Yellow Cloud— and having a history of abusing painkillers. The plaintiffs also have amended their complaint to add a RICO claim, which, among other things, introduces the potential for tripling their financial recovery in the lawsuit.
  • NCAA transfer rules: Johnnie Vassar, a former Northwestern basketball player, filed a putative class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, alleging that the rule forcing transferring students to sit out of their sport for their first year at their new school violates antitrust laws. Vassar claims that he attempted to transfer from Northwestern but was unable to do so, because all of his target schools only would accept him if he could play immediately. In recent years, Northwestern has emerged as a cradle of anti-NCAA legal activity.
  • Triathlon death: A wrongful death claim brought in connection with the drowning death of a competitor in the 2010 Philadelphia Triathlon cannot proceed, a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled, concluding that the triathlete knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of participating in the event when, in the course of registering for it, he executed a detailed liability waiver.
  • Cuban baseball-player smuggling: In a federal criminal case against a sports agent accused of conspiracy to smuggle Cuban baseball players into the United States, the government has listed numerous professional players, including Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, as trial witnesses. For more on this general subject, ESPN The Magazine’s feature on Yasiel Puig is a must-read.
  • Boxing fraud: The defendants– Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, HBO, Top Rank, and others– in twenty-six lawsuits alleging that they improperly concealed Pacquiao’s shoulder injury leading up to the fighters’ 2015 bout in order to boost pay-per-view sales admitted that the plaintiffs– fans and bars– had standing to pursue their claims, even as the defendants denied that those claims had any merit.
  • Gambling: West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin are asking the United States Supreme Court to review a Third Circuit decision rejecting New Jersey’s attempt to open up sports gambling in its state. The five states, together, filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s cert petition (formal request that the Supreme Court allow them to appeal the Third Circuit’s ruling), arguing that the manner in which Congress has regulated sports gambling is unconstitutional and threatens the balance of power between the federal and state governments. In an unrelated story, daily fantasy leaders FanDuel and DraftKings announced a merger agreement this morning.
  • Secondary football ticket market: Under pressure from state regulators, the NFL agreed to end its league-wide imposition of a price floor on game tickets sold on the secondary market that had prevented the resale of tickets at prices below face value. The agreement does not apply to tickets for the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, nor does it prevent teams from acting “unilaterally” to enforce price floors, meaning that the practice could continue.
  • Campus police records: The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a trial court’s dismissal  of ESPN’s lawsuit seeking the University of Notre Dame Police Department’s incident reports involving student athletes, deciding that the ND Police Department is not a “public agency” and thus cannot be compelled to produce the requested materials under the state’s open records law.

Sports court is in recess.

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What really happened in the Pacquiao-Bradley fight?

I do love conspiracy theories, and there’s no better way to end a Sunday or start a Monday than with a video like this. Timothy Bradley’s win by split decision over Manny Pacquiao was much maligned by media of all stripes, and even Bradley’s camp seemed a bit tentative in the aftermath of a victory over someone considered one of the top two fighters in the world.

I did not watch this match, so I don’t have my own opinion on it, but I’ve questioned the HBO announcers’ view of fights before, so I’m not shocked that someone else would do the same. Judge for yourself:

(via BigLeadSports)
(HT: Awful Announcing)

Gender Politics in a Cheerleader Jam….Maybe?

During last weekend’s Pop Music Symposium at SUNY Clinton, I heard for the first time Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” and late Wednesday night, reader Cactus William sent a/the music video, which will serve as this week’s Jam.

There’s a lot at play here. First, the song itself: I’ve only listened to it twice, and for different reasons, neither listen was a careful one, but it seems to be comprised of two fairly devastating pop hooks cycled as many times as three minutes and change will allow, and one less interesting bridge-ish segment with lyrics confusing in light of the purported plot. As for the singer herself, I’ve never heard of Jepsen before, and I can only assume that she comes from the Rebecca Black School of Corporate Music Manchurian Candidates, a vehicle to deliver said hooks and smile as her creators reel in the money.

Still, the financial circumstances of a song’s conception need not dictate its real value, and here I think we may have something of broader importance. I wrote earlier that Brad Paisley’s channeling of Arthur Conley with “Old Alabama” signaled country music’s arrival as America’s popular music genre, and I think something very roughly analogous is happening with “Call Me Maybe” vis-a-vis dynamics in popular gender politics. The thesis is that this song stands for a tipping point in male-female relations that sees a woman asserting herself, though just barely, as the first mover in the courtship context, contrary to traditional expectations. This thesis doesn’t ignore strong, demanding women of the past (Janis, “Tell Mama”) or even aggressive women of the present (e.g., Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”), but it is operable to the extent it can bracket such apparent counterexamples as being either out of the mainstream or persistently reactionary despite their aggressiveness and focus its comparative backdrop on the likes of Taylor Swift, ALDLAND’s favorite anthro-feminine alien. On the other hand, this paragraph may have set back gender relations by a few decades or at least demonstrated my ignorance of contemporary popular music. Moving right along.

Next is the video, which stars members of the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad. The first question here is, what motivated this? Was this just a sunny day romp around South Beach after cheer camp let out? Or, in Bring It On/Mean Girls fashion, was this a response to the leaked photo shoot of Lauren Tannehill, wife of Miami’s rookie quarterback and number eight overall draft pick Ryan Tannehill (who, if he didn’t outkick his coverage with his bride, certainly did with his draft position), in varying amounts of Dolphins-colored gear? To the extent this is knowable, determining the answer would initially involve comparing the dates of the leaking of the photos and the posting of the video, something I’m not going to do. Precision like that likely becomes less important when you’re striving for attention and HBO’s cameras are rolling.

To the extent that there’s any sports angle here, this video eventually will make you remember that, whether it’s the Hard Knocks curse, the implications of merely having cheerleaders, or the fact that Miami actually drafted Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins are not going to be good this year, so enjoy this while you can, which is forever, because the internet is forever, unlike Dan Marino:

Floyd Mayweather dodges Miguel Cotto’s fists, strip clubs to remain undefeated

After the ponies did their thing on Saturday, it was time for Cinco de Mayweather (plan B), a bout between the undefeated Floyd Mayweather and the then-twice-defeated Miguel Cotto for the latter’s 154-pound belt. The fight went the distance, and at the end of the twelfth round, the judges unanimously declared Mayweather the winner.

I can’t say I disagree with that determination, and it’s the one for which I was rooting, but I thought it was a very close fight, as my live round-by-round evaluation, reproduced below, evidences. The HBO announcers, by contrast, were confident that Mayweather was winning fairly early on and had the thing sewed up by the late rounds.

My general impression was that Cotto, the heavier puncher with the shorter reach, was able to dictate the terms of the fight: close range, with Mayweather backed into a corner or on the ropes. Even if Floyd simply was allowing this to happen, it surprised me, and I didn’t understand why he let it go on for so long. On the other hand, none of Cotto’s hits, including the one that broke Floyd’s nose, seemed to faze Mayweather, and it was Cotto who was staggering a bit in the 12th, not Mayweather. Cotto provided the toughest test for Mayweather of all the opponents I’ve seen.

Some saw it as Mayweather making like Jalen Rose and giving the people what they want, while others simply credited Mayweather’s endurance as a result of a training regimen that began when he opted for a 3:00 am six-mile run instead of a strip club visit in Orlando during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. Whatever the reason, Mayweather heads into his eighty-seven-day jail sentence on a winning streak.

Round-by-round analysis after the jump…