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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The next Floyd Mayweather?

Yes, Floyd’s still doing his thing, although his thing seems to be less and less about boxing these days. Mayweather is thirty-five years old and still undefeated, the pound-for-pound champion of the sport, the self-proclaimed face of boxing. His mix of wealth and outspokenness keeps him relevant even as, for a variety of reasons, he fights less frequently. Juan Manuel Marquez’s knockout of Manny Pacquiao earlier this month only serves to complicate the question of whether Pacquiao and Mayweather ever will fight.

Meanwhile, Grantland has the story of Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, a young fighter who, like Mayweather, has Grand Rapids roots, preaches a gospel of hard work and dedication, and doesn’t lose:


(Here‘s the original post.)

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)

Cinco de MayNo

Old news by this point, but the announcement came on Wednesday that Floyd Mayweather’s May 5 opponent would be Miguel Cotto, not Manny Pacquiao, as some had hoped and anticipated. Mayweather had been making public (twitter) and private (telephone) ovations to Pacquiao this year (a bit of a role reversal, at least as far as casual public perception was concerned), but the fight of the century will not come to pass, at least as far as 2012 is concerned. Reports have been sketchy as to why the top two fighters won’t be in the ring together in Las Vegas on 5/5/12, some briefly mentioning “an impasse in talks.” while others suggesting there was a lack of agreement over how to divide the pay-per-view money. Mayweather made his own view of the situation known:

My interpretation of the apparent lack of media probing into the breakdown in talks is that it is evidence of the changing perception of the two fighters toward a more positive view of Mayweather.

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Cinco de Mayweather
Four rounds with Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz

Cinco de Mayweather

Last Friday, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa agreed to delay the 90-day jail term Floyd Mayweather must serve due to his conviction on domestic battery charges until June 1 because Mayweather’s attorney convinced her that the fight Mayweather had scheduled for May 5 would be too difficult to change and will be worth “more than $100 million” for the Las Vegas community. Everyone’s assumption is that Mayweather’s opponent on that night will be Manny Pacquiao– almost everyone, anyway.

Keep reading…