What the new Yahoo!!! college basketball report says about Michigan State

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Yahoo!, which somehow still staffs a sports department and definitely isn’t a Jeb!-like holdover from the Web 1.9 days, has a new college basketball report out today that is Very Important. I know it’s Very Important because “federal investigation,” “meticulous,” “prominent,” and “underbelly” all appear in the first sentence.

Cutting through the heady haze of college athletics journalism, this is an article based on expense reports from a sports agency called ASM Sports. Those reports apparently document “cash advances, as well as entertainment and travel expenses for high school and college prospects and their families.”

The only document– and please know that the tireless staff of Yahoo! Sports “viewed hundreds of pages of documents,” according to Yahoo! Sports– mentioned that references Michigan State’s men’s basketball program in any respect is an expense reimbursement request Christian Dawkins, a former ASM agent, filed with the agency. One of those requests was dated May 3, 2016: “Redwood Lodge. Lunch w/Miles Bridges Parents [sic]. $70.05.” Another was from the same date: “ATM Withdrawl [sic]: Miles Bridges mom [sic] advance. $400.” The article also states: “According to the documents, Dawkins has dinners listed with plenty of boldface names in the sport – Tom Izzo . . . .” That’s everything on the Spartans.

As one possible starting point, we can acknowledge that the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from receiving money from agents. Whatever the wisdom behind or efficacy of that policy, I’m not sure we even have evidence of a payment to Bridges, the Spartans’ premier player, here.

First, despite that exhaustive (well maybe not quite that exhaustive: “Yahoo[!] did not view all of the documents in the three criminal cases tied to the investigation, but . . . .”) doc review, Yahoo! declined to publish the records referencing Bridges. They published multiple pages of reports mentioning other players but, for some undisclosed reason, decided not to publish those that mention Bridges (or Izzo). That means we have to take the authors’ word that the records they saw but did not include with their article said what they say they do.

Second, assuming those records exist and are as described, I don’t think they actually evidence payments to Bridges himself. A– and perhaps the only– reasonable reading of the two entries are for a lunch with Bridges’ parents and a payment to Bridges’ mother. The negative implication is that Bridges himself did not attend the lunch and did not receive the payment. This distinction is significant in light of the NCAA’s prior case against Cam Newton. There, the NCAA suspended Newton on multiple occasions arising out of allegations that Newton’s father, Cecil, tried to secure a pay-for-play agreement on Newton’s behalf with Mississippi State but ultimately reinstated him based on Auburn’s successful argument that Newton was unaware of his father’s efforts. If Dawkins, in treating Bridges’ parents to lunch and giving Bridges’ mother cash, acted without Bridges’ knowledge, there would appear to be no basis for the NCAA to punish Bridges.

Third, a technical but not legally insignificant point is that these records are, at most, indirect evidence of payments to Bridges’ family. They’re good evidence, but they aren’t direct evidence that the payments actually were made. Even if Dawkins had a receipt of the ATM withdrawal, for example, we don’t have direct evidence that he provided that cash to Bridges’ mother.

Finally on the direct issues, the passing reference to Tom Izzo obviously is meaningless, but it’s good for SEO. There is no indication or allegation that any MSU official had any knowledge of or involvement with these payments. Continue reading

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Sports Law Roundup – 12/22/2017

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Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Gymnast abuse: Earlier this month, a judge declared that a doctor with ties to USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States; Michigan State University; and a gym in the Lansing area, who was facing multiple civil and criminal accusations of improper sexual conduct in connection with his alleged sexual abuse of young female athletes was “a danger to children” and sentenced him to sixty years in prison. Now, one of his most prominent victims, U.S. gold-medalists McKayla Maroney, has sued USA Gymnastics, which, she alleges, tried to stop her from publicly accusing the doctor of abuse. According to Maroney’s complaint, the situation arises out of a prior $1.25 million settlement agreement Maroney reached with USA Gymnastics that contained mutual non-disclosure provisions. Maroney’s current attorney says that while Maroney willingly agreed to that settlement, she did so at a time when she was suffering from emotional trauma and needed the money for “lifesaving psychological treatment and care.” USA Gymnastics says that the parties included the confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement at the insistence of Maroney’s then-attorney, Gloria Allred. Maroney’s complaint also names Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the doctor as defendants. The doctor still is awaiting sentencing on ten state-law counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
  • Baseball injury: Dustin Fowler, currently an outfielder for the Oakland A’s, filed a negligence action against the Chicago White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns and operates Guaranteed Rate Field, because of an injury he suffered when, as a member of the New York Yankees, he ran into an unpadded electrical box in the right-field foul territory of Guaranteed Rate Field during a game last summer. Fowler damaged his knee in the collision, causing his rookie season to end before his first plate appearance, and he ultimately required surgery. Fowler claims that the defendants should have done more to secure the box or protect players from running into it.
  • Sleeve suit: A tattoo artist, whose clients include LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Danny Green, is suing the makers of the NBA2K17 video game because, he says, the game’s graphics are so realistic and detailed they include replications of his work, over which he claims copyrights, and he alleges he is entitled to compensation for their use in the game. It’s unclear whether the artist (somewhat confusingly named James Hayden) has sought to protect these rights in other circumstances, such as game broadcasts or television commercials, featuring his clients. This isn’t the first lawsuit against the makers of the NBA2K series of games, however. A different owner of copyrights on NBA player tattoos sued over prior editions of the game and lost because it had not registered those copyrights with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It isn’t clear whether Hayden has registered his trademarks.
  • Super Bowl ticket shortage: A federal appeals court will allow a proposed class action to proceed against the NFL based on allegations that the league’s ticket lottery program for Super Bowl XLVIII, which was played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, only released a fraction of the available tickets to the public. The legal basis of the suit is a New Jersey consumer protection statute that requires the public sale of at least 95% of the tickets for events hosted in the state. The named plaintiff’s claim relies in significant part on an expert economic opinion that the plaintiff paid more for tickets he bought on the secondary market than he would have had the league not withheld more than five percent of the game tickets from the primary public market in violation of the New Jersey law. The federal court now has certified the question of whether the state law applies to the NFL’s actions to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
  • Hockey island: The State of New York’s economic development agency, Empire State Development, has selected a $1 billion bid by a joint venture directed in part by New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon to develop an entertainment complex that will be the new home of the New York Islanders. The move is significant in that the site, which is part of the Belmont Park racetrack property, is located on Long Island, the place the team called home for all but the last three years, when the franchise left Nassau Coliseum for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (which, as a geological matter, is part of Long Island but whatever).
  • Music City soccer: On Wednesday, MLS announced that it would award an expansion franchise to Nashville, where the new team is expected to play in a new arena to be built at the city’s fairgrounds. The day before, a local judge had dismissed a lawsuit by opponents of the stadium’s construction because she concluded the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the project and determined that the stadium would not impair existing fairground activities, including the state fair.
  • RICO soccer: On Friday in a New York federal court, a jury convicted the former leaders of the Brazilian and Paraguayan soccer associations on racketeering conspiracy charges related to millions of dollars in bribes received in exchange for marketing rights. The jury is continuing to deliberate over similar charges against the former head of the Peruvian soccer association. The maximum sentence for each charge is twenty years in prison.
  • Thursdays are for the lawsuits: On Thursday, Barstool Sports served the NFL with a notice to cease and desist the marketing and sale of a line of apparel the website contends were “made with the intent to trade off of the goodwill associated with” a Barstool-owned trademark, “Saturdays are for the Boys.” (Interestingly, Barstool did not create “Saturdays are for the Boys,” though it did popularize, market, and register as a trademark the phrase one of its writers overheard at a bar.) The allegedly offending products are shirts the NFL is selling with the phrase “Sundays are for” followed by one of its team names or nicknames. The one shown in the cease-and-desist letter is the Dallas t-shirt, which reads “Sundays are for the Boys.” The NFL had pulled that shirt from its online store prior to the sending of the letter, but the others remain available.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 12/8/2017

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Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Olympic doping: The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from the upcoming Olympic Games in South Korea due to “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system,” although it will allow individual Russian athletes who prove they aren’t doping to compete under the Olympic flag and wearing uniforms indicating they are “Olympic Athlete[s] from Russia.” Additionally, twenty-two Russian winter Olympic athletes banned for life following doping violations during the 2014 Winter Olympics have applied to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reinstate them. The upcoming winter games begin in February.
  • Gymnast abuse: In February, the Michigan Attorney General charged a doctor with ties to USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States; Michigan State University; and a gym in the Lansing area, who already was facing multiple civil and criminal accusations of improper sexual conduct, with twenty-two additional criminal counts in connection with his alleged sexual abuse of young female athletes. USA Gymnastics and Michigan State terminated their relationships with the doctor following the earlier accusations. Some of the charges added in February involved victims who were younger than thirteen at the times of the alleged acts, and all of the charges are felonies that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. On Thursday, following guilty pleas on three federal charges, a federal trial judge in Grand Rapids declared the doctor “a danger to children” and sentenced the fifty-four year old to sixty years in prison, the maximum allowable sentence. In determining her sentence, the judge considered statements from victims, including U.S. gold-medalists McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman. The doctor still is awaiting sentencing on ten state-law counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
  • Charity fraud: Former NBA player Kermit Washington pled guilty to multiple criminal counts of making false statements on income tax returns and a single count of aggravated identity theft in connection with charges that he used charitable donations intended for a medical clinic in Africa for personal expenses. Washington allegedly induced donors, including professional athletes, to contribute to the clinic but spent the money on vacations and jewelry. In 1973, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Washington fifth overall out of American University, the beginning of a ten-season NBA career in which he also played for the Trailblazers, Clippers, Celtics, and Warriors.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 2/24/2017

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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:

  • Gymnast abuse: The Michigan Attorney General has charged a doctor with ties to USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States; Michigan State University; and a gym in the Lansing area, who already is facing multiple civil and criminal accusations of improper sexual conduct, with twenty-two additional criminal counts in connection with his alleged sexual abuse of young female athletes. USA Gymnastics and Michigan State terminated their relationships with the doctor following the earlier accusations. Some of the new charges involve victims who were younger than thirteen at the times of the alleged acts, and all of the charges are felonies that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
  • Cheerleader wages: The judge overseeing the proposed class-action lawsuit filed last month by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader, who alleges that the NFL and the twenty-six NFL teams that have cheerleaders conspired to suppress cheerleader wages below market value, has denied the lead plaintiff’s request that she be permitted to use a pseudonym (“Jane Doe”) for purposes of her participation in the lawsuit. Rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that revealing her name would subject her to harassment, injury or embarrassment, the judge found that the plaintiff failed to cite specific threats of harm to her personally. He is allowing her to identify herself only by her first and last initials “for the time being,” however.
  • Penn State child abuse: Earlier this month, a court ruled that three former Penn State University administrators will face criminal child endangerment charges stemming from the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal inside the university’s football program. Last week, the three defendants asked for an immediate appeal of the ruling that they must face trial, which remains scheduled for next month. Now, the judge has granted the prosecutor’s request to add a conspiracy charge to the list of criminal counts pending against the defendants, whose appeal request remains unaddressed by the court.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 1/13/2017

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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:

  • College football head injuries: A group of former Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and TCU football players has sued the NCAA and Big XII conference, alleging that those entities breached contractual obligations to warn players of and take adequate steps to prevent head injuries. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status, and their lawyer has said that he expects to file similar lawsuits on behalf of more players this year.
  • Olympic surveillance: Two years ago, the former mayor of Salt Lake City and six SLC residents filed a proposed class action against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, Michael Hayden, the FBI, and the NSA, alleging that the federal government improperly spied upon people attending the 2002 Winter Olympics. Now, a judge has denied the NSA’s motion to dismiss the case and will allow it to proceed.
  • Gymnast abuse: In more Olympic news, eighteen women sued USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States; Michigan State University; and a gym in the Lansing area. Their complaint alleges that an affiliated doctor molested and sexually assaulted the plaintiffs, some of whom were as young as nine years old when the alleged attacks occurred, and that the defendants failed to act appropriately upon their knowledge of this doctor’s actions. This is the third civil action involving this doctor, and criminal complaints also have been filed. The FBI reportedly recovered child pornography from the doctor’s electronic devices and is in possession of video evidence of the doctor perpetrating sexual assaults.
  • Baseball land shark attack: The judge overseeing a dispute between the Miami Marlins and a fan who alleges she suffered a serious neck injury in 2013 when a shark mascot, following an on-field race with other mascots, leaned into the stands and pretended to bite her head has ordered the parties to participate in mediation in advance of the case’s June trial date.
  • Concert dodgers: A concert promoter sued the Los Angeles Dodgers and Guggenheim Partners, the entity that owns the team, because, the promoter alleges, they failed to pay him a share of the proceeds from concerts by Paul McCartney and AC/DC hosted at Dodger Stadium for his work in securing those performances. The promoter says he’s owed $2 million, while a leaked draft response from the defendants reportedly tells him to “forget about the check, we’ll get hell to pay.”
  • Sports gambling legalization: Legislators in South Carolina and New York separately proposed amendments to their state constitutions that would legalize sports betting. The South Carolina proposal would allow all forms of gambling, while the New York one would be limited to allowing sports gambling at racetracks and casinos.
  • Preemptive free agency: Last week, we highlighted an article suggesting that a California employment law could allow certain athletes playing for teams in that state to unilaterally opt out of long-term contracts and become free agents. High-profile baseball agent Scott Boras subsequently weighed in on the subject and counseled against the idea largely because the transactional costs of attempting the move (i.e., years of litigation) likely would outweigh– and, due to time delay, probably completely negate– any potential benefit to the player.
  • CTE: This also is not a legal news story, exactly, but this space has highlighted a number of sports-related head-injury lawsuits in the past, which makes sharing this compelling and well-told story of a young person’s struggles with CTE appropriate. If you only click through to one link in this post, make it this one.

Sports court is in recess.

Bill Simmons launches new site with help from Tom Izzo

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Bill Simmons is back. The Sports Guy’s post-Grantland project, The Ringer, launched today. Although the site has had a social media presence for a few weeks (and Simmons’ now-eponymous podcast returned before that), action really got underway this morning, when Simmons publicly announced a number of the new website’s hires, and continued this afternoon, when he released the site’s first email newsletter.

The newsletter is The Ringer’s first substantive textual offering. It begins with a Simmons monologue on the name-selecting process for the new project, followed by a timely NCAA tournament article that leads with a nice picture of Tom Izzo and Denzel Valentine. (Bold prediction contained therein: “Sparty is going to be a tough out.”)

After that comes a Game of Thrones season preview, because this is the internet, after all, and the newsletter closes with a list of the three best-dressed people on Billions, which I just used Google to learn is another television show.

If The Ringer is reminding you of Grantland, that could be because of the substantial overlap in the two sites’ subject areas– basketball and premium-network television– and staff– including Katie Baker, Jason Concepcion (@netw3rk), and Brian Curtis. Tracking the similarities between The Ringer and Grantland will be both easy and less interesting than noting the differences, which are what could show us what, if anything, Simmons learned from his last venture.

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We’ll check back in once things have been up and running for a little while. In the meantime, here’s hoping BS can bring the following Grantland alums back into the fold: Brian Phillips, Rembert Browne, Mark Titus, Louisa Thomas, Charles Pierce, Chuck Klosterman, and Norm Macdonald.

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Writing about writing about writing: Grantland

2015 College Football Playoff: Opening Rankings and Conflict Conflicts

Last night, for the first time in the 2015 season, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released its rankings. The Committee ranks twenty-five teams, and their top ten teams are shown in the images below.

These initial rankings offer plenty to critique about the Committee’s decisions this week and its process in general. Continue reading

Even a broken clock is right sometimes: Michigan State to #2 in the AP Poll

I have to agree, because the man said what I’ve been saying for a week now: Michigan State looks like the best team in the country at this moment. Both teams in the Oregon-MSU game looked better than anything the SEC had to offer through the first two weeks of the season.

Week three saw the Spartans struggle against Air Force’s triple-option offense, but, one has reason to expect, that data point will have little meaning going forward. Meanwhile, Georgia dominated South Carolina in what easily was the Dawgs’ best game of the year, and Ole Miss made it two straight over Alabama.

The Black Bears’Rebels’ win certainly was exciting, and it’s led some to argue that they deserve the top AP spot. Their sixty-four points per game and undefeated record that includes a win in Tuscaloosa merit a top-tier ranking, but home wins over UT-Martin and Fresno State aren’t terribly revealing.

Terribly revealing? Missouri’s ugly win over UCONN is a strong indication that the two-time SEC East champions are unlikely to defend their consecutive division titles in Atlanta this December. Ohio State had a similarly weak victory over Northern Illinois, but those Huskies are better than the ones from New England, and the Buckeyes’ recent track record suggests they’ll be fine going forward.

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The selfishness of Colin Cowherd’s critique of Dan Patrick
Online sports media critics: When Colin Cowherd starts to make sense, it’s time to reevaluate your approach

If he could do it again, Chris Webber would have gone to Michigan State?

The strong implication of Chris Webber’s comments on this morning’s Dan Patrick Show is that, if he could begin his basketball career again, he would have accepted Tom Izzo’s offer to become a Michigan State Spartan:

Continue reading