Sports Law Roundup – 5/5/2017

aslr - cinco

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.

The Many (okay, two) faces of Ryan Braun

Yesterday, Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewer who won the 2011 NL MVP and 2007 NL Rookie of the Year awards, agreed to a sixty-five game suspension from Major League Baseball for his violation of MLB’s drug policy and released the following statement:

As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed — all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.

Braun failed a drug test back in October 2011, but he was successful in overturning a fifty-game suspension on appeal by identifying a procedural deficiency in the testing process. During the pendency of that appeal, Braun stated:

This is all B.S. I am completely innocent.

Following its resolution in his favor in February 2012, Braun held a press conference where he issued a long statement, excerpted here:


[T]this is without a doubt the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my life, and it’s made it that much more challenging that I’ve had to deal with it publicly. But I truly view this challenge as an opportunity, just as I’ve viewed every other challenge in my life – as an opportunity. I’ve tried to respect this process, even though the confidentiality of the process was breached early on. I’ve tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that’s who I am and that’s how I’ve always lived my life.

If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say, “I did it.” By no means am I perfect, but if I’ve ever made any mistakes in my life I’ve taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point.

I’ve always stood up for what is right. Today is about everybody who’s been wrongly accused, and everybody who’s ever had to stand up for what is actually right. Today isn’t about me, it isn’t just about one player – it’s about all players. It’s about all current players, all future players and everybody who plays the game of baseball.

Ultimately, as I sit here today, the system worked because I am innocent, and I was able to prove my innocence. After today I look forward to returning my focus to the game of baseball, being able to get back with my teammates, allowing my life to return to some sense of normalcy and focusing on helping our team get back to the post-season.

Braun closed the brief question-and-answer period with this statement:

I guess the simple truth is I’m innocent. I’ve maintained my innocence from Day 1, and ultimately I was proven to be innocent.