Sports Law Roundup – 7/28/2017

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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:

  • Soccer fan libel: As first reported by your humble compiler, Deadspin, now part of the Gizmodo Media Group, which is the company Univision purchased in its acquisition of the remnants of the Gawker Media Group following Hulk Hogan’s successful libel lawsuit against that company, is facing another libel action. This time, it’s the much less famous Kevin Cheek, who has sued the website after it ran an article about fans engaging in homophobic chants at the first Atlanta United game that he says included a photograph of him taken at a different game. One potential problem for Cheek: the allegedly offending article contains a single picture, which shows the entire stadium, making it impossible to identify the face of any individual fan. It’s possible– maybe probable, in light of the existence of this lawsuit– that the article originally included a different photograph. If it did, though, it escaped the watchful eye of the Internet Archive, which first captured an image of the article five days after publication. It also is possible that the complaint actually is referring to one of the photographs following the article that are associated with one of the “Recommended Stories,” other Deadspin articles about the MLS. In that cached version of the identified article, two of the three photographs in the Recommended Stories section depict Atlanta United fans. If one of those pictures is the one that includes Cheek, it is unclear why his complaint doesn’t instead identify that article.
  • NASCAR trademark: A trademark dispute between one of NASCAR’s most prominent families will continue following an appellate court ruling that an earlier decision dismissing claims brought by Teresa Earnhardt, widow of Dale Earnhardt, against Kerry Earnhardt, Dale’s oldest son, was deficient. Kerry, whose mother was Latane Brown, Dale’s first wife, is a former driver who made his debut on NASCAR’s top circuit (then known as the Winston Cup) at Michigan in 2000, where the field also included his father and half brother, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. After his retirement from NASCAR in 2007, Kerry and his wife partnered with a custom home design company and subsequently sought to trademark “Earnhardt Collection” for use in that industry. Teresa, who owns Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and other “Earnhardt”-related marks, opposed her stepson’s registration bid. The matter now returns to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board for further adjudication.

Sports court is in recess.

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The latest news in sports technology

Daily fantasy sports now are legal in one state, Mike Trout’s high-tech bat could make him even better this season, free hockey streaming, and American soccer stats from a German car company, all in my most recent post for TechGraphs, a roundup of last week’s top sports technology stories.

The full post is available here.

Sporting Geography: Soccer’s arrival in Atlanta stirs old conflicts

Major League Soccer is expanding, and, thanks in no small part to the city’s planned new stadium, Atlanta will be the home of a new MLS franchise circa 2017.

Soccer fans are an enlightened bunch, nowhere moreso than in Ohio, apparently, where Columbus-based Massive City FFC, a soccer fan entity of some variety, reacted to the expansion news by reminding Atlanta residents that Gen. William T. Sherman, an Ohioan, burned their city to the ground 150 years ago. (Ohio has a lot going for it, you may recall.)

A work friend who has been on top of this soccer news tells me the mascot for Atlanta’s new MLS team is expected to be the Locomotive, given the city’s railroad history. Locomotive isn’t bad, but the Sherman comment made me think of another potential mascot, the Phoenix, which is central to the city’s seal and flag (pictured above) for even more obvious historical reasons. I think it would make a great mascot for any team in this town.

As a name, though, the Atlanta Phoenix carries the slight possibility for confusion, with Phoenix also being the name of another major American city. I’m sure a lot of funny internet people would have a lot of really hilarious and original comments to offer about that name. Rather than steal their thunder by listing all of the joke they could tell, I thought it would be more interesting to come up with potential sports team names in which the mascot is the name of another American city. Here’s what I have so far:

  • the Atlanta Phoenix
  • the Colorado Boulder

Here are a couple stretches:

  • the Cleveland Pitts[burgh] (almost perfect)
  • the Boston Bangors (spelling issue)
  • the Boise Grand Rapids (possible obscurity issue)

This is a fun game. Maybe even more fun than soccer or Ohio. Add your ideas in the comments below. (If you want real soccer talk from Brendan and Marcus, tune in to our latest podcast.)

NHL lockout perspectives: Bain Capital and Shea Weber

Yesterday, Deadspin ran a long, alternate-1985-style piece on what the NHL might look like today had it agreed to be purchased by Bain Capital in 2005. The short answer? The MLS. One vision of a Bain Capital-owned league:

With contract offers artificially lowered, European stars and the cream of the domestic talent would presumably go off to Europe for more money. The league would fall back from its warm-weather beachheads and dreams of national appeal; perennial money-losers like the Islanders, Sabres, Blue Jackets—hell, a third of the league hasn’t been profitable in years—might be contracted out of existence. The game might have reverted to a regional pastime for the diehards of the North and Northeast, a feeder league drawing only enough for the league to pay off its debt.

How is this relevant to the NHL’s labor conflicts?

The unsentimental analysts at Bain had exposed the uncomfortable fact about NHL lockouts, then and now: They’re proxy wars between big markets and small markets in which the owners try to wring money out of the players instead of one another. Bain merely put a dollar figure on the divide, and its streamlined NHL would have done the dirty work that the league could never bring itself to do: eliminate those small markets altogether.

The full exploration is available here.

One other item. Although the contributors at this site are scattered across the country, all in different cities only one of which is Nashville, Music City is our historical center of gravity, so this factoid jumped out of the article’s discussion about the market for top players:

Take Shea Weber, who just signed a 14-year, $110 million contract to stay in Nashville. That’s $30 million more than it cost to start the Predators franchise in 1997.

Perspective we like. Shea Weber? Not so much.

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ALDLAND Podcast

Yo peeps.  Take some time out of your workday and listen to the third ALDLAND podcast. Yeah, we’re still talking about soccer and baseball, but really there’s not much more else to talk about because a) the NBA is a myth and b) if you say you are interested in the NFL draft beyond who your team drafted then Chris Cunico and I both believe that you are lying. However I do promise that a future podcast will feature discussion of hockey, the least popular sport on the planet.

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