Sports Law Roundup – 7/7/2017

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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.

After a break for the holiday weekend, here are the top sports-related legal stories:

  • NASCAR tune up: NASCAR driver Mike Wallace and members of his family have sued concert promoter and hospitality entities after the Wallace family says employees of Live Nation’s lawn care contractor brutally attacked them in the VIP parking lot outside a Rascal Flatts concert in Charlotte.
  • Minor League baseball wages: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected claims by players in one of the minor league baseball player lawsuits proceeding as a direct challenge to MLB’s longstanding antitrust exemption. The court explained that it was bound by Supreme Court precedent to uphold the exemption, and that the players’ allegations– centering around an assertion that MLB and its teams colluded to suppress minor league player wages– involve “precisely the type of activity that falls within the antitrust exemption for the business of baseball.” This arguably was not the worst result for minor league baseball players in recent days, however.
  • Umpire discrimination: Angel Hernandez, a longtime MLB umpire who is of Cuban descent, has sued the league on claims arising out of general allegations of racial discrimination against minority umpires in promotions to crew chief status and in World Series assignments, as well as specific allegations of Hernandez’s personal targeting by Joe Torre, who began working as MLB’s umpire supervisor in 2011. On the latter issue, Hernandez claims to trace a negative change in his reviews beginning in 2011 to friction between him and Torre that originated a decade prior, when Torre was the manager of the New York Yankees.
  • Athlete financial adviser: In April, a former financial adviser to former San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan pled guilty to wire fraud in connection with allegations that the adviser tricked Duncan into guaranteeing a $6 million loan to a sportswear company the adviser controlled. Last week, a judge sentenced the adviser to four years in prison and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $7.5 million, the total amount of Duncan’s investment in the adviser’s company.
  • Penn State football coach: Not content to stay out of the legal news, Penn State has sued Bob Shoop, a former Nittany Lion football defensive coordinator now filling the same role for the University of Tennessee, alleging that he breached his employment contract with PSU when he left for the UT gig during the term of the contract. That contract included a provision that, if Shoop left early to take anything other than a head coaching position, he would owe Penn State fifty percent of his base salary. In the lawsuit, PSU is seeking $891,856 in damages. The move to Knoxville is a return to Tennessee and the SEC for Shoop, who was James Franklin’s defensive coordinator  at Vanderbilt from 2011 until he joined Franklin’s dead-of-night departure from Nashville to State College in 2014.
  • Gambling: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in a case involving the State of New Jersey’s challenge to a 1992 federal ban on expansions to sports betting outside of the states– Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware– where it was legal at the time.
  • Fox Sports 1 executive: Fox Sports has terminated Jamie Horowitz, a top television executive responsible for the “embrace debate” brand of sports programming first at ESPN and now at FS1, because he is the subject of a sexual harassment investigation at the latter network. Horowitz had been the president of Fox Sports’ national networks since May 2015 and was responsible for bringing Skip Bayless, Jason Whitlock, and Colin Cowherd to the FS1 airwaves. Most recently, Horowitz was responsible for substantial layoffs in Fox Sports’ digital group and an elimination of all written content at FoxSports.com.
  • NBA arena security: A former manager of security operations at Philips Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks, has sued ATL Hawks LLC, the company that owns the Hawks and the arena, alleging that he lost his job because he complained after white concert performers Axl Rose and Brian Wilson were allowed to bypass metal detectors a week after similar requests from black performers Drake and Future were denied.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 6/2/2017

aslr

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.

After a week off, this feature returns with the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Penn State child abuse: All three of the former Penn State University administrators charged in connection with the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal inside the university’s football program will spend time in jail. In March, former PSU vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley pleaded guilty to one count each of endangering the welfare of children, leaving former school president Graham Spanier as the sole defendant in the case facing a trial on charges of child endangerment and conspiracy. A jury subsequently convicted Spanier of a single misdemeanor count of child endangerment. Curley and Schultz each received sentences of a maximum of twenty-three months in jail. Curley will serve three of those months in jail and Schultz will serve two months, with each completing the remainder of his sentence in house arrest. Spanier was sentenced to a maximum of twelve months in jail and will serve two, with the remainder in house arrest, and still indicates he intends to appeal.
  • Cheerleader wages: The judge overseeing the proposed antitrust class action lawsuit brought by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader known in the context of the case as Kelsey K. in connection with alleged wage-suppression tactics has dismissed the case, although he is allowing the plaintiff’s attorneys until June 15 to attempt to amend the complaint. In February, the judge denied the lead plaintiff’s request to proceed with the case under the “Jane Doe” pseudonym, though he did permit her to use only her first name and last initial.
  • NASCAR pit crew: A judge denied the majority of two competing summary judgment motions and will allow a wrongful termination case by a former NASCAR pit crew member to proceed against his former employer, Michael Waltrip Racing (“MWR”). The plaintiff, Brandon Hopkins, injured his shoulder when a racecar hit him during a race. Treatment from MWR’s training staff was ineffective, and surgery was necessary. Surgery was delayed for reasons the parties dispute, however. Days before the scheduled surgery, Hopkins met with a supervisor, who assured Hopkins his job was safe. When Hopkins left the office to go home, he brought a particular tool– the design of which MWR considered confidential– with him, which, he said, was an accident. MWR did not believe Hopkins’ story and fired him the next day. Office security camera footage also showed Hopkins removing what may have been confidential documents from the office two days prior. The judge determined that there were sufficient facts that a jury could determine that Hopkins’ firing was connected to his injury, an impermissible basis for termination, or his misappropriation of confidential company information, which would be a permissible basis.
  • NBA fan assault: In February, Charles Oakley, a former member of the New York Knicks, was arrested and charged with assault after an argument with Knicks owner James Dolan during a game at Madison Square Garden. Now, Oakley has declined a prosecutor’s offer to drop the charges and requested that the matter be resolved in a trial, which Dolan likely views as a vehicle for unwanted public attention on himself.

Sports court is in recess.

NASCAR is in Atlanta this weekend, and things are off to a bad start

USA Today reports:

Travis Kvapil’s car for this weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was stolen from outside Team Xtreme’s hotel early Friday morning, police said.

The rest of the story, including some truly enlightening comments from the Morrow Police Department, is available here.

Staff at ALDLAND’s Atlanta office are circulating the below picture of Kvapil’s vehicle, last seen at Daytona International Speedway last week, where Reed Sorenson drove it to a thirty-second-place finish at the Daytona 500.

Welcome to Atlanta, Travis. Next time maybe use the hotel valet service, and whatever you do, don’t blame Winter Storm Tupac.

UPDATE: Kvapil and Team Xtreme have withdrawn from this weekend’s race, promising to return for next week’s race at Las Vegas.

On the Road Again: A study of NHL rink variation

One of the important background dimensions to comparative baseball statistics is known as “park adjustments,” a set of corrective factors applied to account for the physical differences (e.g., outfield wall depth) between each park. Among American sports today, only Major League Baseball and NASCAR (and golf, I suppose) permit such structural variation between the competitive arenas themselves.

Professional hockey used to be in that group too. More than merely adjusting, adding, and subtracting lines on the ice to affect the flow of play, as the NHL continues to do (cf. the NBA three-point line), the rinks themselves used to be different sizes. League rules mandate a uniform rink size, but so-called “small rinks” persisted in the NHL as late as the 1980s and 1990s in Boston, Chicago, and Buffalo.

While hockey does not face the structural differences present in baseball, there still is a need to apply rink-by-rink statistical adjustments. That’s because the compiling of basic hockey statistics (e.g., shots, hits, turnovers) requires statisticians to make judgment calls to a more significant degree than in a discrete-event sport like baseball.

By way of limited background, the NHL collects basic gameplay statistics through a computer system known as the Real Time Scoring System (RTSS). A benefit of RTSS is that it aggregates and organizes data for analysis by teams, players, and fans. A vulnerability of RTSS is the subjectivity alluded to above that comes when human scorers track a fluid, dynamic sport like hockey.

While others have noted certain biases among the RTSS scorers at different rinks, a paper by Michael Schuckers and Brian Macdonald published earlier this month analyzes those discrepancies across a spread of core statistics and proposes a “Rink Effects” model that aims to do for subjective rink-to-rink differences in hockey scoring what park adjustments do for structural differences between baseball parks.    Continue reading

Tony Stewart and Our Need to Know (via Sports On Earth)

tonystewartWe have become a culture that is obsessed with knowing. Our age, with the technology we have at our disposal, is supposed to be different than the ones that came before. There is a sense that all the mysteries of the past can be solved, that gaps in our knowledge are the result of insufficient resources and incurious, casual minds. If there’s anything the information age has brought us, it is the implicit understanding that information, because it is everywhere, can thus tell us everything.

This is the single organizing principle of our age: The sense that there is an inalienable truth, and that we can find it. DNA evidence. Targeted micro-marketing. Cognitive profiling. Data journalism. Instant replay. An undocumented incident that might have been dismissed as folklore or happenstance in the past is pored over for clues now. A meteor appears out of nowhere? Dozens of Russians have dashboard cameras to document it. A plane falls from the sky and lands in the Hudson River? Photos of it are loaded to Twitter before 95 percent of the country even knows what Twitter is. A couple doesn’t give a foul ball to kid who wants it and they’re excoriated on the Today show the next day. Not knowing is not acceptable. We can access our collective power to find out what happened, and why.

And a nightmarish accident happens on a dirt racetrack on Saturday night. A man — a boy, really — dies. Someone captures it with a cellphone. This has to provide us answers. This has to give us some truth. This has to give us some justice. … Read More

(via Sports On Earth)

Elegy of a race car driver: The good times, hard life, and shocking death of Dick Trickle (via SB Nation)

Sometime after 10:30 on a Thursday morning in May, after he’d had his cup of coffee, Dick Trickle snuck out of the house. His wife didn’t see him go. He eased his 20-year-old Ford pickup out on the road and headed toward Boger City, N.C., 10 minutes away. He drove down Highway 150, a two-lane road that cuts through farm fields and stands of trees and humble country homes that dot the Piedmont west of Charlotte, just outside the reach of its suburban sprawl. Trickle pulled into a graveyard across the street from a Citgo station. He drove around to the back. It was sunny. The wind blew gently from the west. Just after noon, he dialed 911. The dispatcher asked for his address.

“Uh, the Forest Lawn, uh, Cemetery on 150,” he said, his voice calm. The dispatcher asked for his name. He didn’t give it.

“On the backside of it, on the back by a ‘93 pickup, there’s gonna be a dead body,” he said.

“OK,” the woman said, deadpan.

“Suicide,” he said. “Suicide.”

“Are you there?”

“I’m the one.”

“OK, listen to me, sir, listen to me.”

“Yes, it’ll be 150, Forest Lawn Cemetery, in the back by a Ford pickup.”

“OK, sir, sir, let me get some help to you.”

Click.

Read More

(via SB Nation)

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Previously
Friday Roundup

Friday Roundup

  • R.I.P. Dick Trickle. He wasn’t Cole’s biological father, but it makes no difference, and he certainly wasn’t any kind of new school driver. As sure as rubbin’ is racin’, the hammer had to drop one final time for Trickle, but this isn’t how we expected it to happen. To the best of the Midwest:

Continue reading

In lieu of a Daytona 500 live blog, here’s a picture of Mark Martin and T.I.

Last year we brought you a live-blogging event of the first and biggest race of the NASCAR season, the Daytona 500. Resources and circumstances preclude similar coverage for this year’s big race, which certainly will be overshadowed by the disastrous crash that resulted in over a dozen fan injuries at the end of yesterday’s Nationwide race, however. Instead, we hope you’ll accept this photograph of pals Mark Martin and T.I. catching up this morning before the race.

We’ll be keeping an eye on developments at the track, so check back here and on twitter for updates.

Nascar’s Next Generation (via WSJ)

Nascar is a sport in need of a tuneup. Attendance has been slipping; viewership has been falling. But Sunday at the Daytona 500, America’s premier form of motor sports will be getting the overhaul it needs.

Daytona, the season’s kickoff extravaganza, marks the race-day debut of Nascar’s “Gen-6” Sprint Cup car, the series’s most innovative overhaul since 2007. … Read More

(via WSJ)

Richard Ben Cramer: A hero missed (via ESPN)

I did not want to work with Richard Ben Cramer.

OK, I did. I adored him as a writer and journalist. I’d devoured his works, from “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life” to “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” to “What It Takes: The Way To The White House.” The latter had been assigned reading, widely considered one of the greatest political books of the 20th century. The other two I’d bought for permanent placement in my office bookcase.

So yes, of course, I wanted to work with the Pulitzer winner. I had dreamed of working with him on some project at some point in my career. I just didn’t want to work with him on this particular project at this particular time. This one was mine.

What an idiot I was. … Read More

(via ESPN)