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.

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A lesson in comparative hockey violence for Predators fans

After tying the Stanley Cup Final series at two games each on the backs of two emotional, dominant wins at home in the first NHL championship-series games ever played in Nashville, the Predators returned to Pittsburgh hoping to convert their momentum into their first lead in this series. Instead, they fell flat. The Penguins scored three goals in the first period, and three more in the second on their way to a 6-0 shutout victory.

It was a very disappointing night for Predators fans, who reportedly had more people in attendance in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to watch the away game on big screens than the number of people who were in the seats at the actual game in Pittsburgh. They certainly were upset with the result of the game, as well as with the way in which the Penguins– Sidney Crosby in particular– played it.

Crosby has been sparring with Nashville’s P.K. Subban throughout this series, but their clashes mostly have played out in the media and off-ice press conferences. Last night, however, things became decidedly physical, peaking with this moment:

Hockey is a contact sport, obviously, and the issue of fighting in hockey is a broader conversation for another day. I think most agree, though, that there is not a place in the game for Crosby’s behavior captured above.

Understandably, Predators fans are incensed and are calling for Crosby to be suspended for his actions. (Crosby also threw a water bottle on the ice in apparent response to what he thought was a missed penalty call against the visitors.) If the league decides to go in that direction, I would not have any objection.

I would remind the Predators fans that their team does not exactly have a clean record in this department, however. Five years ago, hosting their then-division rival Detroit Red Wings in the early rounds of the playoffs, Nashville ended a game-one win in ugly and embarrassing fashion. That night, it was Shea Weber who brutally bashed Hendrik Zetterberg’s face into the boards as time expired:

(In a bit of hockey irony, the Predators later would trade Weber for Subban, the victim of last night’s skull dribbling.)

I know from first-hand experience that Nashville hockey fans are good hockey fans who know the game. They’re justified in directing their anger toward Crosby (welcome to the club!), and I do want them to win the Cup because of what it would mean for the sport; a city I love; and all of my friends there, whether they’ve been on the hockey train or are jumping on now (again, welcome to the club!). All teams have had their dark moments, though, and hockey memories run deep. On the other hand, does it seem like Crosby’s Pens have more such moments than, say, Subban’s Preds? You bet.

Go Perds.

Sports Law Roundup – 5/12/2017

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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:

  • NFL draft suit: A man has sued two members of the Tennessee Titans, Tajae Sharpe and Sebastian Tretola, claiming that the players beat him “unconscious” after he argued with the players at Tin Roof, a Nashville bar, about a potential reduction in playing time for Sharpe in light of the Titans’ decision to draft Corey Davis, who plays the same position as Sharpe. The man is seeking at least $500,000 in his civil lawsuit, the filing of which supports my theory that nothing good happens at Tin Roof after midnight.
  • Arena football head injuries: This spring, a former Arena Football League player sued the league, claiming he had “direct evidence” of the league’s intentional refusal to pay expenses related to his concussion-related injuries. He also asserted that evidence of his specific targeting by the league for injury existed. The AFL sought summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff was required to pursue his claims under the applicable state workers’ compensation statute, and the player countered that the evidence of intentional misconduct placed his claims outside the workers’ compensation regime. Yesterday, the court granted the AFL’s motion and dismissed the case against the league. Judge Eldon Fallon, one of the country’s most prominent trial judges, determined that, in order to avoid the workers’ compensation statute, the former player needed to demonstrate that playing football was “substantially certain” to cause a concussion and could not do so: “Though this court acknowledges that it is not uncommon for football players to experience brain injury, such injury is not ‘inevitable’ as is required to meet the exception to the” statute. Judge Fallon also rejected as unsubstantiated the plaintiff’s claim that the AFL intentionally refused to pay medical expenses.

Sports court is in recess.

Where the Soul of Nashville Never Dies (via The Bitter Southerner)

rymanAs Nashville undergoes a whiplash of change under a web of steel cranes, the Ryman stands sturdy among the neon and glass. Hallowed halls like “the mother church of country music” can’t merely be built like a skyscraper or condo complex after all. They must become — painted with layers of experience and mystery over time. Try to uncover the meaning in their spirit by peeling back the paint, and you’ll only find another color, deeper and richer, worn in.

The Ryman is a physical emblem of the spiritual — a reminder that takes us beyond ourselves. And as former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell put it, the Ryman reminds us, looking forward, of who we still want to be. Through two renovations — one in 1994 and another last year — the building helps tell the story of this place from the performers who graced the stage to the men and women who built and ran the place. But it also offers a comeback story of Nashville, saving a piece of its soul. Because in the 1990s, after a century of becoming, the old lady Ryman had nearly come to her end. … Read More

(via The Bitter Southerner)

2016 NHL All-Star Game recap

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The 2016 NHL All-Star weekend is in the books, and there were plenty of highlights from Nashville:

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2016 NHL All Stars to receive impressive Nashville-themed gift bag

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The 2016 NHL All-Star Game, which takes place this weekend in Nashville, already was going to be a special event, with the shift from a traditional five-on-five game to a three-on-three tournament for a $1 million prize. Now comes news that each all-star will receive a pretty neat collection of Nashville-themed goodies.

The Tennessean reports on the contents, which include:

  • A specially designed bottle of Jack Daniels, which is distilled in nearby Lynchburg. All of the whiskey for these bottles reportedly comes from the same barrel.
  • A bottle of Winter Park Wheat beer, a specialty brew created by Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Co.
  • A Goo Goo Cluster, a Nashville candy staple.
  • Most impressively, a custom, personalized guitar from Gibson (which was founded in Kalamazoo, but now is based in Nashville). These Les Paul-model guitars have a number of neat features, including a 2016 NHL All-Star Game logo, the individual player’s name (close-up of Shea Weber’s here), and specially designed back plates and truss rod covers.

If you want one of these guitars but aren’t a 2016 NHL All Star, your only shot is to win one of the two available at a charity auction that appears to be occurring after the game. If you’re not John Rich, literally or metaphorically, you’ll have to be content with watching the skills competition at 7:00 Eastern on Saturday and the revamped all-star game at 5:00 Eastern on Sunday and hope that none of the players pulls a Kyle Busch with any of these custom Gibsons.

Faceoffs, Home Ice, Goals, and the Predators

I put together a post comparing faceoff strength, goals, and game location for the Nashville Predators over at The Hockey Writers. The post, more my usual speed, shows that home ice at Bridgestone Arena seems to give a home-team advantage to scoring goals and an even bigger advantage to winning faceoffs.

Read the full post here.

Bench Pekka Rinne, for the Cup

My first post over at The Hockey Writers, a hockey commentary site, considers what might be in the Predators’ best interest going forward through the rest of the regular season. If the Predators value Lord Stanley over the President they might want to sit goalie Pekka Rinne for much of the final month of regular season hockey.

The full post is available here.

Playing chicken on skates: The Predators and Red Wings pull the goalies in Detroit

We are headed back to Hockeytown this weekend to watch the Red Wings host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. My first time at Joe Louis Arena, one year ago, was so great, and I can’t wait for this next visit.

Detroit and Nashville used to see a lot of each other when both played in the Western Conference’s stacked central division. They have fewer opportunities to square off since Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference this year, though, so each meeting takes on greater importance.    Continue reading