Sports Law Roundup – 2/3/2017

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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 week off to attend a fancy law conference, we’re back with the top sports-related legal stories from the past week or so:

  • Baylor sexual assault: The scope of the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University continues to expand. Last week, a former Baylor student sued the university because, she alleged, she was the victim of a group rape committed by two football players in 2013 that the school ignored. The plaintiff also alleged that football players were responsible for numerous other crimes “involving violent physical assault, armed robbery, burglary, drugs, guns, and, notably, the most widespread culture of sexual violence and abuse of women ever reported in a collegiate athletic program.” She further claims that, between 2011 and 2014, thirty-one Baylor football players committed a total of fifty-two rapes, including five gang rapes. The complaint makes out claims under Title IX and common-law negligence theories. One significant hurdle for the plaintiff is that both types of claims are subject to two-year statutes of limitations. Since her alleged rape occurred in 2013, the university is likely to seek a dismissal on that basis.
  • College football defamation: In more Baylor football news, former head coach Art Briles now has dropped the defamation lawsuit he filed just two months ago against three Baylor regents and the university’s senior vice president and CEO for their statements that Briles was aware of sex crimes reportedly committed by his players and failed to provide that information to proper authorities, among other claims. As of this writing, no one has made an official comment on Briles’ behalf explaining the dismissal, but it appears to be connected to documents some of the same defendants in the Briles case filed in a new defamation case brought this week by former Baylor football director of operations Colin Shillinglaw. Those documents supposedly demonstrate Briles’ awareness of and attempts to cover up his players’ wrongdoing. If you’re the TMZ type, you can read more about the contents of the alleged Briles communications here.
  • Wrestling ban: Iran has announced that it will not allow the American wrestling team to compete in the 2017 Freestyle World Cup, which the Iranian city of Kermanshah is hosting this month. The ban comes as a form of retaliation for President Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order temporarily blocking people from entering the United States from Iran and six other majority-Muslim countries.
  • Football head injuries: A state court judge in New York denied the NFL’s motion to dismiss a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the son of deceased player Arthur DeCarlo Sr., who, his son alleges, died as a result of CTE he contracted from head injuries sustained while playing football. This is the only CTE case against the NFL that is outside of the federal multidistrict settlement based in a Pennsylvania federal court. Addressing a statute-of-limitations issue, the New York judge likened the case to asbestos claims by describing CTE as a latent condition, the manifestation of which is not discoverable until the completion of a posthumous autopsy. Meanwhile, on Monday, a group of former college football players filed suit against helmet manufacturer Riddell seeking class-action status and alleging that Riddell made false claims about its helmet’s ability to protect against concussions. This is the fifth active concussion-related lawsuit pending against Riddell.
  • Cheerleader wages: A former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader filed a complaint against the NFL and the twenty-six NFL teams that have cheerleaders, alleging that they conspired to suppress cheerleader wages (which are between $1,000 and $1,500 per year, according to the complaint) below market value. The unnamed plaintiff is seeking to represent a class of all NFL cheerleaders employed in the past four years.
  • Child abuse: 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. PSU’s former president, senior vice president, and athletic director were successful in quashing charges of failing to report child sexual abuse, but their trials on the remaining charge will go forward next month.
  • Student-athlete rights: The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued an official memorandum stating that football players at Division I FBS schools “are employees under the [National Labor Relations Act], with the rights and protections of that act.” The precise legal consequences of this memorandum are unclear, at least to this writer, but the practical consequences likely will include an increase in unionization attempts and unfair labor practice filings among student-athletes at the covered schools. The memorandum already has generated critical comments from some members of Congress who believe it would have “devastating consequences for students and academic institutions[,] puts the interests of union leaders over America’s students, and . . . has the potential to create significant confusion at college campuses across the nation.”
  • Baseball hacking: As punishment for their hacking of the Houston Astros’ database, MLB fined the St. Louis Cardinals $2 million and forced them to forfeit two 2017 draft picks (the fifty-sixth and seventy-fifth overall picks) to the Astros. In addition, the league banned the currently jailed St. Louis employee who hacked the Houston system multiple times from future MLB employment. Most commentators and team officials regard the sanction as a light one.
  • Daily Fantasy Sports: The European island nation of Malta has granted daily fantasy sports website DraftKings a license to operate in that country, and that license may allow the site to operate in other European jurisdictions that recognize the Maltese license as well.
  • Live game streaming: MSG has entered into an agreement with the NHL to broadcast the four New York and New Jersey hockey teams (Sabres, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils) on the network’s live streaming service, MSG GO, which is available for free to MSG subscribers. Meanwhile, another New-York-area network, SNY, will begin streaming Mets games on its own website and the NBC Sports app. (NBC previously reached a streaming agreement with MLB Advanced Media for in-market access to Cubs, White Sox, Phillies, Athletics, and Giants games starting this year.)

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 11/18/2016

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.

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

  • Baseball stadium netting: On Wednesday, the trial court dismissed a lawsuit seeking increased fan-safety measures in baseball stadiums, including expanded safety netting behind dugouts and along the foul lines, based on a lack of standing. I previously wrote about this case over at TechGraphs (see here, here, and here), generally discussing the ways in which it– despite the legal weaknesses in the plaintiffs’ position– already was effecting change. Although those legal weaknesses proved to be the downfall of this suit, the court’s ruling was not without its admonitions to Major League Baseball. For example, an early footnote contains this observation: “Why Major League Baseball, knowing of the risk [foul balls pose] to children in particular, does little to highlight this risk to parents remains a mystery.” The order also expressly suggests the possibility that future litigation along these lines may be more availing in other states, where the “Baseball Rule,” which makes it very difficult for fans to recover against baseball teams and leagues, has fallen under attack: “Thus, it is conceivable that, under the right set of circumstances, a plaintiff could obtain the type of relief that plaintiffs seek here. Given the changing nature of both the baseball game experience and the injuries at issue, which are far different from those in 1914, what is a ‘reasonable expectation’ on an ‘ordinary occasion’ is not a static concept.
  • Football painkillers: Attorneys for retired NFL players in a lawsuit against the league alleging that team doctors dispensed painkillers “‘as if they were candy’ regardless of long-term effects” are seeking permission to depose team owners Jerry Jones and Jim Irsay. Outside of football, Irsay, who inherited ownership of the Indianapolis Colts from his father, is known for collecting famous guitars– including Jerry Garcia’s Tiger, Les Paul’s Black Beauty, and Prince’s Yellow Cloud— and having a history of abusing painkillers. The plaintiffs also have amended their complaint to add a RICO claim, which, among other things, introduces the potential for tripling their financial recovery in the lawsuit.
  • NCAA transfer rules: Johnnie Vassar, a former Northwestern basketball player, filed a putative class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, alleging that the rule forcing transferring students to sit out of their sport for their first year at their new school violates antitrust laws. Vassar claims that he attempted to transfer from Northwestern but was unable to do so, because all of his target schools only would accept him if he could play immediately. In recent years, Northwestern has emerged as a cradle of anti-NCAA legal activity.
  • Triathlon death: A wrongful death claim brought in connection with the drowning death of a competitor in the 2010 Philadelphia Triathlon cannot proceed, a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled, concluding that the triathlete knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of participating in the event when, in the course of registering for it, he executed a detailed liability waiver.
  • Cuban baseball-player smuggling: In a federal criminal case against a sports agent accused of conspiracy to smuggle Cuban baseball players into the United States, the government has listed numerous professional players, including Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, as trial witnesses. For more on this general subject, ESPN The Magazine’s feature on Yasiel Puig is a must-read.
  • Boxing fraud: The defendants– Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, HBO, Top Rank, and others– in twenty-six lawsuits alleging that they improperly concealed Pacquiao’s shoulder injury leading up to the fighters’ 2015 bout in order to boost pay-per-view sales admitted that the plaintiffs– fans and bars– had standing to pursue their claims, even as the defendants denied that those claims had any merit.
  • Gambling: West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin are asking the United States Supreme Court to review a Third Circuit decision rejecting New Jersey’s attempt to open up sports gambling in its state. The five states, together, filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s cert petition (formal request that the Supreme Court allow them to appeal the Third Circuit’s ruling), arguing that the manner in which Congress has regulated sports gambling is unconstitutional and threatens the balance of power between the federal and state governments. In an unrelated story, daily fantasy leaders FanDuel and DraftKings announced a merger agreement this morning.
  • Secondary football ticket market: Under pressure from state regulators, the NFL agreed to end its league-wide imposition of a price floor on game tickets sold on the secondary market that had prevented the resale of tickets at prices below face value. The agreement does not apply to tickets for the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, nor does it prevent teams from acting “unilaterally” to enforce price floors, meaning that the practice could continue.
  • Campus police records: The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a trial court’s dismissal  of ESPN’s lawsuit seeking the University of Notre Dame Police Department’s incident reports involving student athletes, deciding that the ND Police Department is not a “public agency” and thus cannot be compelled to produce the requested materials under the state’s open records law.

Sports court is in recess.

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

ALDLAND Podcast

There’s not a lot going on in the sports world this week . . . OR IS THERE? Join your two favorite cohosts as we discuss the biggest piece of sports fiction to come out in, well, ever: “A Win for the Devils” by Jeremy Francis. We also discuss conference tournament season and share some of our picks to surprise in major and mid major tournaments across the country.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Comprehensive Super Bowl XLVIII Preview

As you can see from the above graphic, this year’s Super Bowl, already dubbed the Snow & States’ Marketing Rights Bowl, pits New York against New Jersey in a battle for subpar beach superiority. You do not have subpar taste, however, because you’re reading ALDLAND’s Super Bowl preview, the only one you’ll need to prepare yourself for the game on Sunday. What follows is a compilation of the most interesting, entertaining, and essential Super Bowl XLVIII content, concluding with the least interesting, entertaining, and essential Super Bowl XLVIII content, my game prediction:

  • First and most important: the game begins at 6:30 Eastern on Fox.

Rangers on Road in the Bronx? (via NYT)

An unusual aspect of the N.H.L.’s two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium is that the Rangers have been designated the road team for both games, even though their opponents, the Devils and the Islanders, come from outside New York City.

The reason seems to lie in the special exemption that has freed Madison Square Garden from paying property taxes since 1982.

A provision of that 1982 agreement stipulates that if the Rangers or the Knicks play a home game outside the Garden, the exemption is forfeited. … Read More

(via NYT)

HT: Niels

Looking ahead to the Stanley Cup finals

And they are. The simple story is that the Kings dominated on defense all year but couldn’t score, losing 2-1 games on their way to an eighth seed in the Western Conference. By adding scorer Jeff Carter late in the season, they finally had a complete (or complete-er) team that could compete on both sides of the ice. The simpler story is that LA is 14-2 in the playoffs and undefeated on the road.

As for New Jersey, they really came out of nowhere from my perspective. I don’t pay the Eastern Conference much mind until the Stanley Cup finals anyway, but the Devils really weren’t on my radar at any point this season, which, as far as the East was concerned, seemed to be all about the Rangers and Flyers, the woes of the Penguins, and the what-if-they-meet-the-NHL’s-own-Coyotes-in-the-finals Florida Panthers, for a series I would have relentlessly hashtagged #catsanddogs.

To what we’re listening: Root Glen’s Winter EP

Whether it’s emails from East Anglia or that leftover, freezer-burned Yankee pot roast that once warmed my chilled, cabin-feverish soul and has yet to depart the refrigerator, I just can’t trust the seasons anymore. (Blame my preference for pre-Enlightenment alchemedic metallurgy over 21st century “science” or the fact that it was 40 degrees two days ago and today it was 80 and hailing with the sun out.) One thing in which I’ve learned I can trust, though, is the continued development of the band Root Glen. That trust is based on being more than seventy-five percent of the way through the New Jersey-based band’s formative year of quarterly, seasonally themed releases. In fact, that year’s almost up, as the group’s spring offering is due out shortly. I don’t even care that this review is so late, because it could snow tomorrow in Topeka, and you need to be mentally ready for that.

The sparse, dry, wintry sounds of “Throw it in the Bay” appropriately open Winter, and the tune is an excellent way to start this EP. The sound immediately transports the listener to that dark, snowbound cabin depicted in the cover art. The verse rocks out in a fashion reminiscent of the darker turn heard on the band’s Fall release with a few appropriate variations: 1) rather than straight-ahead rock, there’s a slight jam feel around the fringes creating more of a slowly looping feel, something that both reminds the listener of the band’s loose, early sound and, here, suggests a nice feeling of ongoing despair; 2) the production value continues to improve, and on this song, it serves to mute the sound– much like a heavy snow would– as much as tighten it; 3) guitarist Ross Griswold’s lead line threads a long approach through the song that both compliments the feel described as variation (1) and 4) provides some developing continuity for those appropriately frequent times when the thicker parts back out into sparseness.

The second cut, “Lost in the Night” opens like Everlast’s “What it’s Like” and features an up-front exchange between David Moroney on vocals and Eric Blank’s kit cymbals. Griswold tastefully varies the electronics on his instrument to create some subtle soundscapes underneath these two, and Andres Gonzales gets a feature toward the end after rooting this tune with his occasionally and deftly muted bass. And just as the first song gave way to a more prominent role for Moroney and Blank in the second, it’s Gonzales’ more pronounced bass that leads the way into “Removed.” The reggae feel hinted at with some of the jam sensibilities present in the first song appears in this third song, placing the listener on a calmer, higher plateau after rising through the first two pieces. Gonzales’ slightly slappy bass eventually gives way to an airy interlude that visually recalls standing on a mountain as clouds rush by in a time-lapse video.

This lilt continues into “Out of Frame,” which will be the first number likely to draw the casual listener to the EP credits to find out who’s playing that saxophone (Marty Eigen), but it’s the distant, unison vocals that especially recall Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. (While looking at the credits, the listener will discover that five additional individuals helped Root Glen on three of Winter‘s five songs in various ways, including everything from songwriting to vocals and instrumentation.) At last, “Caradhras” is a fitting tag for Winter, a seven and a half minute piece of modern progressive (post-progressive? post-post-progressive?) rock that contains a nice hook and a very slight bit of tension-and-release work while staying within the introspective confines of the EP.

With Winter, Root Glen shows listeners yet another of their faces, this one perhaps the most mature yet, reminding us very clearly of a season this year did not bring us. As before, you can stream or purchase Winter at http://rootglen.bandcamp.com/album/root-glen-winter. Catch up on the latest band news at RootGlen.com.

To what we’re listening: Root Glen’s Fall EP

Does being post-Thanksgiving mean we’re post-autumn? I’m sure the star charts have the answer, but I’m too busy not wearing white and listening to the latest offering from Root Glen to care.

Earlier this year, these New Jersey rockers released their first of a planned year’s worth of seasonal EPs, Summer. Now comes Fall, a collection that, from the first track, feels very different from their earlier work. Opening with the edgy, hard-hitting “Battle Cry,” Fall  has a darker, tighter feel than anything I’ve heard before from Root Glen. Outside of Summer and a few miscellaneous demos and singles, I’ve known Root Glen as a live, dance-friendly act, and to my ears, Summer was a successful attempt at bringing that live feel into the studio. By contrast, Fall sounds like a concerted effort to prioritize songcraft, leaving the details of the inevitable live presentation of these tunes for a later day. This isn’t to say that fans won’t recognize this EP as Root Glen– David Moroney’s signature vocals and Andres Gonzales’ bass work ensure that they will– but Fall definitely is a new chapter for this band, and a welcome one. Of the five songs, only the second, “Detective Porn,” immediately registers as one of Root Glen’s familiar live jaunts.

The fourth cut, “Red Lines & Spinning Wheels,” is the best single song I’ve heard from this group. From the lead-in interplay between Gonzales and drummer Eric Blank, the chorus’ vocal harmonies, and the driving, confident guitar work by Ross Griswold, this song is a well-composed, well-executed ensemble effort.

The final number, “The Salty Pepper,” is a Griswold guitar workout that mixes textures and speeds and sets forth some of the best playing I’ve heard from him.

As with Summer, Fall is available for streaming or name-your-own-price purchasing at http://rootglen.bandcamp.com/album/root-glen-fall. Live dates and news of their work on their next seasonal EP are available at http://rootglen.com/blog.

To what we’re listening: Root Glen’s Summer EP

Sure Labor Day is next week, high school football started last week, and August is over tomorrow, but there’s still plenty of time for summer relaxation, and Root Glen, a New Jersey-based rock outfit, can help with that.

Eric Blank (drums), Andres Gonzales (bass), Ross Griswold (lead guitar, vocals), and David Moroney (lead vocals, guitar) describe their sound as “alternative rock of a funky nature,” and I think that’s accurate. The group isn’t afraid to work out over their riffs and grooves, especially in the live setting and especially if they’ve got a dancing audience (as they always do), but the lyrics are always there too, and they come through by way of strong, musical vocal work. The combination of the bottom end– Blank’s drums always pushing ahead, Gonzales’ bass creating a complex, broad foundation– and a top side with the ability to soar on the wings of Moroney’s distinctive, classical voice and Griswold’s melodic guitar lines give the quartet a full, textured sound without getting heavy so as to bog down band or dancers.

Back in late May, the band released Summer, a five-track EP and the first of its planned seasonal releases. Summer does a nice job of showing off different sides of Root Glen, all while remaining under the broad umbrella of the summertime theme. Stream the album or purchase it by naming your own price at http://rootglen.bandcamp.com.

I’ve been lucky enough to catch Root Glen twice, once in Philly and once in D.C., and I recommend East Coast readers in particular check their fall dates on their website. Everyone else can get a feel for their live performances here.