Sports Law Roundup – 11/18/2016

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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:

  • 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.

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Football: America’s Sport

Everyone knows that football, even college football, is all about the money. The SEC finally figured it out with their own TV network. Heck, even the Northwestern football players themselves figured it out.

What makes any sport America’s sport? Football often requires the word “American” in front of it to differentiate it from the football that the rest of the world knows. What about an option for enterprise? In major league sports, players, coaches, and the media all make buckets of money, but not the players in college football. Until recently.

Let’s take a step back. Imagine needing a source of cash flow and having some experience with the collegiate football process, but not enough skills (or motivation) to necessarily get hired anywhere as a coach or athletic director. Where is there an open source of money to be made? Well, there are those games where one team plays another of a vastly inferior caliber and division and pays that team for the right to lay the smack down. The lower tier conferences and divisions don’t rake in the cash like the top tier leagues do, so they are happy to take a loss for the money before going back to playing teams their own size (North Dakota State aside). Who is to stop me from making my own football “team” made up of eleven dropouts and getting paid to get smashed to bits every single week? Everyone else is raking in the dough in this industry, why not me?

What sentiment could be more American than that?

Of course, no legitimate team would schedule such a disreputable opponent, and there must be rules against that sort of thing, right?

The frontline journalists at reddit‘s college football discussion group, /r/cfb, uncovered just such an enterprise. User Honestly_ posted his/her findings yesterday. The post and many of the top comments are worth reading, but I will summarize a few of the highlights here.   Continue reading

ALDLAND Podcast

Baseball is back for a second straight week as Marcus and I react to the division series in both the American and National Leagues. Elsewhere, Jadaveon Clowney fails to escape the wrath of ALDLAND as we discuss his numerous “injuries”. Finally, picks and predictions for this week in college football.

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

ALDLAND Podcast

As promised, ALDLAND is back at it again with another college football preview blowout. Every BCS conference is discussed, and don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the Domers. Join Marcus and I, along with a special surprise guest as we unveil our picks and discuss the major players in the 2013 season as we see it. College football! So exciting!

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

Topsy Monday

As noted, last Saturday’s college football games featured a number of games between top-ranked teams. As discussed in this space before, every game generally is going to end with one team on the winning side and one team on the losing side, games being athletic events between two teams. This means that a bunch of ranked teams lost this week, and boy did they.

Keep reading…

Chilly Monday

Sometimes it’s important to remind yourself that, for the most part, half the teams lose each and every football weekend. Despite what some say about football fandom, most of us are likely to have a couple teams we like, especially between the college and professional levels and, given the number of games played on a weekly basis, we’re likely to have a few winners and a few losers. You see where this is headed.

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The Big Ten is struggling this season. None of their teams were in the top fifteen heading into Saturday, and they didn’t exactly respond well. Notre Dame completed a convincing conquest of the State of Michigan by taking down the Wolverines one week after they did the same to the Spartans, who unconvincingly defeated Eastern Michigan, possibly the worst team in Division I. Iowa lost in overtime to Central Michigan. Northwestern, Minnesota, and the ineligible Ohio State are 4-0. This conference is approaching Big East relegation level lows.

On the topic of relegation, Vanderbilt’s third defeat of the season, a 48-3 drubbing under the lights in Athens more about which later, has Commodore bloggers rising to defend their team’s membership in the SEC. That’s never good. The ACC had the game of the weekend though, in which Florida State defeated Clemson, clearing one of its final remaining obstacles on the path to national championship contention. That path may be clearing further, as LSU barely defeated Auburn. Oregon also started slow before completing a one-sided shutout of RichRod’s inoffensive Arizona Wildcats.

I missed most of the NFL games in transit back from Georgia on Sunday, but I understand the Lions went out with a whimper in an overtime loss in Nashville, the Falcons dominated the Chargers, Darrelle Revis is headed back to his Island after some variety of non-beard-related injury, Peyton Manning’s arm strength continues to be a question, and the scab officials are bad getting worse. (On their account, it also came out during the past week that at least some of them hold personal, financial stakes in the outcomes of the games, which adds a new element of excitement.)

In golf, Vanderbilt alum Brandt Snedeker won $11.4 million yesterday, and in the AL Central race, the White Sox lost once and the Tigers lost twice as part of a statistical phenomenon known as “regression to the mean (streets of Kansas City).”

Mistake by the Lake: Northwestern rains on Vanderbilt, 23-13

As announced, ALDLAND was in Evanston, IL on Saturday for live coverage of week two’s only SEC/Big Ten matchup. I could use this space to talk about how systematically unprepared Evanston is for big time football on a socio-infrastructural level– be it the lack of parking, tailgate space and supplies, and uniformly green playing surface or the general irritability of the fan base– but we easily overcame all of those would-be hurdles on our way to an enjoyable afternoon on Lake Michigan’s southwestern shore, and, more to the point, you might think I was trying to distract you from what happened once the sun went down and the lights came on at Ryan Field. (Just don’t ask anyone in Evanston for directions to Ryan Field on gameday and expect a helpful answer.)

The Commodore offense could’ve used some better directions to Ryan Field on Saturday as well. The not-so-mild ‘Cats effectively shut down a running unit that’s supposed to be one of the SEC’s best, and the passing attack was mostly ineffective all by itself, particularly in the second half, during which the Black & Gold donned snapback Honolulu Blue costumes and threw bubble screen after useless bubble screen on their way to three big points.  On the other side of the ball, NW’s no-huddle approach to offense, coupled with an extremely mobile quarterback, shredded the Vandy defense with ease.

Looking ahead to the meat of the in-conference schedule, the Commodore faithful may need to revise their optimistic outlook in light of a uniformly weak showing against a comparatively weak opponent.

New season Monday

Football is underway at all levels, which means that this weekly roundup/preview post is back.

College football’s second week portended less excitement than its opening week, and yet there seemed to be more surprising results this week than last. In particular, two teams with a lot of preseason promise took big hits on Saturday. The Wisconsin Badgers fell out of the Top 25 and fired their offensive line coach after a loss to Oregon State in which the traditional running power generated only thirty-five yards on the ground. Arkansas’ drop from the rankings was even more precipitous, as the Razorbacks lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Michigan, fresh off a no-show against Alabama, nearly lost their home-opener to Air Force, while Clemson nearly doubled up Ball State to stay undefeated, a status they’re likely to carry into their meeting with #5 Florida State in two weeks after facing in-state lightweight Furman this weekend. Michigan State also stayed undefeated with an easy win over Central Michigan, while Vanderbilt fell to 0-2 at Northwestern in a game I attended and more about which I will writehave written.

Robert Griffin III was the star of the NFL’s first Sunday of 2012, while Andrew Luck found himself grouped with more pedestrian rookie QB starters Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. The always-overhyped Jets turned in the surprise team performance of the day, a 48-28 win over Buffalo. The Lions, who have an official drum line, came from behind to beat the Rams in the last ten seconds of the game, and Peyton Manning returned to form in an ultimately convincing win over Pittsburgh.

Outside of the football world, Serena Williams gutted out a win at the U.S. Open, her fifteenth Grand Slam title, and Jeff Gordon announced that his “absurdly comical mustache” for the NASCAR Chase (i.e., playoffs), which begins this weekend in Chicago.

ALDLAND takes you live to the Brain Bowl, Evanston IL

Since Brendan wanted to neither preview nor review the Michigan/Alabama game he attended last weekend, this weekend’s Vanderbilt/Northwestern matchup will be ALDLAND’s first live-covered football game of the season. I, along with CFB preview podcast guest Marcus and VSL‘s Bobby O’Shea, will be in Evanston this weekend for the meeting of these two institutionally similar teams.

In the abstract, both teams represent the smallest and only private schools in two of the nation’s biggest conferences. As the modified graphic above indicates, this isn’t the first time the Commodores and Wildcats have met to play FOOTBALL. Some light googling indicates that these two schools have met three times, and each has a 1-1-1 record against the other. This season, both teams have a record that, at least vis-a-vis this weekend’s game, probably is misleading. Vanderbilt is 0-1 after a close loss to a top-ten, in-conference opponent in a game they at least could have won. Northwestern is 1-0 on the strength of a 42-41 shootout win over one-time-sort-of-powerhouse-ish Syracuse. I’m not saying they should’ve lost to the Orange, but I am saying that their surrender of 41 points and the final possession to CNY’s favoritest tells me more than them posting 42 on a Big East defense, to say nothing of the margin of victory. (And their otherwise feisty supporters seem to agree.)

On Wednesday, Vanderbilt was a 3.5-point favorite on the road, and the line hasn’t moved since. Given the high hopes in Commodore Country James Franklin has built since his arrival before last season and the sense around the Midwest that Northwestern, while not a doormat, has plateaued, this feels a bit narrow. Still, NW will make a formidable host for the visitors, for whom this is an important game they absolutely should win on their way to higher heights back in the SEC. As O’Shea writes in his preview this week, a win in the Chicago suburbs would be a strong statement to the Black & Gold’s national recruiting base as well.

As with last year, find us on Twitter during the game, and come back here for a recap afterwards.

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Previously
B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Northwestern

Wild horses at a meat-packing plant Monday

The NFL conference championship round is set, after Tom Brady’s Patriots and Eli Manning’s Giants brought harsh and decisive ends to special seasons for the Denver Tebows and Green Bay Packers, respectively. In its first home playoff game of the Harbaugh era, the Ravens won a close victory over the Texans thanks, as usual, to their defense, but it was the other Harbaugh whose team played the game of the weekend at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, defeating the Saints in a game that saw twenty-eight points scored in the final four minutes alone, when each touchdown also was a lead-change. While fan favorites and media darlings Green Bay and Denver are out, along with popular championship pick New Orleans, the final four teams offer a lot of excitement. The NFC championship features two teams (SF and NYG) that are peaking right now, and the AFC features a traditional, compelling offense vs. defense matchup (NE and BAL).

The college basketball national picture remains mixed, with Northwestern taking Michigan to overtime and then ending Michigan State’s fifteen-game win streak. Duke, Kentucky, and Georgetown all have shown weaknesses, while Syracuse has maintained a perfect record atop the Big East (ditto for Baylor in the Big XII). Vanderbilt, a top team in preseason rankings, appears to have found its way after falling out of the top 25, although a backloaded schedule means its toughest tests are yet to come.