Sports Law Roundup – 2/24/2017

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.

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

  • Gymnast abuse: The Michigan Attorney General has charged 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 already is facing multiple civil and criminal accusations of improper sexual conduct, with twenty-two additional criminal counts in connection with his alleged sexual abuse of young female athletes. USA Gymnastics and Michigan State terminated their relationships with the doctor following the earlier accusations. Some of the new charges involve victims who were younger than thirteen at the times of the alleged acts, and all of the charges are felonies that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
  • Cheerleader wages: The judge overseeing the proposed class-action lawsuit filed last month by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader, who alleges that the NFL and the twenty-six NFL teams that have cheerleaders conspired to suppress cheerleader wages below market value, has denied the lead plaintiff’s request that she be permitted to use a pseudonym (“Jane Doe”) for purposes of her participation in the lawsuit. Rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that revealing her name would subject her to harassment, injury or embarrassment, the judge found that the plaintiff failed to cite specific threats of harm to her personally. He is allowing her to identify herself only by her first and last initials “for the time being,” however.
  • Penn State child abuse: Earlier this month, a court ruled that 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. Last week, the three defendants asked for an immediate appeal of the ruling that they must face trial, which remains scheduled for next month. Now, the judge has granted the prosecutor’s request to add a conspiracy charge to the list of criminal counts pending against the defendants, whose appeal request remains unaddressed by the court.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 2/17/2017

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.

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

  • Baseball human trafficking: The federal criminal trial began this week in Miami in a case in which an agent and trainer were indicted for their alleged roles in a smuggling network designed to move baseball prospects from Cuba into the MLB system.
  • Boxing non-fight fight: Boxer Alexander Povetkin sued fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder after the latter withdrew from the pair’s scheduled fight last May following the former’s positive test for meldonium, the same banned substance for which Maria Sharapova was banned from tennis competition. This week, a jury returned a verdict in Wilder’s favor, but Povetkin’s attorney wants to keep fighting, alleging that Wilder’s lawyer engaged in “gross and extensive misconduct” during the litigation and implying that he would seek a mistrial.
  • NFL turf: In what the Houston Texans are calling “a case of first impression,” former NFL linebacker Demeco Ryans is suing the team for damages arising out of an alleged career-ending, noncontact Achilles tendon injury Ryans says he suffered when he landed on a seam in the turf while playing in a game against the Texans as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ryans is seeking $10 million, but the Texans say the court should dismiss the case because the NFL collective bargaining agreement preempts his claims. Ryans is hoping to avoid CBA preemption by relying on a prior case involving Reggie Bush, in which Bush injured himself after running out of bounds and slipping on a concrete surface surrounding the field during a game in St. Louis. In Bush’s case, the court ruled that the CBA did not apply, since the injury happened outside the field of play. Ryans’ lawsuit, the Texans highlight, deals with the in-bounds playing surface itself, which, the team argues, is a critical distinction that renders the Bush case inapplicable.
  • Lance Armstrong fraud: A False Claims Act lawsuit against Lance Armstrong will proceed after a judge’s ruling on various motions this week. The case involves allegations that Armstrong, while lying about his doping practices, received millions of dollars from the federal government in connection with his cycling team’s sponsorship by the U.S. Postal Service. Although the government’s case can go forward, Armstrong’s side will be able to argue in mitigation that the government’s benefit from the sponsorship reduces the amount of financial harm it actually suffered.
  • Student-athlete scholarships: Last week, we mentioned a settlement agreement under which the NCAA will pay an average of approximately $7,000 to current and former football and men’s and women’s basketball players who played a sport for four years and were affected by alleged athletic scholarship caps. Now, one of the plaintiffs, former USC linebacker Lamar Dawson, has objected to the settlement, which requires court approval before it’s finalized. Dawson’s concern is that the settlement includes a release of certain labor law claims that were not litigated in that particular case and which he is pursuing separately in a wage-and-hour lawsuit against the NCAA.
  • NBA fan app: A court partially dismissed a fan’s lawsuit against the Golden State Warriors, ruling that, although the fan had alleged facts sufficient to show that she had suffered an actual injury as a result of the team’s smartphone app’s alleged secret recording and capturing of her private communications, she had not stated a claim for relief under the federal Wiretap Act because she had not shown how the team intercepted and used her communications. The judge is allowing the fan the opportunity to amend her complaint.
  • Tennis commentator: After ESPN fired him in connection with an on-air remark about Venus Williams during this year’s Australian Open broadcast, Doug Adler, who worked for the network for nearly a decade, has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against his former employer, alleging that he was dismissed for saying something he never said. While some heard Adler use the word “gorilla” in reference to Williams, he maintains that he used the word “guerrilla” in describing her approach during the match he was broadcasting. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can render your own judgment after viewing the clip here.
  • Penn State child abuse: Earlier this month, a court ruled that 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. The trial is supposed to begin next month, but the three defendants are attempting an immediate appeal of the ruling that they must face trial, arguing that a two-year statute of limitations bars the charges, and that Pennsylvania’s child-endangerment laws don’t apply to officials in their positions. In other news, Sandusky’s son, Jeff, has himself been charged with sexually abusing a child.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 2/3/2017

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 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 – 12/2/2016

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:

  • MLB CBA: Shortly before the December 1 deadline, MLB and the MLBPA reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement that will govern the sport for the next five years.
    2016-mlb-cba
    Details still are emerging, but early analyses are labeling this round of negotiations another win for ownership. (Others see it as a mere “setup for war in 2021.”) One of the most visible changes fans will notice is that the All Star Game no longer will determine home-field advantage in the World Series; instead, that perk will go to the team with the better regular-season record. Another aesthetic change: no more chewing tobacco (although current players are free to chaw down; the ban only applies to new players as they enter the league). Following in the NFL’s footsteps, MLB has indicated plans to play a regular-season game in a foreign country, possibly England or Mexico, as soon as 2018.
  • Football player suspension challenges: Lane Johnson, a fourth-year offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles who is serving a ten-game suspension following a second failed test for performance-enhancing drugs, has challenged his suspension by filing complaints against the NFL and NFLPA with the National Labor Relations Board and U.S. Department of Labor, alleging that the suspension procedure violated his rights under his employment contract and federal labor law. While the filings currently are not public, Johnson’s challenge appears, based on a statement from his lawyer, to be a collateral attack on the collective bargaining agreement itself: “During Lane’s appeal, it became apparent that the written words in the collectively bargained Performance-Enhancing Substances (‘PES’) Policy, under which Lane was disciplined, are meaningless. The NFL and NFLPA have undermined these protections leaving the players — including Lane — with a hollowed-out process devoid of any protections.”
    Faced with a similar situation, Mike Pennel, a third-year defender for the Green Bay Packers, is challenging the adequacy of the suspension-appeal procedures by filing an action in federal court. Pennel’s allegation is that the use of only two arbitrators, rather than three, for his appeal hearing violated the league’s substance-abuse policy.
    Both Pennel and Johnson are represented by the same law firm, Ohio-based Zashin & Rich.
  • NBA arena: A court’s denial of two citizens’ organizations’ petitions will allow construction to proceed in San Francisco on a new, privately financed, $1 billion arena for the Golden State Warriors. The groups had sought to block the project because, in their view, the city’s environmental analysis was insufficient, specifically including an allegation that increased traffic would interfere with the operation of the nearby UCSF hospital. The Warriors will leave their current home in Oakland to begin play in the new San Francisco arena in 2019.
  • Sharper sentencing: A judge sentenced longtime NFL safety and serial rapist Darren Sharper, previously most famous for playing fourteen seasons for the Packers, Vikings, and Saints, and for his supporting “role” in this viral video, to twenty years in prison as part of a plea bargain in which Sharper admitted to drugging and raping women in four states. Sharper, whose victims number more than a dozen, previously pleaded guilty in a federal trial for drugging three women so he could rape them and is appealing the eighteen-year sentence he received in connection with that plea.
  • Inmate phone calls: Former Florida Gator and New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez, who is incarcerated in Massachusetts following his conviction for murdering one person and being charged with multiple additional murders, has sued Securus Technologies, one of the largest providers of inmate telephone services. Based on media reports of a Securus data breach, Hernandez’s suit alleges that the company failed to protect privileged and confidential information, such as telephone calls between Hernandez and his lawyers.
  • Whistleblowing coach: A judge awarded former Penn State football coach Mike McQueary an additional $5 million Wednesday after determining that the school terminated his employment as a result of his testimony against other PSU officials who failed to act in response to McQueary’s report on child sexual abuse by another football coach. McQueary previously won $7.3 million in a jury trial on claims related to the university’s investigation of the assault and its related defamation of McQueary. (Yes, the PSU community really did attack McQueary for reporting a football coach’s child sexual abuse. Four years later, that community appears to be as delusional as ever.)
  • Football painkillers: In an update to a story previously highlighted in this space, a judge has ordered Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to sit for a deposition in a lawsuit by former NFL players alleging that teams irresponsibly dispensed painkillers to their players in order to keep them on the field, granting a discovery victory to the players. The victory was a partial one, however, because the judge denied the plaintiffs’ request to depose Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, famous guitars, and a personal history of painkiller abuse.
  • Super Bowl hotel rooms: Marriott has emerged victorious in a contract dispute with a sports travel agency after a judge ruled that the hotel chain was not bound by its obligations to the agency to provide 300 rooms for the Super Bowl in Houston, because the agency, in selling 240 of the rooms to another broker, violated a no-transfer provision of the agreement with Marriott. When Marriott cancelled the contract, the agency sued, accusing Marriott of violating their contract in order to pursue a more lucrative opportunity with the NFL and alleging that Marriott knew of the agency’s practice of reselling rooms. Even if that was true, the judge explained, the no-transfer clause was clear, and the agency could not enforce a contract it had breached.

Sports court is in recess.

Is James Franklin leaving Vanderbilt for Penn State? [UPDATE: Yes.]

This is the most reliable news in days on a story ALDLAND has been tracking closely. We will update this post as more information becomes available.   Click for all updates on this story…

ALDLAND Podcast

No World Series preview . . . yet, but Marcus and I are happy to share our thoughts on the ALCS and NLCS so far. We also touch on Ndamukong Suh’s latest fine, as well as all of the college football picks you could ever want.

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

State College Delusional: What hasn’t changed

We haven’t said much about this Penn State mess because we’re busy and because really, what is there to say?

From the initial news of the grand jury investigation through the firing of Joe Paterno, the release of the Freeh Report, and this morning’s announcement of NCAA sanctions, it feels like this thing has reached at least a temporary landing point at which we can breathe, take stock of what’s happened, restore some perspective, and focus on what’s important (i.e., the victims).

All of us, that is, except for one group: current Penn State students. (There’s no point in even approaching the parallel universe in which the Paterno family steadfastly resides. That’s expected, if indefensible.) They rioted furiously when the university fired Paterno, and from the sounds of it, little has changed today. In anticipation of the announcement of NCAA sanctions, ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike checked in this morning with a correspondent in State College, PA, who had clips from two students responding to yesterday’s removal of the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium. My attempted transcriptions, first of student one:

Removing the Paterno statue did nothing to heal us. How does that heal us?

The emphasis in this statement was on the “us,” as in, “us students.” To them I ask, why do you need healing? What happened to you? Unless Jerry Sandusky raped you, you are not a victim in need of healing. Of course it didn’t heal you. It has nothing to do with you.

Student two:

Doctor Rodney Erickson said that he was going to protect JoePa’s legacy. How does this protect his legacy?

First, the kid actually said “Doctor Rodney Erickson.” Just so we’re clear. Secondly, to answer his question, it doesn’t protect “JoePa[‘s]” legacy in any way. Paterno’s “legacy” was a charade, a falsity Paterno and others protected at the expense of children. In reality, Paterno’s legacy is this coverup. That’s the legacy Paterno advanced through his dying day, and that’s the legacy Erickson protected by removing a monument to Paterno’s fraudulent legacy. Third, now seems like as good a time as any to stop calling him “JoePa.”

I think we wanted to think that the students initially rioted because they didn’t quite understand, but now that all the information is out in the sunlight and there’s been time for clearer heads to prevail, the students at the geographic locus of this would come in line with the general public. We’re told that Penn State is a big school, that not everybody thinks the same way, that they aren’t wearing blinders. The only data points we get from them– the initial riots and rallies, the Big Brother-esque turning off of the campus televisions during the Freeh Report announcement, Matt Millen, incoming recruits, and now these comments– indicate that the PSU campus residents are as delusional as ever.

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Related
ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap: Giving a Voice to Penn State’s Victims – Huffington Post

Previously
“It sounds like an attempt to avoid personal liability”
Joe Paterno to retire at season’s end
Growing Up Penn State

Special teams Monday

On Friday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves hung around long enough and took advantage of a Los Angeles Clippers’ offense that, despite dominating most of the game even without Chris Paul, stagnated after Mo Williams, who couldn’t miss, got himself ejected. Minnesota won the game on a Kevin Love 3-pointer off an in-bounds play with 1.5 seconds remaining. The 101-98 game-winning margin was the T-Wolves only lead of the night after going up 2-0 to start the game.

In college action, Michigan State was all over Purdue in East Lansing, 83-58, the Boilermakers being a much better team in West Lafayette than on the road. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, hasn’t quite been able to right its ship, dropping a tough one in overtime to #15 Mississippi State, 78-77. Other notable games included Virginia Tech upsetting UVA in a low-scoring affair (47-45), Notre Dame upsetting previously undefeated #1 Syracuse, and Florida State salvaging its season with an upset of Duke in Durham just a week after it blew out free falling North Carolina. There also was this neat fact:

Sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died after a battle with lung cancer.  Beyond the longevity of his tenure, recent information about his handling of the Jerry Sandusky situation has obscured and clouded Paterno’s legacy. One has to wonder, though, whether Paterno would be alive today if he had been allowed to remain in his post. It isn’t a sensational suggestion: he and others addressed this very question in years past (in an article, probably in Sports Illustrated, for which I spent a good amount of time unsuccessfully searching on Sunday). The other footnote on this story right now is the mishandling of the death announcement by the media– particularly CBS Sports, which lifted a premature story without attribution from Onward State, a PSU student site, and then attempted to blame that site when the error was revealed.

Sunday featured the NFL playoffs’ final four and saw New England and New York advancing to the Super Bowl. In each game, the losing team appeared to be in control at the end, only to commit crippling special teams errors that delivered the victory to their opponent. When the teams meet in the Super Bowl, Eli Manning will have the opportunity to double his brother’s championship total, while Tom Brady could join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. Super Bowl XLVI will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, which the Giants won 17-14, thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter catch by WR David Tyree.

In the Australian Open, Serena Williams lost 6-2, 6-3 to Ekaterina Makarova. Williams was the last American alive in the tournament.

Extremely late-breaking Friday textual jam about a musical jam about which I have had many questions

Or just one, really, which I have put on the tweeter on multiple occasions. Roughly recalled, that question is, why in 2011-2012 did a song released in 2003 become such a ubiquitous chant among fans at sporting events? Deadspin is the online publication of the people, and they have the people’s answer:

How The Song “Seven Nation Army” Conquered The Sports World

Back into the music next week. Happy belated birthday, Alexander Hamilton.

Michigan’s unfriendly welcoming of Nebraska

Not pictured: Ndamukong Suh

In what was supposed to be the Big Ole Game of the week, Nebraska’s first visit to the Big House looked a lot like the ‘Huskers’ first visit to Camp Randall to open their first season of Big Ten action this season. The visitors gave up three fewer points to the Wolverines than they did to the Badgers, losing to Michigan 45-17. (The Wisconsin score was 48-17. Maybe Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told Nebraska that there was a hard scoring cap in place for all new conference members?) Nebraska’s quarterback did not look comfortable in the pocket, the position, his uniform, or his throwing motion on Saturday, and the Cornhuskers’ special teams coughed the ball up repeatedly on the afternoon to give Michigan’s offense great field position.

One quibble I had with the Michigan fans’ assessment of their opponent’s struggles on the day and mixed results in the conference this season was their comparison of Nebraska to Penn State when the latter became the Big Ten’s eleventh team in 1990 and, despite prior success, struggled in its first few years in the conference. The important difference the Nebraska comparison ignores is that PSU had been independent prior to joining the Big Ten, while Nebraska had been a member of the Big XII. I buy the argument that Penn State’s early difficulties were due to adjusting to playing competitive teams every week, rather than the mixed schedule of an independent school. In Nebraska’s case, the Big XII may be down, but it’s conference schedule isn’t comparable to that of an independent. Moreover, Nebraska’s conference play this year really has been mixed, rather than down. They certainly had trouble with road games against Wisconsin and this one against Michigan, and they lost at home to Northwestern, but they also dominated Michigan State. I’d say the jury’s still out on Big Ten Nebraska, and if they end up having a hard time, I don’t think the Penn State analogy helps explain why.

Before the game, I teed up a Friday jam for the visitors from Lincoln that was pretty upbeat. In light of how things went, though, this may be more appropriate:

Previous Live Coverage:
B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Illinois
Nashville recap: Georgia escapes, 33-28

B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Northwestern
The Little Brown Jug stays in Ann Arbor

Recap: Detroit Red Wings’ Red & White Game
Motor City recap: Tigers win, 2-1
Music City recap: Vanderbilt wins, 45-14
Concert report: Lyle Lovett and his Large Band
Concert report: An evening with Bruce Hornsby, Béla Fleck, the Noisemakers, and the Flecktones