Sports Law Roundup – 7/7/2017

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 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.

Detroit Lions 2016 Wild Card preview

stafford-finger-before-after

Head coach Jim Caldwell has the Detroit Lions back in the playoffs for the second time in his three-year tenure. After ending the season with three consecutive losses, the Lions (9-7) will play the Seahawks tonight in Seattle in the first NFC wild card game, which kicks off at 8:15 Eastern on NBC.

Detroit’s playoff history in the Super Bowl era isn’t pretty. In the fifty seasons since the 1966 merger, the Lions have appeared in the postseason in just twelve of those seasons, winning just one game.

That one win, a 38-6 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys on January 5, 1992, also was the last NFL playoff game hosted in Detroit, and one of only two ever in the Super Bowl era (not counting games, like Super Bowl XL, in which the Lions, obviously, did not participate).

The national press picked up on an interesting narrative following that win, which featured Barry Sanders, of course, and also Erik Kramer, whom they highlighted as “a strikebreaker,” or, in the words of Cowboys defenders Jack Del Rio (now the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, who have an AFC wildcard meeting with the Houston Texans this afternoon) and Tony Casillas, “a scab.” Kramer had played for Atlanta as a replacement player during the 1987 NFL strike, something that upset apparent union tough guys Del Rio and Casillas and, the New York Times postulated, Kramer’s ostensible supporters in the center of the UAW universe (“this grizzled, battered town, this blue-collar, lunch-bucket town”). The on-field performances by Kramer, who had claimed the starting job after starting the season as the team’s third quarterback, and Sanders that day erased any internal concerns that might have troubled the Honolulu blue and silver faithful, however. They also silenced Del Rio:

Del Rio kept up the verbal barrage during the game, or part of it, anyway.

“I didn’t hear him make any more remarks after the first quarter, said Kramer.”

Detroit only led 7-3 at the end of that first quarter, but Dallas already had amassed half of the points it would score all day. Kramer threw three touchdown passes, Sanders finished the day with a forty-seven-yard TD run, and the Lions defense even got in on the scoring action, when Mel Jenkins intercepted starting Dallas QB Steve Beuerlein and ran it back for six. By at least this one measure– Super-Bowl era playoff wins– then, Kramer might be considered the Lions best-ever playcaller.

img_20170107_1201186

This time around, the Lions quarterback again is the lead story. Matthew Stafford has struggled somewhat since injuring the middle finger on his throwing hand (pictured above, both pre- and post-injury). He claims he doesn’t rely much on that finger for gripping the ball, but the injury can’t help. Nor do recent injuries to other key contributors like DeAndre Levy, Marvin Jones, Ezekiel Ansah, Travis Swanson, and Riley Reiff, all of whom are likely to be game-time decisions. It also is not clear whether the team has a running back, although the emergence of Zach Zenner has caught the eye of at least one Seahawk defensive lineman.

While Detroit’s nine wins came on the back of a weak schedule, the Seahawks (10-5-1) also had some bad losses this year, dropping games to the Rams and Saints and going 0-1-1 against the disappointing Cardinals. They are coming off a win in Week 17, but they barely scraped by two-win San Francisco. This has not quite been the dominant Seahawks squad of recent seasons. Still, they best the Lions in all of the usual statistical categories and are 7-1 at home, where the game will be played tonight. (The Lions were 3-5 on the road this season.)

Any pieces of good news at this point are going to be small, but a notable one is the absence of Earl Thomas, one of Seattle’s best defenders, who will not play due to a leg injury. Seattle’s aggressive defensive tendencies also may help twist this piece of seemingly bad news into good news:

Lions fans are upset because Brad Allen, who calls a lot of penalties and officiated two Detroit losses and no wins, will be refereeing this game. Caldwell isn’t worried about the NFL assigning Allen to this game, though, and neither am I, because I think, in general, playoff games are officiated differently; Allen will have a completely different crew under his supervision; and, despite Seattle’s 2-1 record in Allen games, Seattle’s defensive strategy shouldn’t mesh well with a referee who throws a lot of flags. Their “efficient-breach” approach allows them to be aggressive, because they know that, even if their defenders commit pass interference or defensive holding on most every play, the officials won’t flag it every time. It therefore might not be a bad thing if Allen and his crew called more penalties in this game, so long as they do so fairly.

Another matchup to watch will be the Detroit defensive line against the Seattle offensive line, the latter being the only real Seahawk weakness. In a disappointing year from Ansah, the Lions haven’t made waves in the pass-rush department, but a breakout day from the fourth-year defensive end could be a difference-maker today.

It’s going to be a long and loud afternoon in Seattle, where a wintry mix has been in and out of the forecast. It will be tough sledding for these battered Lions. Here’s hoping they find a new gear and, once again, give their fans a reason to celebrate in January.

Grit, Grammar And Road-Grading: A Conversation With PFT Commenter (via The Classical)

pftcNo one in the NFL discourse, and maybe no one anywhere, is dumber than PFT Commenter. He is the most ill-informed, unreflective, backwards, craven, and vociferous voice in a conversation that offers plenty of competition. The difference — and what makes the PFT Commenter character such an astounding achievement — is that PFT Commenter is that dumb on purpose.

And he never, ever takes a play — or take — off. It’s funny, and a reliably vicious satire of the grunty goofiness of NFL media, but perhaps equally impressive is that it just never stops. The mind reels at the sheer endurance required to maintain this posture, both in the face of open contempt from the likes of Pete Prisco and Darren Rovell and because of the sheer effort required to be this wrong. It’s hard to think of an online performance artist that works harder, and impossible to think of one that loves Danny Woodhead more.

We are approaching satire so good that it’s difficult to laugh at. … Read More

(via The Classical)

ProFootballTalk blantantly ignoring City of Philadelphia

pftI know the PFT folks are a bunch of newsmakers and newsbreakers, but you’re telling me that when three rows of fans were ejected from an Eagles game for brawling it was a sober affair?

I’m hoping to attend my first NFL game in about twenty years this season, and I think I have a good strategy for avoiding a lot of the financial pitfalls. Avoiding the over-the-top fan rowdiness seems to be its own challenge, however.

NFL Quick Hits 2013: The Fans

The NFL season begins tonight, when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens travel to Denver to play the Broncos.

In 2013, NFL fans have so many ways to follow the game, it can be easy to lose track of the notion that this is all supposed to be leisure-time entertainment. The following are suggestions on how to cut through the volumes of NFL-fan-experience accessories and have fun this season:   Continue reading

UPDATE: The on-field Notre Dame football hoax you didn’t know about

evil on the internet - attack of the machinesNo, not that one, although there is a loose connection. One of the names that came up from time to time in the media’s coverage of Manti Te’o this season was that of Tim Brown. As Te’o became an increasingly serious (or unserious, depending on what you believe right now) Heisman contender, Brown’s name got kicked around because Brown was the last Notre Dame player to win the Heisman trophy, which he did during the 1987 season.

Te’o didn’t win though, and amidst the post-national championship game kerfuffle that has surrounded Te’o and Notre Dame, and in the leadup to Super Bowl XLVII, Brown thought it was a good time to reassert himself in the national sports discussion.

Now, he’s front-and-center, with a thinly veiled accusation that the Oakland Raiders threw Super Bowl XXXVII. Brown said that the Raiders’ coach, Bill Callahan, “sabotage[d]” his team by changing their offensive scheme two days before the game. Why? Callahan “had a big problem with the Raiders, . . . hated the Raiders.” That’s nothing new. Why else? Callahan wanted his “good friend[]”– opposing coach John Gruden– a Super Bowl win.

Well. Rather than make a Jon Gruden joke, I’ll just ask why nobody’s checking to see whether Les Miles is on the Bill Callahan coaching tree.

UPDATE: This isn’t just a Notre Dame thing. Brown’s teammate on that Raiders team, Jerry Rice, also spoke out in support of Brown’s assertion, and, if anything, he was less equivocal than Brown.   Continue reading

NFC Champtionship notes

The San Francisco 49ers meet the Atlanta Falcons this afternoon in the Georgia Dome to play for the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Hidden between the media’s heavy stereotyping of this matchup are a few nice preview pieces that actually track pretty well those for last week‘s game, as well as my prediction for this afternoon’s outcome:    Keep reading…

For the NFL, does pink really mean green?

Now in its third year, the NFL’s very public approach to breast cancer awareness has resulted in approximately $3 million in contributions to the cause, something that is unquestionably good. The campaign is not without its critics, though, who are asking a variety of questions. Some wonder whether, given the wide prevalence of public awareness of breast cancer, the NFL’s stage might more effectively be used to increase awareness within the male population– the league’s primary audience– of the risks associated with colon cancer, a disease with less attention but high incidence nationwide. Others, tired of the harsh pink visuals in the country’s most television-centric sport, constructively wonder whether the campaign might raise more money by letting people pay to somehow watch the game without seeing the neon-pink gloves, cleats, and other things, all of which seem to confound the color spectrum on even the highest definition televisions.

None of these critiques question the fundamentals of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness campaign, which is what makes the latest inquiry stand out. In an article posted last week, Business Insider asked, “Why is the NFL profiting off of breast cancer?” That doesn’t sound too good. The article explains that, while on-field pink equipment items are sold at auction, with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society (an organization dedicated to “research, education, advocacy, and service”), “it is less clear how much of the sales of pink gear in the NFL Shop go towards research.” The article continues:

According to the website, by purchasing pink items in the NFL Shop, fans can “support the fight against breast cancer with pink NFL breast cancer awareness gear.” Of course, there is a huge difference between supporting “awareness” and donating money to research. In the case of the former, most of the money ends up in the pockets of billionaire NFL owners.

When we contacted the NFL’s online shop for clarification, we were told 5% of the sales are being donated to the American Cancer Society. If the pink products have a typical 100% mark-up at retail, that means the NFL is keeping 90% of the profit from the sale of Breast Cancer Awareness gear.

There’s more math to be done, though, because according to Charity Navigator, 70.8% of donations to the American Cancer Society go something called “Program Expenses,” which, according to the Business Insider article, is the designation for the organization’s research and educational programs. According to Business Insider, this means that “for every $100 in sales of pink gear, only $3.54 is going towards research while the NFL is keeping approximately $45 (based on 100% mark-up).” On Business Insider’s math, even this probably is a generous estimate, since the American Cancer Society does more than just fund research, as evidenced by their mission statement, quoted above.

The NFL issued a response:

Continue reading

Picking at the Scabs: Week 4

The NFL’s replacement official charade certainly has become a tired to quite tired act. The volume of written responsive outrage is headed that way, too. While it’s good that the media is heeding Jim Leyland’s call for them to hold officials accountable, there’s only so much complaining you can or want to read. This new, weekly feature takes care of the latter problem for you. Each week, we’ll sift through the glut of hyperbolic, whining responses and pull out the best snippets for you.
As we all know, the real NFL referees were back in action for all of Week 4, meaning that this is yet another of ALDLAND’s short-lived features, though we prefer to think last week’s edition was the precipitating factor for their return. Here’s a sendoff to the replacement officials and this feature, presented, as before, without comment.

___________________________________________________

David Roth:

But there is, finally, only one thing to find at the bottom of all this, and it’s worth repeating. This whole florid thing springs from a cold—and, it seems so far, astute—calculation on the part of the NFL’s Rand-oid ownership class. That calculation, which is not precisely new but has a new manifestation over these last three weeks, is that people will watch NFL games no matter what, no matter how slow or poor or wrong or off or dangerous things are allowed to become on the field. . . . That [the owners] haven’t and won’t pay up to make their hugely profitable product palatable says a good deal about them. It says a lot more about how they think of us, and of the game that enriches them.

Lingerie Football League:

Because of the LFL’s perception it is that much more critical for us to hire officiating crews that are competent, not only for the credibility of our game but to keep our athletes safer. Due to several on-field incompetent officiating we chose to part ways with with a couple crews which apparently are now officiating in the NFL. We have a lot of respect for our officials but we felt the officiating was not in line with our expectations.

We have not made public comment to date because we felt it was not our place to do so. However in light of tonight’s event, we felt it was only fair that NFL fans knew the truth as to who are officiating these games.

Foot Locker:

Despite recent allegations, our employees have spent the last few weeks at our stores and not [working as replacement referees] at NFL games.

Mike Florio:

Some have suggested that Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the officials lockout should result in the termination of his employment.  The more accurate position is that he should get a raise.

Roger Goodell:

We are sorry to have to put our fans through that, but it is something that in the short term you sometimes have to do to make sure you get the right kind of deal for the long term and make sure you continue to grow the game.

Pacman Jones:

Guys are going to have to play with a lot of technique now [that the real officials are back].

________________________________________________________________

Previously
Week 3

Peyton Manning is done for the year

Pro Football Talk reports:

The Colts are 0-3, but their season is essentially over.  Peyton Manning will not be coming back to save the team.

Owner Jim Irsay announced at a breakfast meeting with Super Bowl donors Monday that Manning will miss the entire season, according to WISH-TV in Indianapolis.

Irsay may be speaking out of turn, but you can do that when you own the team.  Even if the Colts don’t make a move to injured reserve official just yet, this is a sign the Colts have no expectations Manning will return.

Indianapolis will surely have a high draft pick in a good year for college quarterbacks.  They may just be high enough to draft Andrew Luck first overall.

Obviously this all but ensures the accuracy of my preseason prediction that the Colts will lose every game this year. I think the Andrew Luck question is a bit less obvious. Setting aside the common, generic draft-day debate of whether a team should draft for need or always take the best player available regardless of need, would the Colts take Luck? Maybe I’m just so used to thinking of the Colts and Manning together, and also thinking that Manning was basically indestructible– not necessarily because he’s physically tough, but because he’s succeeded in avoiding a lot of damaging hits– that it’s initially hard to think of Indy taking a QB, especially when they seem to have so many other needs. If Manning’s done for good, this of course becomes a moot conversation.