Sports Law Roundup – 12/8/2017

aslr

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

  • Olympic doping: The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from the upcoming Olympic Games in South Korea due to “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system,” although it will allow individual Russian athletes who prove they aren’t doping to compete under the Olympic flag and wearing uniforms indicating they are “Olympic Athlete[s] from Russia.” Additionally, twenty-two Russian winter Olympic athletes banned for life following doping violations during the 2014 Winter Olympics have applied to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reinstate them. The upcoming winter games begin in February.
  • Gymnast abuse: In February, the Michigan Attorney General 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 was 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 charges added in February involved 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. On Thursday, following guilty pleas on three federal charges, a federal trial judge in Grand Rapids declared the doctor “a danger to children” and sentenced the fifty-four year old to sixty years in prison, the maximum allowable sentence. In determining her sentence, the judge considered statements from victims, including U.S. gold-medalists McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman. The doctor still is awaiting sentencing on ten state-law counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
  • Charity fraud: Former NBA player Kermit Washington pled guilty to multiple criminal counts of making false statements on income tax returns and a single count of aggravated identity theft in connection with charges that he used charitable donations intended for a medical clinic in Africa for personal expenses. Washington allegedly induced donors, including professional athletes, to contribute to the clinic but spent the money on vacations and jewelry. In 1973, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Washington fifth overall out of American University, the beginning of a ten-season NBA career in which he also played for the Trailblazers, Clippers, Celtics, and Warriors.

Sports court is in recess.

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Sports Law Roundup – 12/1/2017

aslr

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

  • Streaming data: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that ESPN may share an individual’s streaming device identification number and record of videos watched without violating the federal Video Privacy Protection Act because that information does not constitute “personally identifiable information” under that act. The First Circuit previously had ruled that such information could be personally identifiable information, especially where combined with geolocation data, but that now is regarded as the minority position.
  • Bird death: A Massachusetts appellate court affirmed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a truck manufacturer and the owner of automotive-related equipment in a wrongful-death case brought by the widow of Mark Fidrych. Fidrych died in 2009 of accidental asphyxiation when his clothing became entangled in the equipment while he was working underneath his truck. The court agreed that the equipment was dangerous and could have been designed in a safer fashion, but, because those designs were not defective and the risk that led to Fidrych’s death “arose out of the addition of other components and the decisions made, and actions taken, by downstream actors, the defendants had no duty to warn of those dangers.”

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 11/3/2017

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.

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

  • Soccer relocation: Citing a duty to taxpayers, a judge in San Antonio is calling for a criminal investigation of the Columbus Crew’s announced proposal to move the team to Austin. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff had been involved in San Antonio’s attempt to secure an MLS franchise, which includes a joint purchase by the city and county governments of an $18 million soccer stadium. According to Wolff, Mark Abbott, the head of MLS, was supportive of San Antonio’s campaign for an expansion franchise in 2015 and said that MLS would not place teams in both San Antonio and Austin. Wolff has asked the Bexar County district attorney to investigate the situation.
  • NFL hiring collusion: Last month, free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick filed a labor grievance with the NFL alleging that the league’s member teams are colluding to keep him out of a job because of his leading role in player protests during the National Anthem. According to a report this afternoon, team owners Jerry Jones (Cowboys), Robert Kraft (Patriots), and Bob McNair (Texans) will be called to answer questions under oath about Kaepernick’s claims and disclose their cellular telephone records. According to the report, “others owners, teams and league officials also will be deposed, but those individuals have been confirmed for now.”
  • NASCAR pit crew: In June, a judge allowed a wrongful termination case by Brandon Hopkins, a former NASCAR pit crew member to proceed against his former employer, Michael Waltrip Racing. Hopkins injured his shoulder when a race car hit him during a race. Treatment from MWR’s training staff was ineffective, and surgery was necessary. Surgery was delayed for reasons the parties dispute, however. Days before the scheduled surgery, Hopkins met with a supervisor, who assured Hopkins his job was safe. When Hopkins left the office to go home, he brought a particular tool– the design of which MWR considered confidential– with him, which, he said, was an accident. MWR did not believe Hopkins’ story and fired him the next day. Office security camera footage also showed Hopkins removing what may have been confidential documents from the office two days prior. The judge determined that there were sufficient facts that a jury could determine that Hopkins’ firing was connected to his injury, an impermissible basis for termination, or his misappropriation of confidential company information, which would be a permissible basis. The parties now have settled the case on undisclosed terms.
  • Daily fantasy sports: On Monday, Pennsylvania legalized daily fantasy sports, and Connecticut took similar steps on Tuesday. Pennsylvania will impose a fifteen-percent tax on operator revenue and other licensing requirements and makes it easier for that state to legalize traditional sports betting. The Connecticut policy, which includes a 10.5-percent tax on operators’ gross revenue, requires amendments to the state’s agreements with the two Indian tribes that operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun Casinos and will become effective only after those tribes approve the amendments.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 10/20/2017

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:

  • Penn State child abuse: A court has denied the request of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University assistant football coach who sexually abused children, for a new trial. Sandusky contends his conviction on those charges was wrongful due to the claimed inadequacy of his legal representation at trial and the prosecutor’s failure to disclose potentially exculpatory information.
  • NFL hiring collusion: Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick has filed a labor grievance with the NFL alleging that the league’s member teams are colluding to keep him out of a job because of his leading role in player protests during the National Anthem. Kaepernick identifies President Donald Trump as a significant actor whose public statements condemning protesting players motivated the owners’ decision. Kaepernick faces an uphill legal climb, though, because circumstantial evidence– the observable fact that no team has hired him despite his track record and apparent needs at his position– is insufficient to prove collusion. Under the collective bargaining agreement, “no club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express or implied, with the NFL or any other club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit” a team from negotiating or contracting with a free-agent player. To make his case, Kaepernick will need to demonstrate that the owners, together and not independently, made an affirmative decision not to employ him, or that the NFL itself directed or encouraged teams to take that position. Depending upon how this matter evolves, however, the stakes for the league and union could be high, as, under certain circumstances, proof of collusion could terminate the CBA.
  • Wrigleyville: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has denied a request for rehearing filed by owners of Wrigley Field-area owners of rooftop restaurants and bars who claimed the Chicago Cubs violated an agreement to prevent the obstruction of field views from the neighboring rooftop establishments when the team included a new, large, outfield video board in its updates to Wrigley Field. The court offered no explanation for its decision to reject the petition for a rehearing of its prior judgment that the agreement itself and MLB’s antitrust exemption barred the neighbors’ claims.
  • North Carolina academics: After spending more than six years investigating the University of North Carolina for academic fraud, the NCAA issued a final ruling subjecting the school to minimal sanctions that do not affect any of UNC’s athletic programs, a decision that, according to Mark Titus, “should come as no surprise.”

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 9/22/2017

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:

  • Dominican politics: A court in the Dominican Republic has convicted former MLB player Raul Mondesi on charges of political corruption in connection with his activities as mayor of San Cristobal, his hometown. The court sentenced Mondesi to eight years in prison, fined him the equivalent of $1.27 million, and barred him from holding public office for the next ten years. Mondesi, the 1994 National League rookie of the year, earned over $66 million in his thirteen-year career mostly spent as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Reports indicate Mondesi embezzled funds while serving as mayor of San Cristobal.
  • Penn State child abuse: A court dismissed a defamation lawsuit former Penn State University Graham Spanier filed against Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who investigated the the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal inside PSU’s football program and produced a report of his investigation that named Spanier and served as part of the basis for subsequent criminal charges against Spanier. In June, a court sentenced Spanier to two months in jail and eight months on house arrest following his conviction on a misdemeanor count of child endangerment. That conviction, the judge in Spanier’s defamation case explained, barred the defamation claims, although he observed that Spanier could revive the case if an appellate court reversed his criminal conviction.
  • Three on three on three on three: Ice Cube’s (real name: O’Shea Jackson) Big3 Basketball, a popular three-on-three basketball league for former NBA players with an FS1 television deal, responded to a lawsuit from new rival Champions League by filing a lawsuit of its own alleging that Champions League defamed Big3 by falsely telling investors that the reason Champions League had not yet launched was because Big3 has blocked its players from joining Champions League. Champions League’s previous suit against Big3 alleged that Big3 violated agreements to allow players to play in both leagues.
  • NFL head injuries: A Boston University study on the brain of Aaron Hernandez concluded that Hernandez had “stage 3 CTE.” Initial reports indicated that Hernandez’s family intends to file suit against the NFL and the New England Patriots and, on Thursday, Hernandez’s now four-year-old daughter, Avielle, filed an action against those entities. Her complaint alleges that negligence by the league and team resulted in a loss of parental consortium. Related filings state that she is seeking $20 million. The complaint further states that Hernandez had “the most severe case of [CTE] medically seen in a person of his young age” by the Boston University researchers. According to the complaint, there are four stages of CTE, with stage 3 typically being associated with players with a median age of death of sixty-seven. Hernandez was twenty-seven when he committed suicide.
  • OSU trademark: Oklahoma State University and Ohio State University have settled their conflict over the use of the “OSU” trademark, with both universities agreeing that they may use the mark nationwide. The dispute initially arose after Ohio State sought a trademark for “OSU” and Oklahoma State submitted an objection to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office claiming that it held rights to that mark. Under their agreement, each school will not use “OSU” in connection with the colors or mascot of the other and will use “Ohio State” and “Oklahoma State” in promotional materials to help avoid confusion. The agreement also includes a non-disparagement provision precluding the schools from using phrases like “wannabe OSU” or “copycat OSU.”
  • Beverly Hills Ninja Bikes: Make Him Smile Inc., a company that owns the intellectual property rights associated with late comedian Chris Farley, sued the Trek bicycle company over its marketing of a “Farley” bicycle designed with fat tires and a fat frame. Trek, the plaintiff alleged, paid nothing for trading on Farley’s name and likeness. The complaint seeks $10 million in damages.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 9/8/2017

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:

  • Athlete advisor fraud: In February, Brian J. Ourand, who worked as a financial advisor to athletes, including Mike Tyson and Glen Rice, admitted stealing over $1 million from his clients and pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges. On Wednesday, a federal trial judge sentenced Ourand to thirty-three months in prison, less than the thirty-seven months federal prosecutors requested, but more than the year (plus some home confinement) Ourand sought.
  • Radio host ticket fraud: Earlier on Wednesday, FBI agents arrested Craig Carton, who cohosts WFAN’s (New York City) morning sports talk program with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, on fraud charges based on allegations that Carton was operating an event-ticket scam. According to federal prosecutors, Carton induced investors to fund a concert ticket resale venture by claiming that he had special access to purchase the tickets when, in fact, he did not. Carton and an associate instead used the investors’ money for themselves, including to repay casino debts and some initial investors in a Ponzi-style arrangement.
  • Rockets sold: Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets on Tuesday for $2.2 billion. Fertitta, a Houstonian, is the owner of Landry’s, Inc., a corporation that owns restaurants and other commercial properties including Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the Golden Nugget casino, and multiple aquariums in Texas, Colorado, and Tennessee, among many other things. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer set the previous record for the purchase price of an NBA franchise when he bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.
  • NFL sanction standards: In light of the ongoing Ezekiel Elliot saga, PFT’s Mike Florio (who, people forget, is a lawyer) penned an essay on the NFL’s low standard of proof used in determining violations of its personal conduct policy, which concludes: “As long as the league has the power to impose discipline based on the very lowest legal standard of proof, any player who finds himself under scrutiny had better be able to show that there is no credible evidence of any kind that could be viewed in any way as suggesting that he has any responsibility for anything that happened.”

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 8/18/2017

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 is a top sports-related legal story from the past week:

  • Golf suit suit: On Monday, Augusta National Golf Club filed suit against an online auction memorabilia company in an attempt to halt sales of three of the club’s famous green jackets. According to the club, the jackets, which it issues to club members and winners of the Masters tournament, remain club property and may not leave the premises, with only one exception: the Masters winner may take his jacket off club grounds during the first year following presentment. The site claims to have for sale the 1966 Masters champion jacket issued to Byron Nelson, as well as member jackets belonging to John R. Butler, Jr. and George King. This list of club members USA Today published in 2002 names Butler and identifies him as a resident of Texas affiliated with J.R. Butler and Co., which appears to be an oil and gas consulting company. King’s name does not appear on the 2002 list, and reports on this lawsuit indicate that he was a member of the club only “briefly.” The auction site describes King as “an early Augusta National member from Wisconsin, never returned to Augusta National after” World War II. The auction company claims to have previously sold three other Masters champion jackets, including one belonging to the tournament’s first champion, Horton Smith, for almost $700,000 in 2013. There is no indication that the club sued the auction company in connection with any of its prior sales. Yesterday, a judge granted the club’s motion for a preliminary injunction halting the auction of the jackets, which the club alleges constituted stolen property.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 8/4/2017

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:

  • NBA fan assault: After declining a plea offer in June, Charles Oakley, a former member of the New York Knicks who was arrested and charged with assault after an argument with Knicks owner James Dolan during a game at Madison Square Garden, accepted a similar offer today. While Oakley’s earlier decision appeared designed to force Dolan to provide public testimony at a trial, Oakley, through his lawyer, now says that he “will be pursuing all civil remedies against Mr. Dolan based on this incident.” Pursuant to the terms of today’s agreement, prosecutors will drop the criminal charges against Oakley if Oakley stays out of MSG for one year and otherwise avoids criminal trouble for six months.
  • ESPN parody: The parody sports website NOTSportsCenter.com, which appears to exist today mostly as a Twitter account, defeated a challenge by ESPN that sought the transfer of the NOTSportsCenter.com web domain to ESPN because, ESPN complained, the parody website was confusingly similar to ESPN’s registered “SportsCenter” trademark and operated in bad faith. The arbitration panel found that the owner of the NOTSportsCenter.com domain, Will Applebee, was not using the domain in bad faith, was not attempting to disrupt ESPN’s business, and does not keep people from visiting ESPN’s website. Finally, the arbitrators noted that ESPN’s “delay in taking action against [Applebee] nullifies its arguments,” finding the Worldwide Leader’s decision to wait six years to challenge the domain registration to be a material piece of evidence. Attorneys from Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm with more than two dozen offices around the world, represented ESPN. Applebee represented himself.
  • Daily fantasy sports: On Wednesday, Delaware and Maine became the latest states to legalize daily fantasy sports. The Maine law prohibits DFS contests based on collegiate athletics. Legislative action in other states suggests that Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California could be next in line, while Massachusetts appears to be moving in the other direction.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 7/28/2017

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:

  • Soccer fan libel: As first reported by your humble compiler, Deadspin, now part of the Gizmodo Media Group, which is the company Univision purchased in its acquisition of the remnants of the Gawker Media Group following Hulk Hogan’s successful libel lawsuit against that company, is facing another libel action. This time, it’s the much less famous Kevin Cheek, who has sued the website after it ran an article about fans engaging in homophobic chants at the first Atlanta United game that he says included a photograph of him taken at a different game. One potential problem for Cheek: the allegedly offending article contains a single picture, which shows the entire stadium, making it impossible to identify the face of any individual fan. It’s possible– maybe probable, in light of the existence of this lawsuit– that the article originally included a different photograph. If it did, though, it escaped the watchful eye of the Internet Archive, which first captured an image of the article five days after publication. It also is possible that the complaint actually is referring to one of the photographs following the article that are associated with one of the “Recommended Stories,” other Deadspin articles about the MLS. In that cached version of the identified article, two of the three photographs in the Recommended Stories section depict Atlanta United fans. If one of those pictures is the one that includes Cheek, it is unclear why his complaint doesn’t instead identify that article.
  • NASCAR trademark: A trademark dispute between one of NASCAR’s most prominent families will continue following an appellate court ruling that an earlier decision dismissing claims brought by Teresa Earnhardt, widow of Dale Earnhardt, against Kerry Earnhardt, Dale’s oldest son, was deficient. Kerry, whose mother was Latane Brown, Dale’s first wife, is a former driver who made his debut on NASCAR’s top circuit (then known as the Winston Cup) at Michigan in 2000, where the field also included his father and half brother, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. After his retirement from NASCAR in 2007, Kerry and his wife partnered with a custom home design company and subsequently sought to trademark “Earnhardt Collection” for use in that industry. Teresa, who owns Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and other “Earnhardt”-related marks, opposed her stepson’s registration bid. The matter now returns to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board for further adjudication.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 7/21/2017

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:

  • Tennis match fixing: The Tennis Integrity Unit, an organization dedicated to investigating cheating in tennis, is investigating cheating in tennis. More specifically, the TIU is investigating four matches– three at Wimbledon and one at the French Open– for potential match fixing. Suspicious betting patterns triggered the investigation into these matches, for which additional information is not yet available to the public. While allegations of match fixing in major tournament matches are rare, tennis is particularly susceptible, given that it is an individual sport, and that most matches involve low-earning players and are not tracked by the general public. Three years ago, FiveThirtyEight’s Carl Bialik wrote an illuminating feature on the data-driven rise in tennis gambling, later cautioning that betting patterns alone were not conclusive evidence of match fixing.
  • Hou-Hugh Feud: One week after Houston Nutt sued his former employer, Ole Miss, for breach of his severance agreement for disparaging statements by school officials, including head football coach Hugh Freeze, Freeze has resigned. Athletic Director Ross Bjork, whose statements also appear in Nutt’s complaint, referred to Freeze’s unacceptable “pattern of personal misconduct” in connection with Freeze’s resignation and said that the school would have fired Freeze, who will receive no buyout on his $5 million annual contract, had Freeze not resigned. While the litany of alleged NCAA violations have been public for some time, the catalyst for Freeze’s sudden departure just a week after he represented Ole Miss at SEC Media Days appears to be new evidence that, on one occasion, Freeze used his university-issued cellphone to contact a Detroit-based escort. Freeze’s call records are under scrutiny as a result of the Nutt complaint, which cites those records in detail but contained no mention of the escort call. (And a note to those who see an opening for Lane Kiffin to return to the SEC in a head-coaching role, Paul doesn’t see it happening for Kiffin in Oxford, so you can bet it won’t.)
  • Simpson paroled: After serving nine years in prison for his role in a Las Vegas robbery, O.J. Simpson received a unanimous grant of parole from the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners and could be out of prison as early as October. This week’s parole decision hardly could have come at a more perfect time: Norm Macdonald Live returns to the digital airwaves for a new season on Tuesday.

Sports court is in recess.