Sports Law Roundup – 1/13/2017

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

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

  • College football head injuries: A group of former Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and TCU football players has sued the NCAA and Big XII conference, alleging that those entities breached contractual obligations to warn players of and take adequate steps to prevent head injuries. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status, and their lawyer has said that he expects to file similar lawsuits on behalf of more players this year.
  • Olympic surveillance: Two years ago, the former mayor of Salt Lake City and six SLC residents filed a proposed class action against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, Michael Hayden, the FBI, and the NSA, alleging that the federal government improperly spied upon people attending the 2002 Winter Olympics. Now, a judge has denied the NSA’s motion to dismiss the case and will allow it to proceed.
  • Gymnast abuse: In more Olympic news, eighteen women sued USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States; Michigan State University; and a gym in the Lansing area. Their complaint alleges that an affiliated doctor molested and sexually assaulted the plaintiffs, some of whom were as young as nine years old when the alleged attacks occurred, and that the defendants failed to act appropriately upon their knowledge of this doctor’s actions. This is the third civil action involving this doctor, and criminal complaints also have been filed. The FBI reportedly recovered child pornography from the doctor’s electronic devices and is in possession of video evidence of the doctor perpetrating sexual assaults.
  • Baseball land shark attack: The judge overseeing a dispute between the Miami Marlins and a fan who alleges she suffered a serious neck injury in 2013 when a shark mascot, following an on-field race with other mascots, leaned into the stands and pretended to bite her head has ordered the parties to participate in mediation in advance of the case’s June trial date.
  • Concert dodgers: A concert promoter sued the Los Angeles Dodgers and Guggenheim Partners, the entity that owns the team, because, the promoter alleges, they failed to pay him a share of the proceeds from concerts by Paul McCartney and AC/DC hosted at Dodger Stadium for his work in securing those performances. The promoter says he’s owed $2 million, while a leaked draft response from the defendants reportedly tells him to “forget about the check, we’ll get hell to pay.”
  • Sports gambling legalization: Legislators in South Carolina and New York separately proposed amendments to their state constitutions that would legalize sports betting. The South Carolina proposal would allow all forms of gambling, while the New York one would be limited to allowing sports gambling at racetracks and casinos.
  • Preemptive free agency: Last week, we highlighted an article suggesting that a California employment law could allow certain athletes playing for teams in that state to unilaterally opt out of long-term contracts and become free agents. High-profile baseball agent Scott Boras subsequently weighed in on the subject and counseled against the idea largely because the transactional costs of attempting the move (i.e., years of litigation) likely would outweigh– and, due to time delay, probably completely negate– any potential benefit to the player.
  • CTE: This also is not a legal news story, exactly, but this space has highlighted a number of sports-related head-injury lawsuits in the past, which makes sharing this compelling and well-told story of a young person’s struggles with CTE appropriate. If you only click through to one link in this post, make it this one.

Sports court is in recess.

2013 college football bowl schedule

Before getting to the 2013-14 college football bowl schedule and associated predictions and operations, a note on sponsored discourse. In this post-Musburger-for-all-the-Tostitos world, it is an unremarkable fact that the bowl games are not merely sponsored football contests but business entities in and of themselves, the sponsorship-style nomenclature– e.g., “the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl”– a mere reflection of the game’s less overtly monied past. Even the ostensible bastion of postseason intercollegiate purity now is known as “the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.”

When a bowl game is a business, and not merely a happening, there is an associated shift in the commercial advertising language referential to that business. The NFL’s decision to prohibit the use of “Super Bowl” by non-league advertisers, who now must offer you late-January deals on new televisions for watching “the big game,” provides a rough analogy.

I understand and accept the logic behind a business’ desire to control its portrayal in other business’ advertisements and insist on inclusion of a game’s full, sponsored title in that portrayal. What I do not understand is why the news media plays along. This week, I heard a local sports talk show talk about talking about Georgia’s appearance in “the Taxslayer dot com Gator Bowl,” and that’s far from the only example. I understand that some of the sponsors have integrated their names into the bowl games’ names in such a way that it’s difficult– or, where the sponsor’s name and the bowl’s name are one and the same, impossible– to say the bowl’s name without saying the sponsor’s name as well (e.g., the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the Capital One Bowl, respectively). “Taxslayer dot com” is a mouthful, though, and everybody already knows the Gator Bowl. “The Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio” is ridiculous to say, and things like “the Allstate Sugar Bowl,” “FedEx Orange Bowl,” and “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl” simply are superfluous. Why the sports news media feels obligated to append these sponsor names when discussing the bowls is beyond me, and you won’t find us doing it here, unless it’s something humorous like the Beef O’Brady Bowl or the RealOakFurniture.com Bowl.

Onto the bowl schedule, which begins this Saturday.   Continue reading

ALDLAND Podcast

The World Series is here and the ALDLAND Podcast is here to talk about it. Boston . . . St. Louis . . . playing baseball. What more could you want? College football, of course, and there’s plenty of that as your favorite cohosts preview all the interesting week 9 matchups.

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Mike Leach Favors Cougars

I was a Mike Leach fan long before Craig James took the helm of the mothership and got Leach fired from the head coaching job at Texas Tech. I think I first learned about Leach through an interview on Jim Rome’s radio show and was hooked by his deadpan demeanor and the facts that he has a law degree from Pepperdine and kept an automatronic pirate-skelleton in his office. I’m not even a pirate guy, but the random, dry sense of humor, and the nonchalance with which he carried on his job as a successful college football coach of one of the highest-flying offenses in the nation all combined to hit me just right.

When Leach finally landed his next coaching job, Washington State plainly had gotten a real steal, and though his tone of voice would never betray it, it appears that Leach has embraced his new home as well. From an interview posted yesterday on SB Nation’s WSU site:

Jim Moore: In a battle to the death among Pac-12 mascots, which animal or person wins?

Mike Leach: The Cougar absolutely. Let’s go through this a little bit. A cougar obviously kills a duck and a beaver. A cougar against a husky … that’s pretty well a massacre. A cardinal or whatever: I don’t know exactly what a cougar would either climb it or I wouldn’t want to think of what else he’d do on it. Now Golden Bears could be kinda tough. I think you’d want to be a little fast and loose with them. You don’t want to get caught by that bear. The Ute … you gotta dodge some arrowheads, but I still like the Cougar. Buffalo … I think the buffalo would be pretty tough to beat. Wildcat: Cougars are bigger than wildcats. Sun Devils, that’s mythical anyway. Trojans, they may be as well. I think you gotta look out for the Bruins and the Buffalo. The Golden Bear, Bruin and Buffalo .. I think those are the tough ones.

Moore: Why the Buffalo?

Leach: Do you want to fight a buffalo? I don’t know, those buffalo are big. You know, buffalo are significantly bigger than elk. I grew up near Yellowstone so I’ve been near buffalo. Buffalo are huge. And then the other thing I’ve always gotten a kick out of: When you play Colorado, there’s those buffalo dragging those six handlers around. Those handlers aren’t dragging the buffalo. The buffalo’s dragging him.

Ralphie’s not even a big buffalo. Ralphie pulls those people wherever he wants to.

More on the interview, including audio, is available here.

At the very least, Leach gives WAZZU fans a reason to believe they can climb out of the Pacific Twelve basement and the rest of us a reason to watch that miserable conference.

The Pacific Twelve will not expand, cannot explain why, and will regret and later reverse this decision

As beautifully reported last night, the recently-expanded Pacific Twelve Conference declared it will expand no more. While commodawg recently wrote that I have made some “preposterous suggestions” on this site (a not wholly inaccurate suggestion itself), I am going to register a prediction on this issue. First, though, I have to thank commodawg for discussing and linking to the only sampling of the written word ever to speak of the major Western conference as the “Pacific 12.” That’s on par with “Philip Jackson,” and the only place to go from there is “Pacific Twelve,” so here we are.

Before this year, the Pacific Twelve was the Pac 10. The conference added consistent football juggernauts Colorado and Utah to make a non-baker’s dozen. In reality, the Buffs and Utes are anything but (no matter what Senator Hatch says), which is what makes yesterday’s statement confusing. The flailing Big XII’s national powerhouses, Texas (to my surprise) and Oklahoma, were making comparatively overt, public ovations to the Pacific Twelve, and it was the acts and statements of these schools that triggered the no-expansion announcement. Why they would not want these two programs, though, is beyond me.

I haven’t engaged in the rumor-mongering that’s been flooding the webwaves these past weeks and months, but it’s hard to disagree with the view that we’re going to end up with four sixteen-school superconferences. Once the SEC, Big Ten, and whatever survives out of the ACC and Big East each amass sixteen members, the Pacific Twelve will wish really bad that they’d become the Pacific 14 in 2011 by adding Texas and Oklahoma. In fact, they could have led the way by also taking Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, schools thought to be politically tied to their in-state counterparts, to become the first sixteen-school major conference. Their non-expansionist foreign-conference policy might make Ron Paul happy on some micro level, but in the next round of major conference realignment, the Pacific Twelve will 1) join in the expansion; 2) wish they already had as members these two major programs because there aren’t any better options and those are two excellent options anyway; and 3) solicit their membership if Texas and Oklahoma aren’t already gone to another conference.