Sports Law Roundup – 12/22/2017

aslr - xmas

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

  • Gymnast abuse: Earlier this month, a judge declared that 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 was facing multiple civil and criminal accusations of improper sexual conduct in connection with his alleged sexual abuse of young female athletes was “a danger to children” and sentenced him to sixty years in prison. Now, one of his most prominent victims, U.S. gold-medalists McKayla Maroney, has sued USA Gymnastics, which, she alleges, tried to stop her from publicly accusing the doctor of abuse. According to Maroney’s complaint, the situation arises out of a prior $1.25 million settlement agreement Maroney reached with USA Gymnastics that contained mutual non-disclosure provisions. Maroney’s current attorney says that while Maroney willingly agreed to that settlement, she did so at a time when she was suffering from emotional trauma and needed the money for “lifesaving psychological treatment and care.” USA Gymnastics says that the parties included the confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement at the insistence of Maroney’s then-attorney, Gloria Allred. Maroney’s complaint also names Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the doctor as defendants. The doctor still is awaiting sentencing on ten state-law counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
  • Baseball injury: Dustin Fowler, currently an outfielder for the Oakland A’s, filed a negligence action against the Chicago White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns and operates Guaranteed Rate Field, because of an injury he suffered when, as a member of the New York Yankees, he ran into an unpadded electrical box in the right-field foul territory of Guaranteed Rate Field during a game last summer. Fowler damaged his knee in the collision, causing his rookie season to end before his first plate appearance, and he ultimately required surgery. Fowler claims that the defendants should have done more to secure the box or protect players from running into it.
  • Sleeve suit: A tattoo artist, whose clients include LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Danny Green, is suing the makers of the NBA2K17 video game because, he says, the game’s graphics are so realistic and detailed they include replications of his work, over which he claims copyrights, and he alleges he is entitled to compensation for their use in the game. It’s unclear whether the artist (somewhat confusingly named James Hayden) has sought to protect these rights in other circumstances, such as game broadcasts or television commercials, featuring his clients. This isn’t the first lawsuit against the makers of the NBA2K series of games, however. A different owner of copyrights on NBA player tattoos sued over prior editions of the game and lost because it had not registered those copyrights with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It isn’t clear whether Hayden has registered his trademarks.
  • Super Bowl ticket shortage: A federal appeals court will allow a proposed class action to proceed against the NFL based on allegations that the league’s ticket lottery program for Super Bowl XLVIII, which was played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, only released a fraction of the available tickets to the public. The legal basis of the suit is a New Jersey consumer protection statute that requires the public sale of at least 95% of the tickets for events hosted in the state. The named plaintiff’s claim relies in significant part on an expert economic opinion that the plaintiff paid more for tickets he bought on the secondary market than he would have had the league not withheld more than five percent of the game tickets from the primary public market in violation of the New Jersey law. The federal court now has certified the question of whether the state law applies to the NFL’s actions to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
  • Hockey island: The State of New York’s economic development agency, Empire State Development, has selected a $1 billion bid by a joint venture directed in part by New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon to develop an entertainment complex that will be the new home of the New York Islanders. The move is significant in that the site, which is part of the Belmont Park racetrack property, is located on Long Island, the place the team called home for all but the last three years, when the franchise left Nassau Coliseum for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (which, as a geological matter, is part of Long Island but whatever).
  • Music City soccer: On Wednesday, MLS announced that it would award an expansion franchise to Nashville, where the new team is expected to play in a new arena to be built at the city’s fairgrounds. The day before, a local judge had dismissed a lawsuit by opponents of the stadium’s construction because she concluded the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the project and determined that the stadium would not impair existing fairground activities, including the state fair.
  • RICO soccer: On Friday in a New York federal court, a jury convicted the former leaders of the Brazilian and Paraguayan soccer associations on racketeering conspiracy charges related to millions of dollars in bribes received in exchange for marketing rights. The jury is continuing to deliberate over similar charges against the former head of the Peruvian soccer association. The maximum sentence for each charge is twenty years in prison.
  • Thursdays are for the lawsuits: On Thursday, Barstool Sports served the NFL with a notice to cease and desist the marketing and sale of a line of apparel the website contends were “made with the intent to trade off of the goodwill associated with” a Barstool-owned trademark, “Saturdays are for the Boys.” (Interestingly, Barstool did not create “Saturdays are for the Boys,” though it did popularize, market, and register as a trademark the phrase one of its writers overheard at a bar.) The allegedly offending products are shirts the NFL is selling with the phrase “Sundays are for” followed by one of its team names or nicknames. The one shown in the cease-and-desist letter is the Dallas t-shirt, which reads “Sundays are for the Boys.” The NFL had pulled that shirt from its online store prior to the sending of the letter, but the others remain available.

Sports court is in recess.

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Sports Law Roundup – 8/18/2017

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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 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.

The arc of the ALDLAND universe is long, but it bends toward this weekend

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If there are two things I’ve written about with consistency at this weblog they are 1) the Detroit Tigers and 2) the Atlanta Braves’ foolhardy abandonment of their downtown home at Turner Field. Beginning tonight, and for the next two days thereafter, these two ALDLANDic worlds will collide when the Tigers face the Braves in the final three games ever to be played at the aforementioned Turner Field. More than anything, I am grateful that we will be able to attend each of these games, live and in person. These are critical games for the 2016 Tigers, teetering as they are on the edge of postseason qualification, and they are historic games for the City of Atlanta. I have little more to add at this juncture other than that I am very excited.   Continue reading

Baseball Notes: Current Issues Roundup

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Rather than my own attempt at fashioning a nugget of faux-wisdom, the purpose of this Baseball Notes post is to highlight a number of articles posted elsewhere addressing current issues in the sport.   Continue reading

Farewell, again, dear Prince

Nearly three years ago, Detroit Tigers fans said goodbye to Prince Fielder, whom the team traded in the 2013 offseason to Texas in exchange for Ian Kinsler. At the time, many were glad to see him leave, though some, including this author, were not. All must agree, however, that when Fielder left Detroit, he became barely a shadow of his former Ironman self. In his two years as a Tiger, he didn’t miss a single game. Excluding his rookie year, in the eight years he spent in Milwaukee and Detroit, he missed a total of thirteen games, playing the full 162 in four of those eight seasons. That’s an impressive accomplishment for any player.

If one wanted to be cold about it, one might note that, 2014, Fielder’s first in Texas, was a year of insult and injury for Prince. Not only did his trade replacement, Kinsler, make the All-Star team on his way to completing the second-best season of his career, but Fielder underwent season-ending neck surgery in late May, appearing in just forty-two games for his new club. He seemed to bounce back in 2015, posting a .305/.378/.463 line in 158 games, but it has been trouble again for Fielder in 2016. Despite his team’s success, Prince arguably was the worst position player of the first half of the season, and things weren’t looking up in the second half. After playing in all but five of the Rangers’ games through July 18, Fielder again went on the disabled list and, after undergoing a second neck surgery, is expected to miss the remainder of this season.

It may not just be the rest of the season he misses, however, as shocking reports emerged this afternoon that Prince’s career may be over:

If true, then, as a number of people have pointed out, Prince will finish with a .283/.382/.506 line, .304 TAv, .377 wOBA, 133 wRC+, 26.8 fWAR / 23.8 bWAR / 30.3 WARP, and 319 home runs, the same number of home runs his father, Cecil, with whom he seems to have reconciled, hit in a career just one season longer than his son’s.

Although serious injuries seemed to dim his wattage following the trade to Texas, I always will remember Prince Fielder as a complete hitter who was one of the happiest baseball players I ever saw. His friendship with Miguel Cabrera was particularly endearing.  What follows are some of my favorite images and clips from Prince’s playing days:   Continue reading

NASCAR is in Atlanta this weekend, and things are off to a bad start

USA Today reports:

Travis Kvapil’s car for this weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was stolen from outside Team Xtreme’s hotel early Friday morning, police said.

The rest of the story, including some truly enlightening comments from the Morrow Police Department, is available here.

Staff at ALDLAND’s Atlanta office are circulating the below picture of Kvapil’s vehicle, last seen at Daytona International Speedway last week, where Reed Sorenson drove it to a thirty-second-place finish at the Daytona 500.

Welcome to Atlanta, Travis. Next time maybe use the hotel valet service, and whatever you do, don’t blame Winter Storm Tupac.

UPDATE: Kvapil and Team Xtreme have withdrawn from this weekend’s race, promising to return for next week’s race at Las Vegas.

The (Walking) Death of Sports on Earth

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Last month, in a story that was poorly reported to the then-staff of the site Sports on Earth, to say nothing of the general public, it snuck out that, in some order, USA Today had pulled out of its partnership with MLB that supported the site and ninety-five percent of the site’s staff had been let go. The soldiering-on of “senior writer” Will Leitch (which is far from nothing) aside, SoE exists today at best as a sort of undead shell of the vibrant self Leitch and its former staff had built in what I called an important “second chapter” of the site’s history.

As David Roth, Keith Olbermann, and even Leitch himself have commented, the whole thing came as a surprise even to the writers, many of whom found out about the great “unwinding” for the first time on Twitter.

We have tracked the rise of Sports on Earth since its birth, and we’ve highlighted plenty of their many well-done stories in the past. From a technical standpoint, SoE was designed for optimal reading on a tablet, and, for me, it held the position of go-to breakfast-table reading for a long time.

I was just a reader. For The Classical’s David Roth, the whole thing was more personal, as he was friends and colleagues of many of the dispatched writers, many of whom also had written for The Classical. I learned about Sports on Earth’s demise from Roth’s extended obituary, which also expounds upon the challenges of sustaining and supporting interesting sports writing in today’s media landscape.   Continue reading

College Football Week 2: Two Questions

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College football’s second week didn’t go so well for some of the teams on which we keep a closer eye here at ALDLAND. No controversy or arguments, really. Just poor performances and bad outcomes. Two days later, I’m left with two main questions:

1. Can Michigan State fix its leaky secondary?

Saturday night’s Michigan State-Oregon game lived up to the hype, through the end of the first half, anyway. During the intermission, the Ducks figured out that the one, very real weakness of the Spartan defense was its secondary. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was having no luck creating much of anything on his own, but if he could get the ball out of his hands, his receivers often were very open and had an easy time tacking on extra yards. Everything else seemed pretty good for Michigan State, and I’m not worried about how they’ll handle their conference schedule. At least against Oregon, though, the secondary looked like a real and easily exploitable problem. My question is whether this is a quick fix or a season-long problem.

2. How soon is too soon to fire Derek Mason?

I have an extremely selective (read: poor) memory, but I don’t think Vanderbilt has had two games as bad as the two they’ve played this season in three or four years. A 37-7 loss to Temple and a 41-3 loss to Ole Miss pretty much says it all. USA Today called the latter “just total destruction.” Yes, the team lost its starting quarterback and a pretty good receiver named Jordan Matthews, but these guys look like they caught World Cup fever in the offseason and thought they were out for the soccer team. I don’t think David Williams should take the kneejerk reaction of firing head coach Derek Mason in Mason’s first year on the job, but Commodawg raised the question while we were watching the game, and the regression VU fans are seeing really is shocking. I think it’s okay to ask: If Vanderbilt continues to follow its current trajectory, would you consider firing Coach Mason in the 2014 calendar year?

Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tail3ALDLAND’s weekly football review returns after an infamous fall wedding weekend. Bear with us as we attempt to piece together the happenings of the last few days.

College Football

Pregame:

  • After the Game of the Century of the Season of the Week last week in College Station, everybody predicted a scheduling letdown this week. Sports predictions have become (always were?) completely useless and devoid of meaning, but once in a while, the wisdom of the crowd gets it right. Throwing out expired food? No, actually. A soft slate of week-four matchups? For the most part, yes.

The games — That 70s Show:

  • Clemson opened the week of play by getting punchy on Thursday night in a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over North Carolina State. So far as I can tell, the Tigers have played only fellow Carolinians to this point in the season. A check of their schedule confirms this, and the trend will continue this weekend. (EDIT: Except for that little game against UGA in week one.) Clemson 26, North Carolina State 14.
  • A number of teams posted gaudy scores and spreads. Since they already had their fun, they’re all getting grouped in this one paragraph. Ohio State 76, FAMU 0. Louisville 72, FIU 0. Miami 77, Savannah State 7. Washington 56, Idaho State 0. Baylor 70, Louisiana-Monroe 7 (that one’s actually a little surprising). Florida State 54, Bethune-Cook 6. Wisconsin 41, Purdue 10. UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13. Texas A&M 42, SMU 13. And others.

I Hate Johnny Manziel

I am an Owl. I root for Rice week in week out. And it is tough of course. Since I graduated they have gone 15-23 (including today). Joy.

And Texas A&M is better at football than Rice is. Yes we may have had more total yard and more than a QUARTER (over sixteen minutes) more time of possession, but at the end of the day it is still Rice playing a top ten team. A&M made its share of mistakes as did Rice. Turnovers for both teams, key penalties for both teams. It’s week one. You know the drill.

But here I am in my third paragraph on a post titled, for most readers probably, just “Manziel” or “Hate Manziel” and I haven’t mentioned him yet. Yes I think he’s an individual lacking control of himself (although the announcers suggested that that made him a better player – only to later turn around and say that his lack of leadership led to his teammates also getting hit with personal foul penalties), but this post isn’t really about him. He is very talented (although he didn’t really outshine their second stringer Joeckel who went an impressive 14/19 for 190 yards and 1/0 TD/INT – of course we are talking about Rice so outshining is difficult, I know), but I did worry that a number of other talented players on their team (Joeckel most clearly, but probably others as well) were getting outshined.

Certainly Manziel behaved poorly on the field. USA Today summarizes most of the key points here. The highlights include multiple clear examples of trash talk to Rice players. Of course, we were probably trash talking him too but didn’t get flagged for it and it wasn’t obvious. For some bizarre reason he was miming signing autographs. I don’t know why he would think that was a good thing when his investigation is still officially open by the NCAA. I like to think he was saying “People pay me to sign pieces of paper what have you got?”. Yeah he scored a few TDs on us, but we sacked him a few times too so whatever. The missed detail in the linked article that I found particularly ridiculous was when he shows up to sit down on his own bench and requests that players make room for him. A beefy looking lineman promptly gets up and walks away as Manziel cracks a megawatt smile.

But this story, despite the title, isn’t about Manziel. It’s first about the media coverage of him. What?? The media overcovers athletes who are colorful (notice the end of the title of the link above)? Okay true, but hopefully my suggestive title drives enough angry traffic to this site to pay for all the beer I drank every time they mentioned Manziel. It could have been more than once a minute and that doesn’t even account for the Manziel cam they had going on him throughout the first half (when he wasn’t even eligible to play). It sounded like the announcers knew that Rice apparently had a football team and was a food that is delicious with curry among other things. It took ages for them to mention a single Rice player despite our first quarter dominance (neither claim is hyperbole for those who didn’t watch this epic Texas showdown).

Okay, so why am I writing this article? To trash talk ESPN’s massive overcoverage of single silly athletes? There is another problem with the whole situation. Sumlin (the Aggies (that’s what someone from A&M is called apparently) head coach) claimed that Manziel had matured. That said, he still wasn’t voted a team captain despite literally winning the highest prize awarded to any college footballer last year. It comes to mind that it is unclear to me what the A&M coaching staff has been doing. Their team received a handful of unforced personal foul penalties including one ejection. So controlling behavior clearly wasn’t taught. An undersized Rice team showed up and showed A&M how to play ball (before their players quickly learned from the lesson and trounced us, I get it) out of the gates. And when interviewed at half time (I missed the post-game interview, relevant comments would be appreciated) he showed no sign of even knowing what team he was playing. To all coaches: acknowledging your opponent’s strengths is just about the classiest thing you can do. We all want to see it more.

Anyways, my Rice Owls beat the spread by a touchdown, taught A&M how to play ball, and stayed classy. For us, that’s a win.