Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Saturday, February 28, 2015
 
Kingsford Charcoal Should Use Images of Current Athletes

The media is all over Kingsford Charcoal's decision to use Ed O'Bannon's image on its product and pay him for it.  If Kingsford, or any other company, is interested in drawing even more publicity to their product, they should use current college athletes without getting a license from them (in order to preserve the athlete's eligibility).  Then when the athletes' universities send the companies a letter stating that they don't have the right to use the image because it violates NCAA "amateurism" rules, they can either throw it in the trash or reply back to the universities: "Please inform your athlete to assert a right of publicity claim against us and we would be willing to pay the athlete to dismiss the claim."    

Friday, February 27, 2015
 
Legal aftermath of Adrian Peterson decision

In a new Sports Illustrated article, I write about the legal consequences to U.S. District Judge David Doty vacating an aberration award in favor of the NFL's suspension of Adrian Peterson and the NFL swiftly petitioning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit for review.

 
Update on Aaron Hernandez trial for Murder


It's been another busy week in the trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for the murder of Odin Lloyd. I have legal analyses of each day of the trial for Sports Illustrated, including these recent pieces:

Thursday Feb. 25: Hernandez trial: Gas station video pivotal for prosecution on Day 16

Wednesday Feb. 24: Circumstantial evidence proves powerful on Day 15 of Hernandez trial

Tuesday Feb. 23: Trash bag held by Aaron Hernandez's fiancée essential to Day 14 of trial

Monday Feb. 22: Hernandez's defense team has difficult day on Day 13 of trial

Friday Feb. 19: Video of Lloyd getting into a car is pivotal to Day 12 of Hernandez trial

Thursday Feb. 18: Hernandez's attorneys use a shoe-based defense in Day 11 of trial

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
 
New Law Review Article: Pro Sports Teams and the FLSA


I recently posted a copy of my latest law review article, "Gaming the System: The Exemption of Professional Sports Teams from the Fair Labor Standards Act," to SSRN.  The paper - co-authored with employment law scholar Charlotte Alexander - examines the applicability of the FLSA's exemption for seasonal recreational or amusement employers to U.S. professional sports teams, an issue that is currently being raised in the pending minimum wage lawsuits filed by NFL cheerleaders and minor league baseball players.  We ultimately conclude that sports teams will often be exempt from the FLSA in at least some portions of their operations, before proposing several ways that Congress could amend the law to prevent teams from relying on this exception.
Here's the full abstract for the paper:
This article examines a little known exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) that relieves seasonal recreational or amusement employers from their obligation to pay the minimum wage and overtime. The article evaluates the existing, confused case law surrounding the exemption and proposes a new, simplified framework for applying the provision. It then applies this framework to a recent wave of FLSA lawsuits brought against professional sports teams by cheerleaders, minor league baseball players, and stadium workers who claim they received less than the hourly minimum wage and/or were denied overtime pay. In particular, it determines that, when viewed properly, sports teams will often qualify for the exemption in at least some aspects of their operations. The article concludes by considering the policy implications of exempting this class of employers — some of which are worth up to three billion dollars — from the FLSA’s wage and hour requirements.
You can download the article here.  Any feedback would be much appreciated.

 
Sports Law & The MIT Sports Analytics Conference


This week, the 9th Annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference will take place in Boston. This event has become one of the absolute best sports conferences of the year, attracting some of the biggest names in the industry. This year's edition is one of the strongest ever, with a lineup of panelists and an agenda that will make news while educating those lucky enough to attend. [Note: this conference typically sells out months in advance.]

And, allow me to promote the contributors of the Sports Law Blog just a bit, as several of us will be participating.

1. I'll be moderating a panel entitled "Amateurs or Industry: NCAA Reform" and the hardest working sports lawyer, our own Editor-in-Chief Michael McCann, will be on the panel with me....correcting my mistakes.

2. Our own Ryan Rodenberg will be on a panel titled "Book It: Legaling Sports Betting" which promises to be one of the hottest topics at the conference.

I also believe several of our other contributors (Daniel Wallach & Jimmy Golen among others) will be in attendance.

Finally, the best news is that if you aren't able to attend this conference, the good folks at MIT will post videos of ALL of the panels in due course so you'll be able to watch and enjoy in the future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
 
Bubblicious gum emerges as crucial evidence in Aaron Hernandez trial. My legal take on Day 10 of Trial

Could the Aaron Hernandez trial come down to a piece of gum? Here's my legal take for Sports Illustrated on key developments from Day 10.

 
Cozen O'Connor 2015 Sports Law for Rookies and Veterans

There is a great professional sports law event coming up on March 5th at Eden Roc Miami Beach, 4525 Collins Ave in Miami: sports attorney Steve Silton of Cozen O'Connor has put this together the 2015 Sports Law for Rookies and Veterans. Speakers include DeMaurice Smith, Donald Remy, Leigh Steinberg and many others. For more information, click here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015
 
Day 9 of Aaron Hernandez Trial and the Importance of Hernandez using a Blackberry

I have a column tonight for Sports Illustrated on today's developments in the Aaron Hernandez trial and their legal significance. Hernandez using a Blackberry rather than an iPhone in a video of him taking apart his phone was a key issue in today's proceeding.

 
Peter Carfagna to teach MOOC course on Representing the Professional Athlete this March

Peter Carfagna ’79Our good friend, Harvard Law School sports law professor Peter Carfagna, has let us know that Case Western Reserve University School of Law, via the Coursera platform, will again be offering Peter's "Representing the Professional Athlete Course" as a Massive Open Online Course.  The course will be going live on March 11 and you can see the course's details on Coursera.  This is an outstanding opportunity to learn sports law from one of the most successful sports lawyers in U.S. history and an extremely talented teacher as well. The course was a huge hit last year and undoubtedly will be again this year.

Peter's course is a 6 Module MOOC course and will cover the 4 stages of a professional athlete's career as explained in his outstanding West Academic book titled Representing the Professional Athlete (2nd Ed.)

For a great Q/A with Peter, see this Harvard Law Today story.

 
Fan funding fines

In Catalyzing Fans, Mike, Dan MarkelZ"L, and I discussed fans using FACs and crowdfunding to pay unjust fines imposed on their team or players. Penn State fans are doing just that, collecting money to pay a $10,000 fine imposed on Men's Basketball Coach Pat Chambers for criticizing the officiating in a recent loss. In the paper, we point to the potential moral hazard of players or coaches ignoring the rules, knowing someone else would handle any punishment or sanction.

 
"Exact Contours" Key to NJ Sports Betting Appeal

Although the professional sports leagues are slowly warming up to the "inevitability" of expanded legal sports betting and have openly embraced the daily fantasy sports phenomenon (which many liken to sports betting), they continue to vehemently oppose New Jersey's efforts to legalize sports wagering. (This interesting dynamic has led many to accuse the leagues of "hypocrisy" and for New Jersey to assert that the leagues have "unclean hands.") The current battleground is the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which is set to hear oral argument on New Jersey's latest appeal on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Philadelphia. The primary issue on appeal is whether New Jersey's partial repeal of its state-law prohibition against sports betting is "preempted" by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 ("PASPA"), as the leagues argue and as the lower court specifically held, or whether New Jersey's partial repeal--which allows sports betting activity to take place only at state-licensed and state-regulated casinos and racetracks -- is permitted by the Third Circuit's prior opinion in National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Christie, 730 F.3d 208 (3d Cir 2013) (hereinafter "Christie I")

In Christie I, the Third Circuit upheld the constitutionally of PASPA, dealing a temporary setback to New Jersey's efforts to license and regulate sports betting. But, in rejecting New Jersey's constitutional challenge (which was grounded in Tenth Amendment and equal sovereignty principles), the Third Circuit may have inadvertently provided a pathway for states to legalize sports betting without running afoul of PASPA. That "pathway," based on language in the Third Circuit majority opinion (as interpreted by New Jersey in Christie II), would allow states to "decriminalize" sports betting. The majority explained that a "repeal" of state-law prohibitions against sports betting would not violate PASPA because:
[PASPA] . . . leaves much room for states to make their own policy. Thus, under PASPA, a state may repeal its sports wagering ban, a move that will result in the expenditure of no resources or effort by any state official. On the other hand, a state may choose to keep a complete ban on sports gambling but it is left up to each state to decide how much of a law enforcement priority it wants to make of sports gambling, or what the exact contours of the prohibition will be.
Id. at 233 (emphasis added)

The meaning of this "exact contours" language is at the heart of Christie II (the current appeal) and has been given vastly different interpretations by the parties. Employing a "plain-language" interpretation, New Jersey maintains that the phrase "the exact contours of the prohibition" can only logically mean that New Jersey is free to decide just how much of a prohibition against sports betting it wishes to maintain on its books, and that a partial repeal (like the one New Jersey enacted) would be permissible. For their part, the leagues interpret the "exact contours" language much more narrowly: as referring only to the range of criminal penalties for a violation of the complete ban on sports wagering--i.e., whether it will enforced civilly or criminally, what penalties will attach, etc. Thus, the leagues (backed by U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp) maintain that anything short of a complete repeal would impermissibly conflict with PASPA. In siding with the leagues, Judge Shipp also expressed concern that limiting the repeal to state-licensed casinos and racetracks (the intended beneficiaries of New Jersey's prior unsuccessful attempt to legalize sports betting) would allow New Jersey to accomplish indirectly what it cannot do directly and lead to other states implementing New Jersey's approach, thereby undermining PASPA.

These arguments were revisited in the Answer Brief filed by the sports leagues on late Friday night. (Note -- New Jersey filed their opening brief some four weeks earlier, and the entire appeal has been expedited). Calling this "a case of deja vu all over again" (Yogi Berra!), the leagues described the issue on appeal as follows: "Whether the District Court correctly concluded that New Jersey's attempt to 'partially repeal' its otherwise-blanket sports gambling prohibitions solely at state-licensed gambling venues, and solely if those venues confine sports gambling to the persons and sporting events of the state's choosing, violates PASPA's prohibitions against authorizing or licensing sports gambling."

Some other highlights and noteworthy soundbites from the leagues' brief:
  • "The 2014 Law is no more consistent with PASPA than the invalidated 2012 Law was. Just as before, New Jersey has enacted a law that ensures that sports gambling will occur only under the conditions of the state's choosing. It has dictated where sports gambling may occur, by whom, and even which sporting events will be excluded. Worse still, New Jersey has dictated that sports gambling must be only at state-licensed gambling venues, thereby ensuring that the sports gambling it has authorized will occur only under the auspices of a state license. In a sea of prohibitions on sports (and other) gambling, New Jersey has dictated that sports (and other) gambling is permitted only at these islands of state-authorized gambling. No matter what New Jersey tries to label those actions, those cosmetic efforts cannot hide the reality that the 2014 Law is yet another attempt to authorize state-licensed sports gambling in violation of PASPA. " 
  • "[T]his Court explicitly considered and explicitly rejected the very same argument that the [New Jersey] defendants repeat anew here--namely, that if PASPA forces states to choose between prohibiting sports gambling entirely or not at all, then it unconstitutionally commanders the states. The defendants' continued disagreement with the Court's conclusion does not entitle them to another bite at the constitutional apple." 
  • "At bottom, no amount of clever labeling or parsing of this Court's opinion can save [New Jersey] from the conclusion that the District Court correctly reached: Like the 2012 Law before it, the 2014 Law authorizes state-licensed sports gambling in violation of PASPA.
  • "Notwithstanding the state's deliberate effort to style the 2014 Sports Wagering Law as a 'repeal' rather than as an 'authorization, there is no escaping the reality that New Jersey has enacted a law that dictates where sports gambling may occur, by whom, and on what sporting events. The notion that this does not amount to an authorization of sports gambling on the state's chosen terms blinks reality. "
  • "And to make matters worse, New Jersey has made sports gambling legal only if it takes place at a state-licensed venue for state-authorized gambling. In other words, New Jersey has made obtaining a license or permit to operate a commercial gambling establishment a condition of operating sports gambling. Like its 2012 predecessor, the 2014 Law thus violates PASPA twice over: It not only authorizes sports gambling, but also ensures that it will take place only under the auspices of a state license--and a state license to operate a commercial, state-sanctioned gambling establishment, no less. That the 2014 achieves this end indirectly, rather than by establishing a distinct 'sports gambling licensing regime is no matter. Either way, the ultimate result is the same."
  • "The defendants' principal response to all this is to insist that this Court's decision in Christie I somehow entitles states to make any sports gambling policies they choose, so long as they do so under the guise of 'repealing' existing sports gambling prohibitions, rather than expressly 'authorizing,' 'licensing,' or 'regulating' the sports gambling that they permit."
  • The notion that [the 2014 Law] does not "authorize" sports gambling defies reality. The state has not deregulated all sports gambling in New Jersey or taken an agnostic position on whether or how sports gambling will occur. Instead, the state has decided on the narrow conditions under which it approves of sports gambling, and then codified those conditions as an exception to its otherwise-blanket sports gambling prohibitions. New Jersey has maintained a statewide prohibition on sports gambling with the exception of the 'islands" of state-authorized gambling called casinos and racetracks, and even there dictates who can bet on what. That cannot rationally be understood as anything other than an effort to permit sports gambling 'under the auspices of state approval and authorization,' Christie I, 730 F.3d at 232--i.e., under the very circumstances that PASPA prohibits."
The leagues then zero in on the meaning of the phrase "the exact contours of the prohibition." They maintain that this language requires nothing short of a "complete repeal," arguing that the majority opinion in Christie I makes this the only plausible interpretation:
The "exact contours" language on which the defendants reply so heavily in making that argument [i.e., that a partial repeal would not offend PASPA] comes in a sentence identifying what a state may do if it "choose[s] to keep a complete ban on sports gambling." In that sentence, the court observed, "it is left up to each state to decide how much of a law enforcement priority it wants to make of sports gambling, or what the exact contours of the prohibition will be."
As explained by the leagues, "what the Court plainly was contemplating in that passage were changes to the 'exact contours' of a state's scheme for enforcing its complete ban--i.e., whether it will be enforced civilly or criminally, what penalties will attach, and so on." "That much," according to the leagues' brief, "is clear from the fact that the 'exact contours' language is preceded immediately by a reference to 'how much of a law enforcement priority [the state] wants to make of sports gambling' if it maintains its complete ban." The leagues also point to Judge Thomas Vanaskie's dissenting opinion in Christie I to buttress its "all-or-nothing" view of the majority's "exact contours" language: in his dissent, Judge Vanaskie described the majority opinion as "essentially giv[ing] the states the choice of allowing totally unregulated betting on sporting events or prohibiting all such gambling."

In a surprising twist, the leagues' interpretation of this critical language is not shared by the United States Department of Justice (the "DOJ"), the primary defender of PASPA. In an amicus curiae brief submitted one week earlier, the DOJ maintained that "[t]he district court erred in thinking that anything short of a global repeal is ipso facto 'authorization by law' of whatever falls within the scope of the repeal." The DOJ elaborated as follows:
While certain language in the Court's opinion might be read as having contemplated a binary choice between maintaining sports wagering prohibitions in whole and repealing the completely, other language in the opinion points in then opposite direction, suggesting greater room for state policy choices. See 730 F.3d at 233 ("it is left up to each state to decide . . . what the exact contours of the prohibition will be.")' id. ("both choices leave much room for the states to make their own policy." Given the lack of clarity on this point in the opinion, and given that the permissibility of partial repeals of sports gambling prohibitions was not actually before the court in Christie I, the Court's decision cannot fairly be taken to have resolved that issue.
So, what gives? Why would the DOJ (which is otherwise completely aligned with the leagues in their opposition to New Jersey's efforts to legalize sports betting) part company with the leagues and assert that the lower court "erred" in this one respect? A brief history lesson. You may recall that in Christie I, the United States Solicitor General (Donald B. Verrilli Jr.) filed a brief with the United States Supreme Court in which he asserted that New Jersey was free to repeal its sports betting prohibitions "in whole or in part" without violating PASPA. Having made such a statement, the DOJ would be hard-pressed to completely disavow it barely one year later. Thus, the DOJ has to walk a fine line in Christie II to avoid the application of the doctrine of judicial estoppel (which prevents parties from changing their position): on the one hand, it could not deny what it had said earlier, but it also had to argue that New Jersey's partial repeal still violated PASPA. And this is how the DOJ walked that fine line, arguing that:
It does not follow, however, that every partial repeal of a state's prior sports betting prohibitions will automatically satisfy PASPA, or that a state legislature is free to enact any laws that it wishes regarding sports gambling as long as it takes care to frame them as "partial repeals" of existing prohibitions. For example, if a state repeals its prohibitions on sports gambling only for chosen persons or entities, it may run afoul of PASPA's licensing prohibition, as New Jersey has done in this case. And other legislative efforts to encourage sports gambling may result in "authorization by law" even when cast in the form of a partial repeal. If the rule were otherwise, a state could circumvent the restrictions in [PASPA] at will simply by using the language of repeal to specify or leave intact only those sports gambling activities it wishes to sponsor and promote. In this case, the structure and scope of the 2014 [Law] suggest that New Jersey is engaged in precisely that: the authorization by law of sports gambling in the guise of repeal.
Another notable aspect of the leagues' brief is their treatment of the "fantasy sports" issue. In their opening brief, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association ("NJTHA") accused the leagues of having "unclean hands" through their sponsorship of "the same activity they seek to enjoin, namely, betting money on their games and the performances of their players on their games." By hosting games in jurisdictions where sports betting is legal (e.g., Las Vegas, London, etc.) and by entering into strategic business alliances with daily fantasy sports operators, "the leagues," the NJTHA contended, "are self-described hypocrites in this litigation and their unclean hands are rooted in their hypocrisy."

Calling this argument "barely deserving of [a] response," the leagues characterize the NJTHA's argument as "little more than a repackaging of the same fundamentally flawed standing arguments that this Court considered and rejected in the last round of litigation." The leagues defend their embrace of daily fantasy sports as "an activity that the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006 explicitly states does not constitute gambling." (Note -- this is not an entirely accurate statement. Fantasy sports are not automatically exempt under the UIGEA. It must satisfy three criteria, including that the value of the prizes is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of fees paid, and that the winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants).

Finally, the leagues conclude their 50-page response brief by positing that "if anyone comes to this Court with unclean hands, it is the defendants, who all but invited this litigation by insisting upon enacting a law that the Governor himself previously recognized is a blatant effort 'to sidestep federal law."

Next up: New Jersey's reply brief, which is due on February 27th.

Sunday, February 15, 2015
 
LeBron James elected VP of Players Association: What is the legal impact?

On Friday, LeBron James was elected Vice President of the National Basketball Players' Association. He will join NBPA president (and James friend) Chris Paul and NBPA executive director Michelle Roberts as the union's leadership team. In a new column for Sports Illustrated I look at 5 ways LeBron's ascension to a leadership position could change the future of the NBA and alter union priorities for the next collective bargaining agreement. Will the NBA's age limit change? Will star players be able to earn higher salaries? Is the NBA more likely to expand abroad? Hope you have a chance to check out the column.

 
New Developments in the Aaron Hernandez Trial


I have two new Sports Illustrated articles on the Aaron Hernandez trial, including several major developments in Friday's proceeding:


Tuesday, February 10, 2015
 
Legal Impact of Aaron Hernandez's Fiancee being granted immunity

A potentially major development occurred today in the Aaron Hernandez trial: prosecutors give his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, immunity. How will that impact the case? Here's my take tonight for Sports Illustrated.

 
Funded Opportunity for PhD Student in "Sports Law Analytics"


Starting Fall 2015, I will be be able to sponsor 1-2 new PhD students here at Florida State University (”FSU”).  New students studying under my supervision may be funded for at least three years (assuming reasonable progress each year and compliance with university guidelines).  Such funding usually includes a teaching appointment (undergraduate sports law course), a research/living stipend, a teaching/research assistant position, and tuition remission.

PhD programs in this field usually take 3-5 years.  As such, it is a considerable investment in time and may carry with it significant opportunity costs.

The phrase “sports law analytics” is in quotes for a reason…there is no doctoral degree (that I am aware of) in such a topic.  In my mind, “sports law analytics” is the application of parsimonious quantitative methods to legal issues in the sports industry.  The actual degree program here at FSU would result in a PhD in “sport management.”  However, like I did several years ago when I was a doctoral student at Indiana University, a PhD student studying under my supervision would take coursework that lends itself to being able to take a quantitative look at legal issues in sports.  Learning how to conduct archival research would be key too.  Graduates would be capable of publishing research in peer reviewed academic journals and law reviews.  Papers included in my Google Scholar profile are illustrative.

The ideal candidate would fall under one or both of the following categories: (i) someone who is a graduate of an ABA-approved law school with a documented interest in sports law and some degree of statistical acumen/interest and/or (ii) someone who holds an undergraduate or graduate degree in economics or statistics and can demonstrate an interest in sports law issues.

All candidates must be proficient in either Bluebook or APA.  Experience with Stata and/or Excel is desirable.

The foregoing is not meant to be an exhaustive explanation of the PhD program or its component parts.  If you are interested, please contact me for further details.  I am happy to discuss on the phone or in-person at an upcoming conference. 


Friday, February 06, 2015
 
Jurors in Aaron Hernandez Trial visit Hernandez's home and scene of crime

Jurors today visited Aaron Hernandez's home, along with the crime scene, the home of Odin Lloyd and cell phone towers. Here's my Sports Illustrated report on potential impact of these visits. Hope you can check it out.

 
The Legality of Adrian Peterson's suspension

Will Adrian Peterson be reinstated? Odds are against a judge helping him out. My take tonight for Sports Illustrated:

Thursday, February 05, 2015
 
Was Aaron Hernandez's home altered to appeal to jurors who love the Patriots?

Some interesting developments today in the Aaron Hernandez trial, including references to the O.J. Simpson case and Deflategate. Here's my analysis for Sports Illustrated.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015
 
New developments in Hernandez trial

In a new piece for Sports Illustrated, I look at today's developments in the trial of Aaron Hernandez.

 
Day 4 of the Aaron Hernandez Trial: Juror dismissed

In a new article for Sports Illustrated, I break down the impact of a juror being tossed in the Aaron Hernandez trial and other developments.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015
 
Caddyshack meets O'Bannon? Pro golf caddies sue PGA over "unpaid human billboard" status

I'm borrowing Dan Wallach's brilliant tweet to title this post about a new lawsuit filed by caddies against the PGA Tour. Here's my article on the lawsuit for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com.

Saturday, January 31, 2015
 
The first week of Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Aaron Hernandez


I was in Fall River, Massachusetts this week to attend and report on the Aaron Hernandez trial for Sports Illustrated. Here are a few articles I wrote:



Wednesday, January 28, 2015
 
#Not All Convictions

Sadly, the only lessons anyone will learn about campus sexual assault from the convictions of two former Vanderbilt football players is 1) Don't be so stupid (or arrogant) as to record and share your criminal activity and 2) You cannot get away with as much when you are not the star quarterback at a championship-contending football factory. More sadly, I am not sure what would happen if you have a star quarterback who is stupid enough to record. Still more sadly, we already know what happens if the non-star is smart enough not to record.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
 
Legal Analysis of the MLS Labor Crisis and whether MLS is a single entity

I have a new article for Sports Illustrated on the labor dispute in Major League Soccer and potential legal options for the players and the league. Hope you can check it out.

Monday, January 26, 2015
 
Did a Patriots staffer cause Deflategate?

Another surreal day in Deflategate. I have new article tonight for Sports Illustrated on allegations against a Patriots locker room attendant and how the Patriots are prepared to fight back. Hope you can check it out.

 
Are Retired NFL Players Making a Mistake Opting out of NFL Concussion Settlement?

In a new article for Sports Illustrated, I look at the advantages and disadvantages for retired players and families who opt out of the settlement and pursue their own lawsuits.

Saturday, January 24, 2015
 
Legal Fallout of Bill Belichick's Science Defense and Response by NFL and NFLPA

I have a new column for Sports Illustrated tonight on Bill Belichick's press conference today on Deflategate. He offered a detailed and I think persuasive defense, but NFL and NFLPA will still have questions. Hope you can read the piece. I was also a guest on Don Lemon's CNN Show to talk about Deflategate:

Friday, January 23, 2015
 
McCants v. UNC: New academic fraud lawsuit filed against UNC and the NCAA

In a new Sports Illustrated article, Jon Wertheim and I break down McCants v. UNC and what it means for college sports.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
 
A Legal Analysis of Deflategate

Just when the Patriots thought they were all set for the Super Bowl, Deflategate happens. My take for Sports Illustrated.

 
This Friday: Charleston Sports Law Symposium

Several of our contributors, including Warren Zola and Timothy Liam Epstein, will be featured panelists at Charleston Law School's Sports Law Symposium next Friday, January 30, 2015. Titled "Under Further Review: A Legal Look at the World of Sports," this one-day conference includes several timely panel discussions on, among other things, NCAA reform and the future of college athletics, concussions, injuries and medico-legal issues in sports, and the interplay between professional sports league discipline and the due process rights of players and owners. Warren Zola will be on two panels (including the one on NCAA reform), and is moderating the panel titled "League Scandals: Disciplinary Powers and Due Process, which features Chicago-based sports law attorney Scott Andreson, sports business and tax expert Robert Raiola, and me as panelists. The keynote speaker of the symposium is Megha Parekh, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. For more information about the symposium, including how to register, click here. Hope to see you next Friday.

Under Further Review:
A Legal Look at the World of Sports

January 30, 2015
Charleston Music Hall, 37 John Street
The Seventh Annual Law & Society Symposium

Co-Sponsored by the Charleston Law Review and the Richard W. Riley Institute of
Government, Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University

Keynote Address
Megha Parekh

Senior Vice President, General Counsel
Jacksonville Jaguars

Panel One

Reform in College Athletics and
the Future of the NCAA
Warren ZolaChair, Boston College's Professional Sports Counseling Panel & Executive Director of the Office of Corporate and Government Affairs
Angela LittlejohnLegal Advisor, Furman University
Timothy Liam EpsteinPartner, SmithAmundsen

Panel Two

Concussions, Injuries, and
Medico-Legal Issues in Sports
H. Hunt Batjer, M.D.Former Co-Chair, NFL's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee
David Geier, Jr., M.D.Director, East Cooper Sports Medicine
Timothy Liam EpsteinPartner, SmithAmundsen

Panel Three

League Scandals: 
Disciplinary Powers and Due Process
Daniel WallachShareholder, Becker & Poliakoff
Scott AndresenFounderAndresen & Associates P.C.
Robert Raiola, C.P.A., Sports and Entertainment Group Manager, O'Connor Davies LLP

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
 
Ninth Circuit Upholds Baseball's Antitrust Exemption

On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of the antitrust lawsuit brought against Major League Baseball by the city of San Jose, California.  San Jose filed the suit back in June 2013, alleging that MLB's refusal to approve the relocation of the Oakland Athletics to the city violated the Sherman Act.  MLB has had the proposed relocation under consideration for nearly six years, but has failed to act in large part because the San Jose territory is currently assigned to the San Francisco Giants, who have refused to allow the move.  In October 2013, district court Ronald M. Whyte dismissed San Jose's case, finding that it's antitrust claims were covered by baseball's antitrust exemption. 

A unanimous, three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed this ruling on Thursday.  In the court's opinion (available here), Judge Alex Kozinski held that baseball's antitrust exemption clearly applies to its relocation policies, since those policies are central to the baseball business.  Moreover, the court also determined that the Curt Flood Act of 1998 - the act giving major league players the right to file antitrust suits against MLB - forecloses San Jose's suit.  In particular, the Ninth Circuit highlighted a provision in the act stating that it "does not create, permit or imply a cause of action by which to challenge under the antitrust laws . . . franchise . . . relocation."  The court held that this language confirmed that Congress did not intend for the Sherman Act to apply to MLB's relocation policy.

For more on the Ninth Circuit's decision, fellow Sports Law Blog contributor Ed Edmonds and I discussed the case on Friday on Bloomberg Radio.  Our discussion is available here.

Meanwhile, on a related note, I discussed this month's 100th anniversary of MLB's first antitrust challenge - the Federal League's 1915 lawsuit against the American and National Leagues argued before Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis in Chicago - on the NPR program Only a Game this weekend.  That interview is available here




Friday, January 16, 2015
 
Is the NFL's eligibility rule vulnerable to legal challenge?

On SI Now today, I talk about a potential legal challenge to the NFL's eligibility rule, which requires that players be three years out of high school. I reference the extraordinary work of Alan Milstein, who was interviewed in Time Magazine on this topic.



Sunday, January 11, 2015
 
This Friday: 5th Annual Duke Sports & Entertainment Law Symposium

If you're in the Raleigh-Durham area this Friday, January 16th, I strongly encourage you to attend the Fifth Annual Sports & Entertainment Law Symposium, sponsored by Duke University School of Law. This one-day event offers panel discussions covering a wide range of hot topics in the world of sports and entertainment law. There will be panels on stadium financing and development, publicity rights of college athletes, personal conduct policies of sports leagues and schools (e.g., Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Jameis Winston), sports betting legalization, and daily fantasy sports. The symposium concludes with a reception at 4:30 pm. Registration is free! For more information about the symposium, including how to register, click here. The symposium schedule appears below. Hope to see you Friday.
Schedule of Events
8:30 Registration Breakfast – 3rd Floor Lobby, Duke Law School
9:00-10:00: Financing and Development of Professional Athletic Venues:
Understanding the legal issues and economic tradeoffs between the public and private sectors when determining how and when to build a new stadium are key to all sports development and growth strategies. Given the sky-rocketing cost of team operations, the need to build new revenue generating venues can motivate a team’s desire to relocate if local authorities are reluctant to subsidize construction costs or facilitate stadium development. New stadium construction involves many legal issues—real estate, tax, public zoning, permitting and environmental impact—all of which must be vetted, debated and resolved before a new facility can be built. This Interdisciplinary panel will discuss the complexities of facility development as well as highlight the potential economic benefits and problems that can emerge throughout the process.
  • Mark Conrad, Director, Sports Business Program, Fordham Gabelli School of Business
  • Victor Matheson, Professor of Economics, College of the Holy Cross
  • Irwin Raij, Co-Chair Sports Industry Team, Foley Lardner
10:00-11:00: Royalties in the Modern Music Industry
The Royalties Panel will address how the online and digital world has changed the way music is licensed, particularly how this change has affected songwriter, composer, and music publisher fees, and back-end royalties associated with music projects.​
  • Jennifer Jenkins, Duke Law (moderator)
  • Coe W. Ramsey, Brooks Pierce
  • Sean Peace, CEO & Co-founder of Royalty Exchange
  • Robert Monath, Robert Monath Law
  • David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer
11:00-12:00: Misappropriation of College Athletes’ Rights
This Misappropriation of College Athletes’ Rights panel will discuss the publicity rights of student athletes and the recent tension with the NCAA, publishers, and other parties regarding the use of athletes’ name, image, or likeness.
  • Gabe Feldman, Director, Sports Law Program, Tulane University Law School
  • Robert Carey, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLP
  • Stuart Paynter, The Paynter Law Firm
  • Mark Conrad, Director, Sports Business Program, Fordham Gabelli School of Business
 12:00-1:00: Lunch – Provided by Q Shack
 1:00-2:00: The Importance of Personal Conduct Policies for Schools, Teams, and Leagues
In 2014 the NFL faced significant controversy regarding its handling of a number of highly publicized cases, including Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. Criticism of the NFL often focused on the importance of fair and sensible personal conduct policies and procedures to protect the league, and its teams and members; the powers of the commissioner; violations of the CBA and violations of due process. This panel will focus on the importance of personal conduct policies and procedures for both professional and collegiate athletic organizations.
  • Paul Haagen, Professor, Duke Law (moderator)
  • Scott Andresen, Andresen & Associates
  • Daniel Wallach, Becker & Poliakoff
  • John Hogan, The Law Offices of John V. Hogan
  • Todd Clark, Professor, North Carolina Central School of Law School
 2:00-3:00: Impacts of the Supreme Court’s Aereo Decision
A significant cord-cutting trend has been developing among television consumers, as audiences are increasingly viewing live or time-shifted television exclusively through the Internet rather than cable. Aereo offered just such a service, allowing customers to watch free, over-the-air broadcasts through their website. Specifically, customers accessed Aereo’s website to choose their desired programming — Aereo then tuned antennas to the relevant stations, and captured and retransmitted the signal to their customers. The Supreme Court ruled against Aereo — the services provided were too similar to that of a cable system.
This holding amounted to a clear victory for broadcasters; Aereo‘s impact on technology and innovation is more unclear. Which technologies are now infringing because they are also similar to a cable service? The court declined to discuss cloud storage and network DVR, yet they are increasingly ubiquitous in the lifestyles of the average media consumer. Join our panelists as they discuss the impact of the Aereo decision and where they see the future of media entertainment and technology heading. 
  • Julia Ambrose, Brooks Pierce
  • John Kivus, Wood Jackson
  • Harry Cole, Fletcher Heald & Hildreth
  • Brandon Huffman, Stevens Martin
 3:00-4:00: The Line Between Fantasy Sports and Gambling
In 2014, an estimated 41 million people played fantasy sports in North America. The recent growth of daily fantasy sports websites, such as FanDuel, has led to large financial investments from venture capital firms and partnerships with professional leagues and teams. Yet the leagues are currently fighting to prevent the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey, as they have in other states. This panel will discuss what separates fantasy sports from gambling and what the difference means for sports leagues.
  • Daniel Wallach, Becker & Poliakoff
  • Robert Raiola, O’Connor Davies, LLP
  • Gabe Feldman, Director, Sports Law Program, Tulane University Law School
4:30 Reception: Duke Law Star Commons Mezzanine

 
The NFLRA & The NFL Playoffs

If you are unhappy with the officiating in the NFL playoffs this year blame the union—the NFL Referees Association. The NFLRA decided to use “all-star” crews, assigning the league’s highest rated officials to work playoff games. The obvious problem is that these crews haven’t worked any games together as a unit, and their ability to blend and communicate is causing problems.

The NFLRA rates officials during the year, and the highest graded individuals are selected to work the playoffs--but not with their regular season crew. How did this happen? Because this right was collectively bargained for by the union with the NFL during the 2012 labor negotiations.

For a detailed analysis of this decision, including the rules involved in the selection of officials, here’s a link to the piece in today’s Boston Globe by their fantastic NFL writer Ben Volin who follows in the footsteps of Greg Bedard and Will McDonough in this space.

Friday, January 09, 2015
 
The Mueller Report on Ray Rice and the NFL

I have an article on SI.com on the Mueller Report and what it means for the NFL, Roger Goodell and the Associated Press.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015
 
Oklahoma Courts are not the Field to Remedy a High School Football Referee Blunder

While there are some out there claiming that the recent “phantom flag” against the Dallas Cowboys was the right call, the majority of both fans and analysts (and not just those based in Detroit) are crying foul.  While the Lions will not get a replay of the game, the idea of replaying a game (or a portion of a game) due to a bad call is not unprecedented.  In some cases, the idea of a replay due to an official’s error makes its way to the courthouse.  The Oklahoma high school football playoffs were recently engaged in a clock-suspending standstill while a state court determined whether it had the ability to intervene in the aftermath of a grievous referee error.  Frederick A. Douglass High School sought the replay of either the final sixty-four seconds or its entire quarterfinal game against Locust Grove High School after the referees incorrectly negated a touchdown with a five-yard penalty that should have been assessed on the ensuing kickoff. 

Despite an apology and public admonishment of the mistake from the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA), many were left unsatisfied when the OSSAA concluded that a replay would not occur.  The OSSAA cited its concern for setting a precedent that allowed every on-field decision to be subjected to protest, appeal, and replay.

The Oklahoma City School District, on behalf of Douglass High, filed a lawsuit requesting a replay on the grounds that it was unreasonable for the OSSAA to not intervene after the referees admitted to not knowing the relevant penalty assessment.  As outrage mounted, District Judge Bernard M. Jones II issued a temporary restraining order, which postponed the impending semifinal playoff game involving Locust Grove.  Judge Jones noted, however, that the District faced a heavy burden to prove that greater injunctive relief should be granted.

Unfortunately for Douglass High and its supporters, precedent involving judicial intervention of high school athletics is not favorable.  Whereas NCAA rules permit replays in the face of serious referee error, there is no analogous high school provision.  Interestingly enough, the 2013 Oklahoma high school baseball playoffs were suspended for a month while a participating school tried to use state courts to challenge an ineligibility ruling made by the OSSAA. 

Ultimately, Judge Jones eliminated the possibility of a court-sanctioned replay after he found that the OSSAA had not violated or disregarded its policies in a manner that warranted injunctive relief.  In his order dismissing the claim, the judge emphasized that “it borders on the unreasonable” to believe that a court is “more equipped or better qualified than [the OSSAA] to decide the outcome of any portion of a high school football game.”  Moreover, Judge Jones reasoned:

"This slippery slope of solving athletic contests in court instead of on campus will inevitably usher in a new era of robed referees and meritless litigation due to disagreement with or disdain for decisions of gaming officials — an unintended consequence which hurts both the court system and the citizens it is designed to protect."      

The entire order can be read here.

Maybe as a sign of karmic intervention, Locust Grove was ousted from the playoffs after losing to Heritage Hall High School when the semifinal game was finally played. 

I can see why a judge would be reluctant to simply reverse a win or a loss for a game that has already been played, but if there is an admission of a bad call by officials, and that bad call substantially altered the outcome of a game, why put an absolute bar on replaying the game if the teams are able to accommodate?  Unfortunately, I have personally heard language like this from judges on more than one occasion when trying to get injunctive relief for student-athletes and schools.  “Counsel, it is not my job to make line-ups,” or “I am a judge, and not a ‘super referee.’”  I well recognize that participation in extracurricular sports is a privilege, and not a right, and therefore not accorded the same levels of constitutional protection; however, with an ever increasing amount of money coming into sports, and the benefits and value of athletic scholarships continuing to increase, the judiciary needs to revisit the idea that athletic participation may warrant intervention prior to the professional levels.

Hat tip to law clerk, Ben Barnett, for his assistance on this.




Tuesday, January 06, 2015
 
New Book: Careers in Sports Law

Readers of Sports Law Blog regularly come to us for advice on how to land jobs working in the field. Recognizing the great interest among law students and practitioners in our practice area, Professor Geoffrey Rapp and I have written a book on Careers in Sports Law.

We believe the book provides a realistic depiction of how to try to break into the sports law field. The book also provides some suggestions about what to consider when applying to law school and selecting law school courses.

For those of you interested in pursuing a career in sports law, we encourage you to consider purchasing a copy of the book or asking your college/law school library or career counselors to acquire a copy so that you can borrow it for long enough to read the chapters most pertinent to you,





Wednesday, December 31, 2014
 
Michigan Legislation Prohibits College Athlete Unions

It is now illegal in Michigan for college athletes at any public university to form a labor union for purposes of collective bargaining.  No comment.

Saturday, December 27, 2014
 
Gutless educational administrators, Part 6,577 (Updated

This is pathetic and really depressing. (Note the title has been changed to indicate that the face of this decision is not the school's AD, but its principal).

First, we bemoan about how uninvolved and politically disinterested "kids today" are, then we systematically shut down their efforts to be involved or to take a stand.

Second, note the administration's move here--"we are too small to keep the peace 'should someone get upset and choose to act out,' so we are just going to stop people from speaking." This is a preemptive heckler's veto--In the ordinary heckler's veto, government stops the speaker when the crowd gets unruly and actually threatens violence; here, the government is stopping the speaker with no basis to know or reason to believe that anyone will get unruly, essentially by pleading poverty. Of course, government never has enough resources to protect everyone should someone decide to act out (someone will get hurt before police/security can respond). So, taken to its extreme, no one should be able to say anything that (government finds) controversial or objectionable, because government never can guarantee complete safety.

Third, while high schools are different and administrators have much greater control over expression on school grounds, this seems a step too far, particularly as to fans in the stands. Is an "I Can't Breathe" shirt really more likely to cause a disruption than an armband in the middle of Vietnam?

Fourth, given the insistence that "all political statements" be kept away from the tournament, should we assume that the national anthem will not be sung?

The tourney begins Monday. No indication that the players or potential shirt-wearing fans are running to court to even try to get an injunction.

Update: Some more details in this story. Before explaining the preemptive heckler's veto, the principal of the host school--a professional educator--indicated that she "respected the Mendocino teams 'for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them.'" Apparently, however, this professional educator does not respect them enough to not punish them for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them. Irony really is dead.

The Huff Post story also indicates that the father has been in touch with the ACLU and is hoping to hear back after the holiday. Someone in the N.D. Cal. is going to be handling an emergency TRO Monday morning.

Further Update: The school district relented following negotiations with an attorney for one of the players--players and spectators will be permitted to wear the t-shirts, so long as they "do not cause any serious problems at the tournament." Of course, framing it that way walks us right back to the heckler's veto--if I object to the shirts, my motivation is to cause a disruption, which would then prompt the school district to do what I want and stop people from wearing them.

Sunday, December 21, 2014
 
Jameis Winston cleared in code of conduct hearing: what's next?

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been cleared in his code of conduct hearing. What's next for his legal situation? I break it down on Sports Illustrated tonight with some outstanding contributions by Florida attorney Daniel Wallach. Hope you can read the piece.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
 
Fighters file antitrust lawsuit against the Ultimate Fighting Championship

Current and former fighters have filed a potentially game-changing lawsuit against the UFC over salaries and UFC's business practices. Here's my analysis of the lawsuit for Sports Illustrated - hope you have a chance to check it out.

 
But can I wear my "Fuck the Draft" jacket?

From Judge Susan E. Gash, presiding over the trial of NFL player Aaron Hernandez:
No person wearing clothing, or a button or other object attached to clothing, or carrying an object that displays any Patriots or other NFL team logo, football-related insignia, or words and/or a photograph that relate in any way to this case will be permitted entry to the Fall River Justice Center during any phase of the trial.
Does this seem excessive, especially as it applies not only to the courtroom, but within the entire building? And is it necessary to ban everything related to all of football, not just the Patriots or even just the NFL? Is it really that problematic for jurors to see any and all football-related things?

 
The best defense of athlete speech you will read

Courtesy of Cleveland Browns' Andrew Hawkins (he of the "Justice" t-shirt in Sunday's game that a Cleveland police union official labeled "pathetic"):

“I was taught that justice is a right that every American should have. Also justice should be the goal of every American. I think that’s what makes this country. To me, justice means the innocent should be found innocent. It means that those who do wrong should get their due punishment. Ultimately, it means fair treatment. So a call for justice shouldn’t offend or disrespect anybody. A call for justice shouldn’t warrant an apology.

“To clarify, I utterly respect and appreciate every police officer that protects and serves all of us with honesty, integrity and the right way. And I don’t think those kind of officers should be offended by what I did. My mom taught me my entire life to respect law enforcement. I have family, close friends that are incredible police officers and I tell them all the time how they are much braver than me for it. So my wearing a T-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department. My wearing the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people.

“Unfortunately, my mom also taught me just as there are good police officers, there are some not-so-good police officers that would assume the worst of me without knowing anything about me for reasons I can’t control. She taught me to be careful and be on the lookout for those not-so-good police officers because they could potentially do me harm and most times without consequences. Those are the police officers that should be offended.

“Being a police officer takes bravery. And I understand that they’re put in difficult positions and have to make those snap decisions. As a football player, I know a little bit about snap decisions, obviously on an extremely lesser and non-comparative scale, because when a police officer makes a snap decision, it’s literally a matter of life and death. That’s hard a situation to be in. But if the wrong decision is made, based on pre-conceived notions or the wrong motives, I believe there should be consequence. Because without consequence, naturally the magnitude of the snap decisions is lessened, whether consciously or unconsciously.

“I’m not an activist, in any way, shape or form. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I keep my opinions to myself on most matters. I worked extremely hard to build and keep my reputation especially here in Ohio, and by most accounts I’ve done a solid job of decently building a good name. Before I made the decision to wear the T-shirt, I understood I was putting that reputation in jeopardy to some of those people who wouldn’t necessarily agree with my perspective. I understood there was going to be backlash, and that scared me, honestly. But deep down I felt like it was the right thing to do. If I was to run away from what I felt in my soul was the right thing to do, that would make me a coward, and I can’t live with that. God wouldn’t be able to put me where I am today, as far as I’ve come in life, if I was a coward.

“As you well know, and it’s well documented, I have a 2-year-old little boy. The same 2-year-old little boy that everyone said was cute when I jokingly threw him out of the house earlier this year. That little boy is my entire world. And the No. 1 reason for me wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin scares the living hell out of me. And my heart was broken for the parents of Tamir and John Crawford knowing they had to live that nightmare of a reality.

“So, like I said, I made the conscious decision to wear the T-shirt. I felt like my heart was in the right place. I’m at peace with it and those that disagree with me, this is America, everyone has the right to their first amendment rights. Those who support me, I appreciate your support. But at the same time, support the causes and the people and the injustices that you feel strongly about. Stand up for them. Speak up for them. No matter what it is because that’s what America’s about and that’s what this country was founded on.”

Monday, December 15, 2014
 
Does Adrian Peterson's lawsuit against the NFL have a chance?

I break Adrian Peterson v. NFL down today on SI NOW with host Maggie Gray. Hope you can watch the video:



 
Regulating Professional Sports Leagues


I recently posted a copy of my latest law review article, "Regulating Professional Sports Leagues," to SSRN.  The paper, to be published next year in the Washington & Lee Law Review, makes the case for a federal sports regulatory agency (admittedly, a proposal that is unlikely to be adopted anytime soon).  Here's the abstract for the paper:
Four monopoly sports leagues currently dominate the U.S. professional sports industry. Although federal antitrust law — the primary source of regulation governing the industry — would normally be expected to provide a significant check on anticompetitive, monopolistic behavior, it has failed to effectively govern the leagues due to both their well-entrenched monopoly status and the unique level of coordination necessary among their respective teams. Consequently, the four leagues today each in many respects enjoy unregulated monopoly status in what is estimated to be a $67 billion industry.

As one might expect, these leagues use their largely unchecked monopoly power to injure the public in various ways. By restricting expansion, leagues create an artificial shortage of franchises enabling their existing teams to extract billions of dollars in stadium subsidies from U.S. taxpayers. Similarly, by preventing their franchises from individually licensing their broadcast rights nationally or over the Internet, the leagues are able to demand significantly higher fees from television networks and consumers than would be obtainable in a competitive marketplace, while at the same time subjecting viewers to arcane and outdated blackout provisions.

Unfortunately, existing proposals in the academic literature to remedy this undesirable state of affairs are both impractical and unlikely to be effective. This article instead proposes a surprisingly overlooked solution: the creation of a federal sports regulatory agency. Because the U.S. professional sports leagues today effectively operate as natural monopolies — with nearly 150 years of history establishing that competing leagues cannot sustainably co-exist in a sport for any significant length of time — direct government regulation of the industry is warranted. Indeed, a specialized agency would be particularly well suited to ensure that the leagues’ activities are aligned with the public interest, while at the same time accommodating the industry’s unusual economic characteristics.
You can download the full piece here.  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

 
Free speech in the NFL, ctd.

After this happened two weeks ago (and may or may nor have been resolved by what may or may not have been an apology from the Rams), this happened in Cleveland yesterday: Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a t-shirt during pre-game intros calling for "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford," both of whom were recently shot to death by Cleveland police officers. This follows on the heels of numerous NBA players, including some Cleveland Cavs, wearing "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts during pre-game warm-ups.

The head of the Police Patrolmen Union then offered this:

It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.

If possible, this one is even more tone-deaf than the statement from the St. Louis police union spokesman. Note the familiar beats of 1) arrogant paternalism ("Stick to football and don't speak out on matters of public interest the way ordinary citizens can") and 2) mild threat ("We protect you, but if you don't appreciate us, maybe we won't anymore").

This is not going away anytime soon.

Update: The Browns responded in a far more unequivocal and unambiguous way: "We have great respect for the Cleveland Police Department and the work that they do to protect and serve our city. We also respect our players' rights to project their support and bring awareness to issues that are important to them if done so in a responsible manner."

That last qualifier is always the kicker of course; someone who wanted to could say that what the players did is not responsible. They would be wrong, of course, but there you go. I guess the next move is whether the department tries to pull out of providing game-day security (my guess: No, because the rank-and-file officers want the pay that comes with it).

Further Update: Will Leitch of Sports on Earth explains why this sort of athlete activism is a good thing (he was writing about the "I Can't Breathe" shirts in the NBA rather than the NFL examples, but the point is the same).

Sunday, December 14, 2014
 
Adrian Peterson's Legal Options

Now that Adrian Peterson has lost his NFL appeal, is he headed to court? My new column for Sports Illustrated on Peterson's legal strategy and the NFL's likely defenses. Hope you can check it out.

Saturday, December 13, 2014
 
A saitirical take on the Washington Professional Football Team

In California Law Review CircuitAlex Pearl (Texas Tech) goes Jonathan Swift on the controversy over the Washington Professional Football Team's nickname.