Sports Law Blog
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Monday, October 20, 2014
No Backing Down by NFL agent Sean Stellato

Last year at a conference I met Sean Stellato, an NFL agent based in Massachusetts. Sean has over a dozen clients on the Patriots and other NFL teams. Sean has since become an insightful and candid mentor to my UNH Law students who are interested in becoming agents.

Sean is the author of a new book, No Backing Down, that raises sports law issues in a high school sports context. The book is about how a teachers' strike in Salem, Massachusetts back in 1994 resulted in Salem High School's head football coach Ken Perrone defying an order to cease and desist to coach his team to the state's Super Bowl. Perrone's decision attracted national attention and it quickly became a headline sports story in Massachusetts. I had recently been a student at nearby St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts when this controversy took place and remember it well.

Perrone and his coaching staff paid a steep price. They were sharply criticized by the town's school board and lost their jobs.

No Backing Down is about making difficult choices in the context of sports legal constraints and is a terrific read. Sean's book is also inspirational and interesting. I strongly suggest checking it out.  Here is a video about the book:

Saturday, October 18, 2014
Not So Fast on NJ Sports Betting; Injunction Hearing Looms

With yesterday's bombshell announcement that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation partially repealing the state-law prohibition against sports wagering and also withdrew his federal court motion seeking to clarify the existing injunction, many are trumpeting the arrival of legal sports betting in New Jersey. But not so fast. While Monmouth Park Racetrack is making plans to launch sports wagering beginning on October 26th, Atlantic City's casinos are wisely taking a "wait-and-see" approach. And for good reason too, as legal sports betting in New Jersey remains a long shot despite Governor Christie's headline-grabbing move yesterday. I expect the sports leagues and the DOJ to counter New Jersey's surprise move by dropping a bombshell of their own next week: they will likely file an emergency motion for an ex parte temporary restraining order prohibiting Monmouth Park and any other licensed racetrack or casino from offering sports betting. As part of that request, the leagues and the DOJ will also ask the federal court judge (Michael A. Shipp) to schedule a hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction.

Expect the leagues and the DOJ to argue that New Jersey's partial repeal (which is limited solely to casinos and racetracks) runs afoul of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act ("PASPA"), which prohibits States from "sponsoring, licensing or authorizing" sports wagering, because casinos and racetracks require licenses to operate in New Jersey and are heavily regulated by the State. Thus, as the DOJ argued in their response to New Jersey's motion last month, "[a]s long as the only entities that may engage in sports wagering must be licensed by New Jersey, New Jersey is in effect licensing sports wagering, which is squarely within PASPA's licensing prohibition."

The leagues and the NCAA raised similar concerns in response to New Jersey's recent motion, stating:
[V]irtually every detail concerning the operation of casinos and racetracks is heavily regulated by both State law and by regulations promulgated by the [Division of Gaming Enforcement] and Racing Commission. For example, State regulations upon casinos and racetracks include licensing and permitting requirements (e.g., N.J. Stat. Ann. ss 5:5-32 & 5:12-96), specifications on equipment used for gambling (id., ss 5:5-63; 5:12-100), and payment to the State of a portion of revenue derived from casino and racetrack wagering (id., ss 5:5-48; 5:12-144).
According to defendants, all of these regulations will apply equally to sports wagering [under a partial repeal]. In other words, in their view, this Court's injunction leaves New Jersey free to accomplish precisely what the Sports Wagering Law was enacted to achieve: state-regulated sports wagering in casinos and racetracks. Not only is that result flatly inconsistent with this Court's injunction; it is flatly inconsistent with PASPA. PASPA does not prohibit States from repealing existing prohibitions ad "complete[ly] deregulating" sports wagering. [citation omitted]. But it does prohibit States from simply labeling something a "repeal" that is plainly, in substance, authorization and regulation of sports gambling. Accordingly, defendants' latest arguments are nothing more than a blatant attempt to circumvent the Court's injunction and the federal law that it prohibits defendants from violating.
(Leagues' Response, at pp. 12-13)

The leagues and the DOJ make a fair point about New Jersey's partial repeal being a "back-door" licensing and regulation of sports betting. Think about it. What do you think would happen if the sports book of a New Jersey casino or racetrack accepted "prohibited wagers," such as wagers from persons under the age of 21 or wagers on contests involving New Jersey collegiate sports teams, both of which are prohibited under the new law. They would be prosecuted, of course, by New Jersey law enforcement authorities. But don't think for one second that New Jersey gaming regulators (such as the Division of Gaming Enforcement) wouldn't also take a hard look at such illegal activity. A casino and racetrack that accepted illegal sports bets could very well find its license suspended, revoked or non-renewed, and also be subjected to substantial fines. Consider what might also occur if a New Jersey casino or racetrack accepted sports wagers from convicted felons or failed to honor winning wagers. Their State-issued license would be in serious jeopardy. Thus, a persuasive argument can be made that, even under a partial repeal, New Jersey would still be able to "regulate" the sports wagering activities of casinos and racetracks.

And what about the revenues attributable to sports wagering? Under existing law, New Jersey's casinos are required to pay the state 8% of gross gaming revenues (GGR)? Would revenues from sports wagers be included in GGR? If they are included, the state would be "taxing" the sports wagering activities of its licensed casinos, which could be viewed as a violation of PASPA. But even if New Jersey did not directly tax sports wagering revenues, it would still "indirectly" tax sports betting by virtue of the fact that the presence of sports books at casinos and racetracks would attract additional patrons who would wager on casino games or horse races, thereby increasing both GGR and the tax payments thereon. Either way, the State would reap a substantial monetary benefit from "unregulated" sports wagering, which might very well place its recent legislative action in the cross-hairs of PASPA.

And has anyone considered the Wire Act as a possible surprise argument by the leagues and the DOJ? The Wire Act prohibits the use of a "wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest." 18 U.S.C. s 1084(a). Sports books, such as those operating in Nevada (and possibly Monmouth Park), use computerized bookmaking services and communications technology to handle their sports bets. Could the use of such technology by Monmouth Park or another New Jersey gaming operator trigger the Wire Act? Possibly. Remember, the Third Circuit has already concluded that sports wagering "substantially affects interstate commerce." It will be interesting to see if the leagues invoke the Wire Act next week as part of their expected assault on Monmouth Park's plans to offer sports betting beginning October 26th.

Several people have asked me whether Monmouth Park, a private entity (although the leagues would dispute that), is beyond the reach of PASPA. Since PASPA prohibits state-sponsored sports betting, their reasoning is that private persons are not covered by PASPA. But that overlooks Section 3702(2) of PASPA, which prohibits private parties from conducting sports wagering "pursuant to the law or compact of a governmental entity." The leagues would argue that Monmouth Park's operation of a sports books is "pursuant to the law" signed by Governor Christie on Friday. The leagues are also expected to argue that Monmouth Park is a "state governmental entity' (and thus subject to PASPA) because it is owned and operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority ("NJSEA"). Thus, based on the state's alleged ownership of Monmouth Park, the Leagues would argue that any sports wagering conducted at Monmouth Park "would violate the provisions of PASPA that prohibit a State from directly sponsoring, operating, or advertising sports wagering." However, New Jersey officials are expected to dispute that characterization, claiming that the NJSEA only owns the land, but does not operate the racetrack.

PREDICTION: At some point between October 20th and October 24th, the leagues and the DOJ will file an emergency motion for an ex parte temporary restraining order seeking to block Monmouth Park Racetrack from offering sports betting. The motion will be filed on an "emergency" basis because Monmouth Park has announced that it will offer sports betting beginning October 26th, which is one week away. The leagues and DOJ thus need to file their motion this week to have any realistic chance of blocking Monmouth Park from offering sports betting beginning next Sunday. Any delay in filing this motion could expose the leagues and the DOJ to the argument that they have "waived" the right to claim an "irreparable injury" (one of the requirements for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction). Thus, it would be a shocker if the leagues and the DOJ did not act quickly on this, such as by filing their motion on Monday or Tuesday. As part of their emergency motion, I expect the leagues and DOJ to also ask for a preliminary injunction prohibiting all New Jersey casinos and racetracks from conducting sports wagering. Judge Shipp will likely issue the temporary restraining order later this week, and schedule a hearing on the preliminary injunction for November (possibly the same November 21st date that was already slotted for the hearing on New Jersey's now-withdrawn motion for clarification and/or modification of the injunction).

Things are about to get real interesting in New Jersey!

Friday, October 17, 2014
Jameis Winston, FSU's Student Code and Due Process

In a new article, I look at the many reasons why Jameis Winston should be worried about a university hearing and what legal options he has to stop it. I interviewed several top legal minds for this story, including Daniel Wallach, Erin Buzuvis, Todd Zywicki, Alan Milstein and John Banzhaf. Hope you can read it.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

In addition to containing ambiguous language about whether a former judge can preside over a hearing, FSU’s code affords Winston far fewer legal protections than he would obtain in a trial. Some attorneys find FSU’s format for a disciplinary hearing untenable.Alan Milstein, an attorney at Sherman Silverstein who has litigated on behalf of high-profile sports figures, is one of them. “It is appalling that a university,” Milstein tells, “would not understand that due process is not a privilege and is not just a fundamental right -- it is the best path to discovering the truth.“ 
The lack of legal protections for Winston provides him an incentive to try to delay a hearing or drop out of school. “It would be a kangaroo court proceeding,” George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki predicts in an interview with, “Winston would be ill-advised to take his chances with that.” Zywicki adds, “The striking distinction here is that the state attorney, who has to make his case in a real court, obviously doesn't believe there is enough evidence to go forward.”
While a university disciplinary hearing is not a trial in the traditional sense, it must still comport with due process. Daniel Wallach, an appellate attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, explains that, “even in the context of school disciplinary proceedings, the opportunity to confront one’s accusers and cross-examine them is an essential part of the due process requirement.” Wallach says that “a Florida court would be more likely to enjoin these proceedings if it believed that basic due process protections were lacking.”

To read the rest, click here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014
Turn pro now, Jameis Winston?

In a new column for Sports Illustrated, I argue that Jameis Winston should be seriously considering dropping out of Florida State University and turning his attention to the 2015 NFL draft. My argument is based on the forthcoming FSU disciplinary hearing, which Winston and his attorneys may regard as designed to reflect poorly on Winston. I interview Alan Milstein (who litigated on behalf of Maurice Clarett while he was at Ohio State) and Dan Wallach. Hope you have a chance to read it.

Here is an excerpt:
Winston has yet another important reason to drop out: He may later have an adversarial relationship with Florida State as a co-defendant. It is widely expected that Winston’s accuser will eventually sue Winston, Florida State and the Tallahassee Police Department. This litigation could place the three as co-defendants in the same lawsuit or as defendants in separate lawsuits. In either scenario, each would attempt to deflect fault away from itself and onto the other two. Should Winston testify in a disciplinary hearing, Florida State could later use those statements to pin the blame on Winston.
To read the rest, click here. For a video on 120 Sports on this SI column, check out this video.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Never, ever say sports are not political

Video here.

Monday, October 06, 2014
What does the NBA's new TV deal mean for a lockout and expansion?

I have a new column for Sports Illustrated on the legal and business impact of the NBA's new $24 billion deal with ESPN and Turner. Hope you have a chance to check it out.

Here is an excerpt:

* * *

4. Silver can now turn to other priorities

After he took over as commissioner earlier this year, Silver surprised many by expressing that raising the NBA’s age eligibility rule was his top priority. The rule, which is contained in the CBA, requires that U.S. players be at least 19 years old and one year out of high school, while international players -- many of whom turn pro in foreign leagues when they are 14 or 15 -- be at least 19 years old. The rule is controversial on many fronts, and as a disclosure, I have long argued against a rule that prevents players from entering the NBA out of high school. The view of Silver and many others is that the NBA would be better off with older, more polished players. These players are also more marketable when they enter the NBA as their names are often familiar to NBA fans who follow college basketball.
Any change to the league’s eligibility rule would have to be collectively bargained with the NBPA. The NBPA represents the interests of prospective players even though those players, who are in high school or younger, are not NBPA members and thus have no seat at the bargaining table.
One twist to the age eligibility discussion is the possibility that NBA’s D-League could become a more attractive employer to players who are legally too young for the NBA but not interested in playing college basketball or going abroad. The D-League’s age limit is 18, meaning that players are eligible for employment out of high school. Few take advantage of that option due to the league’s low salaries for a six-month season. D-League salaries are reportedly capped at $25,000, although players on NBA contracts who are assigned to the D-League are still paid their NBA salaries.
In his press conference Monday, Silver highlighted that the D-League would benefit from the new TV deal. To that extent, increased TV revenue would mean higher salaries for players and a professional life more akin to playing in the NBA. That should enable the D-League to better compete with the NCAA for top young talent.

* * *
To read the rest, click here.

How to break into sports law? Here's how I did it.

I'm honored to be the subject of an article in this past Sunday's Concord Monitor. News columnist Ray Duckler penned the story, in which I talk about how I broke into sports law, some of the stories I've covered and sports figures I've interviewed and how I use my Sports Illustrated work to better teach my UNH Law sports and entertainment law students. I hope you might enjoy reading it.

Here is an excerpt:

McCann flew to Austin, Texas. He rented a car and drove to Armstrong’s estate, a huge compound enclosed by an electronic gate. Once McCann figured out how to use the digital communications device, the housekeeper let him in and Armstrong moved down a spiral staircase for their talk.

“His central theme was that everyone was cheating, so why was his conduct elevated to this position?” McCann said.

The two discussed a $100 million lawsuit filed by the U.S. Postal Service, which sponsored Armstrong’s team with a $40 million investment. The suit, still pending, claims the USPS would not have paid the money had it known Armstrong and his teammates were cheating to win races.

To read the rest, click here.

Friday, October 03, 2014
Surprising Turn in NJ Sports Betting Case

Earlier today, Judge Shipp entered an order setting oral argument for October 31, 2014, at 1:00 PM in Trenton. (The docket notation is below). This comes as a surprise (and could be seen as a positive development for New Jersey) because Judge Shipp had previously said that the motion "will be decided on the papers." 

Happy Halloween!

10/03/2014167 TEXT ORDER: As the parties are aware, the motion for clarification and/or modification of the Court's February 28, 2013 injunction was originally returnable on October 6, 2014. Counsel subsequently requested, and the Court granted, a request for an extension of the briefing schedule. As provided in the Consent Order, opposition briefs were filed on September 29, 2014 and reply briefs shall be filed by October 10, 2014. Oral argument on the motion is scheduled for Friday, October 31, 2014 at 1:00 PM at 402 East State Street, Trenton, NJ, Courtroom 7W. SO ORDERED by Judge Michael A. Shipp on 10/03/2014. (FH) (Entered: 10/03/2014)

09/08/2014Set Deadlines as to 161 MOTION Clarification and/or Modification of Injunction re 143 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment, . Motion set for 10/6/2014 before Judge Michael A. Shipp. The motion will be decided on the papers. No appearances required unless notified by the court. (eaj) (Entered: 09/08/2014)

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NFL and NFLPA Appoint Neutral Arbitrator

The NFL and the NFLPA announced yesterday that they have agreed to hire a neutral arbitrator to hear Ray Rice's appeal.  The arbitrator they selected is former U.S. District judge Barbara S. Jones, who served in the Southern District of New York from 1996-2013.  The appointment of a mutually agreed upon neutral arbitrator to hear an appeal of commissioner discipline for off-field misconduct in the NFL is a significant development and long overdue.  It will be interesting to see whether this has a precedent-setting effect going forward for all appeals of commissioner discipline for off-field misconduct.

Thursday, October 02, 2014
National Pastime(s) by Professor Tom Lin

Very interesting new essay by Temple law professor Tom Lin in the Boston College Law Review on a new book on baseball by NYU President John Sexton. Here's the abstract to Professor Lin's piece:


In his new book, Baseball as a Road to God, New York University President and Professor of Law John Sexton submits that baseball can serve as a vehicle for living a more conscious life that elevates the human experience for lawyers and non-lawyers. This Essay examines the credibility of the book’s thesis in a world where human intelligence, human deliberation, and human action is being replaced by artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and mechanical automation. It uses the preeminent national pastime of baseball, and the less eminent pastimes of law and finance as case studies for the book’s thesis. It concludes that a more conscious and meaningful life is much harder to foster, but also much more important to cultivate in light of modern advances. This Essay ultimately offers a different narrative for lawyers and non-lawyers to think anew about modern law and society in light of ongoing changes in baseball, law, finance, and beyond.

The drawbacks of heightened expectations

The NFL has been raked over the coals recently for its (mis)handling of incidents of domestic violence by players. In some ways, this seems unfair, in that we seem to be asking the NFL to do more and do better with domestic violence than anyone else. Domestic abuse is a society-wide problem and other institutions--judiciary, universities, law enforcement--have not shown much more skill in understanding or handling the problem. In any event, why should professional sports leaguesplay any role (much less a special one) on the subject--it is not clear that there is a higher rate of domestic violence among professional athletes (it may depend on what the comparison is) and one could argue that teams and leagues should not care about players' off-field conduct, just as most employers don't care about what their employees do outside of work.

At another level, though, I wonder if it is fair to hold sports to a higher standard because of their history--a history that sports, leagues, and teams readily promote. Baseball regularly touts that it was ahead of society on integration--Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers six years before Brown and two months before President Truman desegregated the military. The NBA has financially propped up the WNBA for almost twenty years, allowing for the longest-running professional teams-sports league. Creating athletic opportunities for women and girls is Title IX's most-visible achievement and what makes possible genuinely popular women's sporting events--University of Connecticut basketball, the US Women's National Soccer Team, etc.). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made noise about the NFL being a moral leader--which is laughable (especially with Goodell as its head), but we should be able to take him at his word.

So if sports and leagues have taken the lead in the past on some social issues and if they get much PR mileage out of that past, is it unreasonable to expect them to take the lead on this issue, when they clearly want to be involved? And if they fail so spectacularly, is it unreasonable to criticize them for that failure? Please note that this is a very incomplete thought, but I wanted to throw it out there for consideration and comment.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Rethinking the NBA's Domestic Violence Policy

I interviewed NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts for my new Sports Illustrated commentary on the NBA's domestic violence policy. Hope you have a chance to read it. Here is an excerpt:
Some commentators have highlighted the Celtics suspending Jared Sullinger in 2013 for an altercation with his girlfriend as a blueprint for addressing NBA players implicated in domestic violence. Yet Sullinger's situation is unlike the one facing Taylor. The Celtics only suspended Sullinger after criminal charges were dropped, meaning the suspension could not have prejudiced the criminal case against Sullinger or tainted a potential jury pool. It was also a one-game suspension that Sullinger, who acknowledged he could have used better judgment, accepted without opposition. What happens if the NBA or a team suspends a player while criminal charges are still pending? Would prosecutors subpoena the NBA or the player's team for its investigatory findings and then use the evidence against the player? Or what happens if a player adamantly denies the accusation? Is a league or team really in a position to know if the player is lying or telling the truth? Does it want to be in that position?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
DOJ Argues No Such Thing as "Unregulated" Sports Betting Since Casinos & Racetracks Still Subject to Licensing Requirements; Backtracks on Prior Statements that NJ Free to Repeal Sports Betting Ban

Late last night, the United States Department of Justice (the "DOJ") filed its memorandum of law in opposition to New Jersey's motion to clarify and/or modify the federal court injunction that has been in place since February 28, 2013 prohibiting the State from authorizing, licensing or regulating sports wagering at casinos and racetracks.

The DOJ's opposition brief largely mirrors the Leagues' brief filed earlier in the day, but it is noteworthy in two respects. First, as expected, the DOJ argues that any "repeal" of the state-law prohibition on sports wagering which is limited solely to casinos and racetracks would still run afoul of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act ("PASPA") because New Jersey's casinos and racetracks remain subject to an extensive licensing and regulatory scheme by the State. Thus, as the DOJ points out, "even under an attempted reformulation of the Sports Wagering Act, it would still be impossible to operate a sports wagering pool without first having a State-issued license." The DOJ argues that "[a]s long as the only entities that may engage in sports wagering must be licensed by New Jersey, New Jersey is in effect licensing sports wagering, which is squarely within PASPA's licensing prohibition."

Second, the DOJ backtracks from its prior statements that New Jersey is free to repeal its state-law prohibition against sports wagering "in whole or in part" without violating PASPA. As I detailed in an earlier post, the DOJ (through U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr.) made these unequivocal statements throughout the prior judicial proceedings, including in appellate briefing before the Third Circuit, at oral argument, and in a filing made with the U.S. Supreme Court. In his Third Circuit brief, Mr. Fishman wrote that "nothing in [PASPA] requires New Jersey to maintain or enforce its sports wagering prohibitions." Later, when asked at the June 26, 2013 oral argument whether New Jersey could "repeal" its ban against sports wagering, Mr. Fishman responded "[a]s a matter of law, it could." When further pressed by the Third Circuit panel if such a repeal would violate PASPA, Mr. Fishman responded by saying "no." The U.S. Solicitor General reaffirmed this position ten months later in a filing with the Supreme Court when he stated that "PASPA does not even obligate New Jersey to leave in place state-law prohibitions against sports gambling that it had chosen to adopt prior to PASPA's enactment. To the contrary, New Jersey is free to repeal those prohibitions in whole or in part." (United States Brief to the Supreme Court in Opposition to Petitions for Writ of Certiorari (Nos. 13-967, 13-979 & 13-980), dated May 14, 2014, at p. 11)

How does the DOJ retreat from such clear and unequivocal statements? Easy. By ignoring two of them, and pointing to less damaging statements that are susceptible to differing interpretations. On page 17 of its opposition brief, the DOJ identifies three "selectively quoted" statements that New Jersey cites as evidencing the DOJ's acknowledgement that a partial repeal of the state-law prohibition on sports betting would not violate PASPA:
On page 28 of the appellate brief for the United States; Nothing in the statute requires New Jersey to maintain or enforce its sports wagering prohibitions." 
"On page 30 of the appellate brief for the United States: "[T]he bare repeal or non-enforcement of New Jersey's sports wagering prohibitions would not constitute such an 'authorization' because there would be no State statute or compact granting anyone authorization. to conduct sports wagering."
 At pages 68 and 69 of the appellate oral argument transcript; "[I]f New Jersey wants to tinker with its gambling statute in a reasonable exercise of state law and enforcement power, it's perfectly free to do that."
(DOJ Brief, p. 17)

While accusing New Jersey of using "selectively quoted" statements, isn't the DOJ guilty of the same thing here? There is no mention of Mr. Fishman's acknowledgment at oral argument that New Jersey was free to repeal its sports betting ban and that doing so would not violate PASPA. Nor is there any reference to the U.S. Solicitor General's incredible statement (from his Supreme Court filing) that New Jersey is free to repeal its state-law prohibitions "in whole or in part." It's as if the DOJ used hydrofluoric acid (Walter White-style) to make those prior statements disappear.

The DOJ offers an entirely unconvincing explanation as to the import of those prior statements (at least the ones that the DOJ has chosen to address). The DOJ contends that New Jersey has "misread" those statements and that it meant only to say that New Jersey has "options" when it comes to sports betting:
"These identified quotations reflect the United States' acknowledgment that New Jersey has options regarding sports wagering if it wishes to forego the licensing and the authorizing by law of sports wagering (as well as the other conduct prohibited by PASPA). The presence of those options demonstrates that there is no unconstitutional compulsion as New Jersey incorrectly suggests."
(DOJ Brief, pp. 17-18)

This does not even pass the giggle test. Expect New Jersey to hammer the DOJ on this point in its Reply Brief. But that doesn't necessarily mean that New Jersey will prevail on its motion. Far from it. As I wrote previously, I expect New Jersey's motion to be denied. It's not even a close call, as New Jersey's "implied repeal" and "severability" arguments are rather flimsy. But the real danger here is that Judge Shipp may go even further than just denying New Jersey's motion; he may clarify the injunction in a manner that is detrimental to New Jersey's future legislative efforts. For example, he could broaden the injunction to include language stating that while New Jersey is free to repeal its state-law prohibition against sports betting, it cannot limit such repeal to the State's racetracks and casinos given that they remain subject to an extensive state licensing and regulatory regime. Given the low likelihood of success, maybe New Jersey's best play here is to simply withdraw the motion, and focus on more legally sustainable efforts to bring sports betting to the Garden State. The moral of this story: Be careful what we wish for.

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Monday, September 29, 2014
Sports Leagues Push Back on New Jersey's Latest Sports Betting Gambit

In a post two weeks ago, I analyzed Governor Christie's latest strategy for bringing single-game sports betting to the Garden State: by arguing in a federal court motion that the state-law prohibitions against sports wagering have already been repealed through the enactment of the New Jersey Sports Wagering Law, even though that particular legislation was found by two different federal courts to be preempted by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. ("PASPA"). Governor Christie had argued, I believe unconvincingly, that the portion of the legislation allowing casinos and racetracks to "operate sports pools" could be "severed" from the portion of the law authorizing the state to "license" sports betting (the part found to be in express conflict with PASPA).

Earlier today, the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA filed their joint response in opposition to Governor Christie's motion. The Preliminary Statement wastes no time laying waste to the Governor's main legal arguments. Here are some of the highlights:
  • "This motion reflects defendants' latest unlawful attempt to authorize sports wagering in New Jersey's casinos and racetracks."
  • "Contrary to this Court's decision and defendants' prior position -- as well as to the very words of the Sports Wagering Law itself -- the Governor takes the astounding position that, in providing that casinos and racetracks 'may operate a sports pool," the Sports Wagering Law does not 'authorize' sports wagering, but simply repeals the State's existing prohibition on sports wagering. This despite the fact that throughout the litigation, defendants consistently asserted that the Sports Wagering Law authorized casinos and racetracks to operate sports wagering games."
  • "Moreover, even in their current motion, defendants expressly acknowledge that sports pools operated by racetracks and casinos pursuant to the Sports Wagering Law would be subject to all of the laws and regulations that apply to those venues, including the extensive legislation and licensing and regulatory scheme addressing gambling in New Jersey's Casino Control Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. s 5:12-1 et seqIn other words, this Court's injunction has no practical effect whatsoever on New Jersey's ability to accomplish precisely what PASPA prohibits."
In the main portion of their opposition brief, the Leagues characterize New Jersey's implied repeal argument as both "improper" and "disingenuous," pointing to the plain language of the Sports Wagering Law, the two prior court rulings, statements made in the defendants' prior court filings, and the recent unsuccessful legislative repeal efforts:
  • "The plain language of the Sports Wagering Law readily refutes defendants' new reading, as the phrase 'may operate' is as clear an authorization as one could imagine. In fact, both this Court and the Third Circuit have recognized that the Sports Wagering Law is an attempt to authorize sports gambling, not to 'repeal' existing prohibitions."
  • "So, too, have defendants, who repeatedly represented--including throughout this litigation--that the Sports Wagering Law does in fact seek to authorize sports gambling."
  • "Immediately after this litigation (seemingly) concluded, the State Legislature attempted to enact legislation that purported to repeal sports wagering prohibitions at casinos and racetracks--legislation that would have been wholly unnecessary had the Sports Wagering Law accomplished that end."
On the related issue of "severability," the Leagues argue that the defendants' attempt to sever only five words ("may operate a sports pool") from the Sports Wagering Law's authorization of sports wagering "utterly misconstrues" the doctrine of severability. As the Leagues explain in their joint response, "[t]he critical inquiry for severability is legislative intent, which 'must be determined on the basis of whether the objectionable feature of the statute can be excised without principal impairment of the principal object of the statute.'" 

The Leagues argue that the legislative intent behind the Sports Wagering Law was to enact a "licensing regime" that would shift illegal economic activity into legal channels where it could be monitored, regulated and appropriately taxed. They point to the 2010 public hearings during which legislators "expressed a desire to 'stanch the sports-wagering black market flourishing within New Jerseys borders.'" And, as icing on the cake, the leagues quote directly from a Third Circuit brief filed by two New Jersey legislators (Stephen M. Sweeney and Sheila Oliver) in which they stated that unregulated sports betting "would be contrary to the considered judgment of the Legislature and the expressed desire of their constituents." Based on the foregoing, the Leagues conclude that "Defendants--and this Court--cannot, consistent with legislative intent underlying the Sports Wagering Law, sever the law's provision authorizing casinos and racetracks to operate sports gambling from its requirements that any sports gambling in New Jersey (i) be authorized and approved by the [state regulators]; and (ii) conform to the licensing requirements of the Casino Control Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder."

The Leagues also take issue with the notion that there can ever be such a thing as "unregulated" sports betting at New Jersey's casinos and racetracks, since they would still remain subject to an extensive licensing and regulatory regime in New Jersey (whether there is sports betting or not). Indeed, the Leagues stress, "virtually every detail concerning the operation of casinos and racetracks is heavily regulated by both State law and by regulations promulgated by the DGE and Racing Commission." For example, State regulations upon casinos and racetracks include licensing and permitting requirements, specifications on equipment used for gambling, and payment to the State of a portion of revenue derived from casino and racetrack wagering. As the Leagues point out, even the defendants have stated that these requirements "will apply equally to sports wagering if the provision of the Sports Wagering Law providing that casinos and racetracks 'may operate a sports pool' is reinstated. Thus, the Leagues argue that this would leave New Jersey "free to accomplish precisely what the Sports Wagering Law was enacted to achieve: state-regulated sports wagering in casinos and racetracks," adding that "[n]ot only is [such a] result flatly inconsistent with this Court's injection, it is flatly inconsistent with PASPA." 

Finally, the Leagues argue that, under no circumstances, could sports wagering be conducted at Monmouth Park or at the Meadowlands because those two racetracks are owned and operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, a state governmental entity. Based on the state's ownership of those racetracks, the Leagues contend any sports wagering conducted at either the Monmouth Park or at the Meadowlands "would violate the provisions of PASPA that prohibit a State from directly sponsoring, operating, or advertising sports wagering, regardless of whether those facilities purport to offer gambling pursuant to a state authorization or a state repeal."

As of the this writing, the Department of Justice has not yet filed its response brief. But if past practice is any indication, I would expect the DOJ to file a response shortly (i..e, before midnight tonight).

New Jersey is now on the clock, with its Reply Brief due on October 10.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014
Article in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated on NFL Tax exempt status

I hope you have a chance to check out this week's issue (September 29, 2014) of Sports Illustrated - I have an article on new legislative proposals in Congress to end the NFL's tax exempt status. My piece is on page 28, right before Tom Verducci's cover story on Derek Jeter. While I'm often critical of the NFL, I'm not convinced that amending 501(c)(6) to punish the NFL for domestic violence issues or to force a change to the Redskins name is the best vehicle of addressing those issues.

Keep in mind, almost all of the $9.5 billion generated annually by the NFL is already subject to income taxes (the NFL uses four for-profit subsidiaries to generate most of the league's revenue, and the 32 for-profit teams generate almost all of the rest of the revenue; the NFL itself--which is the tax-exempt entity--has reported losses in two of the last three years). Also, other pro leagues, including the U.S. Golf Association and PGA Tour, would likely be more affected by some of these legislative changes, and they are not the primary intended targets of the legislative proposals. Lastly, non-sports entities protected by 501(c)(6) operate similarly to the NFL as trade associations of for-profit companies.

To read the article you'll need to subscribe to SI or pick up this week's issue.

Here's an excerpt of the article:

Taxing the league office would lead to modest tax income at best. In the last three tax filings that are publicly available, the NFL reported income of $9 million in 2012, and losses of $77.6 million in 2011 and $52.2 million in 2010. How could the NFL lose money? Because the NFL doesn’t make money. The NFL’s main source of revenue is the membership dues paid by the teams, approximately $6 million each. This revenue is used to pay the hefty salaries of league executives, including commissioner Roger Goodell, who earned $85 million in compensation from 2010 through ’12 (on which he paid personal income tax). The dues also pay rent for the NFL’s New York City offices.

Friday, September 26, 2014
Bright Days in the MLB

            What are the odds? Baseball’s most beloved hero is playing his last game in the media capital of the world and America is watching. His team is ahead by 3 runs in the ninth. On the mound is the Yankees All Star closer, David Roberts, the heir apparent to Mariano, who has given up just 5 homers in 63 innings. He grooves a high fastball to Adam Jones, a high ball hitter, who hits a moon shot over the left field fence to bring the Orioles to within one run. Then with two outs, he grooves another down the middle of the plate to Steve Pierce. Game tied.

            Bottom of the ninth. The Orioles need the win to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. Nevertheless, two time manager of the year Buck Showalter (and a clinch to win his third) calls to the mound aptly named Evan Meek,  O and 4 for the year with a 5.79 ERA. Yankee Jose Pirela, first up,  strokes a single to left. Antoan Richardson, called on to pinch run, reaches second when Brett Gardner lays down the perfect sacrifice bunt. Now Jeter walks to the plate with the crowd on its feet and Jeter’s long time mates Jorge Posada, Andy Pettit and Mariano Rivera waiting stage left. First pitch right down the middle and the Captain slices a ground ball into right field. Nick Markakis plays it perfectly and fires a strike to the catcher who cannot take in the throw. Ball game over. The hero is rushed by his teammates. The perfect ending to a perfect career. Almost too perfect.

            Sources close to me are convinced this was all some elaborate conspiracy. Just Google “Derek Jeter conspiracy” and browse through the 10s of thousands of hits. Others say Jeter has made a career out of being in the perfect place at the perfect time. He does have nine other walk offs including one in game 4 of the 2001 World Series.

            Let’s just say we all needed a feel good moment at a time when the news lately, including the sports news, has been rather troubling. And it happened on Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the universe. So what was one more miracle for the maker of miracles.

UNH Law Panel: Put the Coach on the Line

I'm very excited about our upcoming Sports and Entertainment Law Institute panel at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. The panel, titled Put the Coach on the Line, is based on a paper authored by UNH Law third-year student John DeWispelaere. Through empirical research, John argues that NHL coaches should be punished when they send out players to injure others. John's paper has just been accepted for publication in the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal. Congrats to John on this outstanding placement!

The event will be held on October 22 at 5:30 pm and will be open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Put the Coach On the Line:  An Alternative Approach to Increasing Player Safety in the NHL

Put the Coach On the Line: An Alternative Approach to Increasing Player Safety in the NHL

Put the Coach on the Line: An Alternative Approach to Increasing Player Safety in the NHL

This event is open to the public.
Please RSVP to Mary O’Malley, faculty assistant to the Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property,

Schedule of Events

Alexandra J. Roberts
5:30 p.m.
Opening remarks by Alexandra J. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Intellectual Property,
Executive Director, Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property
John DeWispelaere
5:35 p.m.
Third-year UNH Law student and Becker & Poliakoff legal resident John DeWispelaere presents his forthcoming law review article, “Put The Coach on the Line: An Alternate Approach to Increasing Player Safety in the NHL.” The article will be published this fall in the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal, a publication of the University of Virginia School of Law. 
5:45 p.m.
Second-year UNH Law student and The Pink Puck associate editor and writer Jessica Higham offers a response
Michael McCann
6:00 p.m.
Panel discussion, moderated by Michael McCann, Professor of Law,
Director, Sports and Entertainment Law Institute

with panelists:

Dmitry Chesnokov
Dmitry Chesnokov, Sports and entertainment attorney at Hobson Bernardino + Davis LLP and NHL writer for Yahoo! Sports
Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly, Shareholder at Jackson Lewis and former Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association
Gregory Moffett
Gregory Moffett, Director at Preti Flaherty and former goaltender in the Montreal Canadians system
Michael Wall
Michael Wall, Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of Performance Sports Group/Bauer and former Chief Legal Officer of the TD Garden and the Boston Bruins
Eleanor MacLellan
7:15 p.m.
Networking Reception
Directed by Assistant Dean of Career Services Eleanor MacLellan in the Douglas Wood Boardroom

Thursday, September 25, 2014
Should League Commissioners Even Have a Role in Disciplining Players for Off-Field Misconduct?

One of the more interesting points I heard from the NFL commissioner during his "breaking news report" last week was that the NFL would begin looking into the use of independent experts in the process of imposing discipline on players for off-field misconduct.  On this blog in 2007, I posed the question whether the NFL's personal conduct policy affords the commissioner too much discretion.   In my post, I discussed some of the inherent problems and concerns associated with league discipline of players for off-field misconduct.  The NFLPA and the NFL would both benefit from a collectively bargained system of independent impartial review, and perhaps they are moving in that direction.

My question today takes it a step further and asks whether league commissioners should even have a role in player discipline for off-field misconduct.  In other words, should the leagues get out of the business of suspending players for their misdeeds that occur off the field?  The NCAA, for example, draws a line between off-field and on-field behavior and takes the position that discipline for the off-field misconduct is the responsibility of the individual schools.

I have always questioned whether such discipline at the league level even falls within the overall purpose for which the league has been formed and whether it is more appropriate for such discipline to be left at the employer/employment level.  Why is it the league's business or concern how a club decides to resolve an off-field misconduct issue with its player?  The justification for it seems to be that off-field misconduct impacts the league's reputation and image -- a proposition that I have never fully accepted.  But nonetheless, why can't we assume that each club has an incentive to do what is appropriate from an image/reputation standpoint and make a good business decision under the facts and circumstances of each case?  If the club makes a bad or wrong decision, then the club bears any negative consequences that might flow from it, as it should.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Tony Stewart's future after grand jury declines to charge him

I have a new column for Sports Illustrated on a grand jury declining to charge Tony Stewart, who still faces a likely wrongful death lawsuit.

Monday, September 22, 2014
The NFL, Ray Rice and Sports Law through Press Conferences

In a new column for Sports Illustrated, I take issue with press conferences by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

New Sports Law Scholarship

Recently published scholarship includes: 
Jennifer M. Adams, Comment, Flag on the play: professional sports teams calling trademark infringement on their superfans, 20 JEFFREY S. MOORAD SPORTS LAW JOURNAL 631 (2013) 
Jeremy R. Abrams, Comment, Making the right call:  why fairness requires independent appeals in U.S. professional sports leagues, 97 MARQUETTE LAW REVIEW 469 (2013)  
Jack Anderson, The right to a fair fight: sporting lessons on consensual harm, 17 NEW CRIMINAL LAW REVIEW 55-75 (2014) 
Erin P. Andrews, Note, Avoiding the technical knockout: tackling the inadequacies of youth concussion legislation, 58 NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL LAW REVIEW 417 (2013/2014)
Francis X. Baker, Comment, “Half mental”: resolving the risks posed by dual competencies in applied sport psychology, 21 JEFFREY S. MOORAD SPORTS LAW JOURNAL 185 (2014) 
Daniel Berger, Constitutional combat: is fighting a form of free speech? The Ultimate Fighting Championship and its struggle against the state of New York over the message of mixed martial arts, 20 JEFFREY S. MOORAD SPORTS LAW JOURNAL 381(2013) 

Read more »

Stone on sex discrimination and professional sports

The following is by my colleague (and past GuestPrawf) Kerri Stone, responding to my post on how professional sports teams and leagues respond to sex discrimination.

The internet has most recently been ablaze with news of a lawsuit filed against the New York Mets by an ex-employee who claims that she was chastised and then fired due to her status as an unmarried pregnant woman. On the heels of other notorious stories of discrimination to come out of the sports world this past year, like Donald Sterling’s racist comments, Richie Incognito’s racially tinged bullying of a teammate, and the Atlanta Hawks’ general manager Danny Ferry taking an indefinite leave of absence after coming under fire for his racially-stereotyped comments about a player, this latest story has many clamoring for justice—whatever that will mean in this scenario.

Recently, my colleague, Howard Wasserman, blogged about various incidents of discrimination in the sports world, taking note of their wildly varying upshots and reactions generated. He asked whether we could “find anything resembling consistent and appropriate responses to possibly improper or unlawful employment practices,” and posited that factors that might be in play could include, among others, whether formal, legal action had been initiated, whether it is sexism or racism that is alleged, and whether video or audio recordings of the discriminatory sentiments exist. These observations are astute. I would add that the role of shame in these incidents has become central. Some years ago, I blogged about the role of shame in accomplishing the eradication of discrimination in a way that even the law could not, but I pointed out that the shame has to be public, even viral, in order to move most employers to act. From what we have seen in the sports world as of late, the ability of those involved or even of those who know about the discriminatory sentiments expressed by sports players, managers, and executives to stir up outrage on the part of the public appears to be central to whether or not those in a position to discipline or dismiss these individuals will act.

Title VII prohibits racial, sex-based, and other discrimination in the workplace. It is clear that while the statute’s goal is to eradicate the erosion of individuals’ terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of discrimination, it is not supposed to function as a general civility code, requiring anyone to change the way they think, feel, or express themselves when that expression is not anchored to workplace-based harassment or deprivation. In other words, as the Supreme Court has put it, “discrimination in the air,” unmoored from some adverse action or campaign of workplace harassment, is not actionable; it is only when discrimination is “brought to the ground and visited upon an employee,” that it becomes something for which we permit legal recovery.

It is interesting, then, that there has been such pressure on sports teams and leagues to undertake voluntarily to do what the law does not require them to do—to distance themselves from those who espouse racist, sexist, or other offensive views. To be sure, if the Mets executive who alleges that she was taunted and fired for being an unwed mom-to-be persuades a trier that these things did, indeed, happen, she will prevail in court. But what about the rest of the outrage? The offenses unaccompanied by legal harm? What if the executive had not been fired and her teasing had not risen to the rather high threshold of intolerability and consistency needed to render it actionable harassment as opposed to mere, permissible incivility? The public needs to understand that the law does not necessarily comport with public sentiment on these issues. “Discrimination in the air” is not actionable.

Moreover, the public needs to appreciate the fact that while high-profile shaming and pressure on professional sports organizations may effectuate the kind of personnel and cultural changes that the law cannot, discrimination—both in the air and grounded upon employees—is rife in all kinds of workplaces. There are no high profile campaigns of shame at a typical truckstop diner or even in a big box store chain. But the same sense of “humor” that allegedly compelled the Mets higher-up to continually joke about the morality of single motherhood or fuels racially stereotyped depictions, contempt, or observations in the upper echelons of the NBA or Major League Baseball also pervades everyday workplaces. And often, employees are either not believed when they report it, or even if they are, it does not matter because the hostility or microaggressions, as they have been termed, are not anchored to an adverse action or part and parcel of actionable harassment. The difference is that in these lower-profile cases, no one cares. The highers-up who harbor these views are often high up enough on the ladder to be valued and thus retained, unscathed, by employers, but anonymous and uncared-about enough to elude public shaming or outcry. The law’s gaps and holes allow us to be selective about how and when we, as a society, can demand justice in the form of the censure or termination of those who express discriminatory, stereotyped, or just plain hateful beliefs, and that selectivity breeds inconsistency and randomness even more dramatic across workplaces than that decried by Professor Wasserman in his sports blog.

Is it time for the law to come into line with the wishes and expectations of society as evinced by the decrying of “discrimination in the air” that we have seen in the media in response to what is going on in professional sports? Or is it the case that if all of those who demand the firing of high profile racists or sexists wouldn't really want the law to require what they are demanding if they thought it through? It is wholly inconsistent for us to say that we demand the ouster of a team coach or manager on the basis of his sentiments unmoored from action, but that we wish for less glamorous, less known, but perhaps as well compensated bosses in the private sector to retain an absolute right to their private dealings and expressions, with no job consequences?

Saturday, September 20, 2014
Some Perspective, Please

The current NFL crisis is entirely of Goodell’s own making. A professional football player is caught on videotape punching his fiancé. The league’s commissioner hands out a woefully inappropriate two game suspension. He now admits he was wrong and advises the league will revamp its Personal Conduct Policy and have every player undergo “abuse awareness training.”

The media and public response? In national publications and across social media, NFL players are characterized as “common street thugs.” When I read that word “thug” again and again, I hear Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman correctly telling us “Thug is the new N-word.” In America, it does not take long for racism to rear its ugly head, particularly when it comes to attitudes toward professional athletes.

Let’s have some perspective, always a difficult task in the world of sports. There are 1696 players in the NFL and another 250 or so on practice squads. In Goodell’s 8 years as commissioner, there have been 57 cases of domestic abuse or 7 cases a year. That comes to about .5%, which is less than half the rate across the country. No doubt these numbers are low because many cases are unreported, but there is no reason to believe the percentage of unreported cases is greater in the NFL than across the general population. The highest rate of such offenses is in Nevada followed by most of the southern states. Those in law enforcement have a rate double the national average. Indeed, Alabama Federal District Judge Mark Fuller plead guilty two weeks ago to violently beating his wife in a deal that will have his record expunged once he undergoes counseling. The rate of domestic violence by players in the NFL is thus considerably less than for those who work in other occupations.

This is not to suggest domestic violence is a minor offense. Ray Rice committed a despicable act and the Commissioner should have handed down a punishment worthy of the offense. But let’s be wary of those who are quick to paint all NFL players or professional athletes generally with the same brush, particularly when they are working with an all too familiar palette.

Thursday, September 18, 2014
Dark Days in the ICC

Sports fans in America and readers of this Blog no doubt have had their fill of NFL players suspended for spousal assault and of MLBers like the Orioles Chris Davis removed from the game for taking banned substances like Ritilin. (Ritilin! Only fifth grade boys with sphilkes should be allowed to take such a thing.)

But athletes behaving badly are not confined to these shores. Consider the hubbub brewing in the lands where Cricket is king. The International Cricket Council has just suspended indefinitely one of the sport’s real stars, Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal is what Cricket fans know as an off spin bowler, meaning he uses his fingers and wrist to spin the ball toward a right-handed batsman or away from a lefthander. Essentially, he throws what we in the colonies think of as a slider. And he does it better than anyone.

Using the magic of videotape and rather sophisticated testing equipment at its headquarters in Dubai, the Council found definitive proof that Ajmal (sit down if you are squeamish) bowled all his deliveries with an elbow flex greater than the legal limit of 15 degrees. That’s right: greater than 15 friggin degrees.

As you probably know, a cricket bowler (think pitcher) is not allowed to straighten his arm and throw the ball (the cricketeers call this “chucking” and the result is a “no ball”). Only his shoulder’s rotation can provide velocity. The legal limit of straightening the elbow is 15 degrees and, as I said before, Ajmal’s elbow routinely went beyond that limit.

The last time Cricket had such a controversy was the famous “no ball” scandal of 1995, when Australian Umpire Darrell Hair no balled Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan seven times in three overs for throwing, calling the Shri Lankan’s actions “diabolical.” When the Council investigated the incident, it found the bowler had a congenital elbow deformity that caused his peculiar delivery. The ICC later found the Umpire, who received numerous death threats after the match, guilty “of bringing the game into disrepute.”

Let it be said, we shrink from no controversies here at the Sports Law Blog. We abhor Ajmal’s suspension and consider the Council’s action just dreadful.