Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
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Sunday, February 29, 2004
 

NFL Appeals Ruling in Clarett Case: In a move that surprised no one, the NFL has appealed the federal district court ruling in the case of Maurice Clarett. The NFL is asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of Judge Scheindlin's ruling that ordered the league to open its draft to Clarett and other players who have graduated from high school. In the wake of the district court ruling, USC receiver Mike Williams, a sophomore, has declared his intentions to enter the draft, and other players are expected to follow suit.

Editorials on the case continue to pour in. Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch asks, Who can fault players that want to leave early for pro football? At least one writer, though, thinks that Clarett may one day wish that he had not opened this door.

While the legal question remains unsettled, the main question many sports fans have is: how will this affect the quality of the play in the NFL? There are a number of people, myself included, that think the quality of play in the NBA has been degraded substantially in the past 15-20 years. Is this because of the influx of players with little or no college experience?

This seems to be a chicken and egg problem. It seems that the trend in the NBA today is for an individualized, one-on-one approach, with less emphasis on teamwork, passing, etc. So many times, a guy will bring the ball up the court, pass to the star, who takes his man one-on-one off the dribble while everyone else stands around and watches. The focus in the NBA is on the "star," the player(s) on each team who has free reign to throw up as many shots as he wants. Often, if he is hot, the team wins, if he is cold, the team loses. This individualized style of play in many ways makes it easier for players to come straight from high school, where they have also been the "star" that was expected to make the big shots and carry the team. You see this today with Lebron James and to some extent, with Carmelo Anthony. The values of beating a man off the dribble and scoring are much more valuable than the skills learned in college, such as running set plays, setting picks, rebounding and passing. So, did the influx of younger players lead to this style of play, or does the development of this style of play allow for an easier transition for younger players? Maybe it's both.

Could this happen in the NFL? Obviously, the NFL is a much different environment than the NBA. Even "skill" positions, with the exception of the quarterback, have other responsibilities such as blocking, special teams and memorizing pages of playbook. Football is, perhaps more than any other sport, a team game -- running backs are useless without an offensive line, quarterbacks need receivers, etc. So, perhaps the impact of "individualization" will be less felt in the NFL and the game will not change to accommodate players that have accumulated less skill. On the other hand, if running backs begin to come from high school and have not learned how to block properly, will teams simply change their offensive systems to remove the need for running back blocking? If the back is picking up 2000 yards a season, will anyone care? Overall, the fact that there are always 11 players on the field will lessen the impact of any one player -- but this does not mean that the game cannot and will not change at all.

Finally, I have heard the arguments that those that oppose early entry into the NFL and NBA are, at best, hypocritical, and at worst, racist. After all, baseball players and hockey players routinely skip college to go to the pros -- where is the outcry over that? My response to that remains the same -- those leagues have established developmental "minor" leagues that provide players with the opportunity to build both the playing skills and the life skills that are needed before they are thrust onto the main stage, with the pressure and fame that comes with it. So long as football and basketball do not have such a program, I will continue to oppose early entry to preserve the overall quality of the game. Basketball has declined-- let's hope that football is not next.

Update: The Sports Economist posts a nice response, laying out alternative reasons for why the quality of play in basketball has declined.

 







Did Italians Steal Western Kentucky Mascot?: Western Kentucky University is suing Mediaset, the television company run by the Prime Minister of Italy, for trademark and copyright infringement, claiming that Gabibbo, the mascot for the satirical show "Striscia la Notizia" is a carbon copy of Big Red, the Western Kentucky mascot since 1979. The suit seeks $250 million in damages. It is unclear from the article what court the suit has been filed in.

Take a look and decide for yourself. I will keep the pictures up until the link is dead.



Friday, February 27, 2004
 

Sex Consent Forms for Athletes: In another disturbing sign of the times, Protect Condoms, Inc has begun selling sex-consent forms for athletes and others. The company, whose slogan is "Protect your ass-ets," has sold about 4000 forms at $8 each. Such a form was parodied by comedian Dave Chapelle on his Comedy Central television show earlier this year.

Boy, there is nothing more romantic than asking someone to sign a consent form in the heat of the moment, but I suppose if you are an NBA star, you don't always have to worry about "setting the mood." Users of the form should keep in mind, though, that (1) contracts signed by someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be binding, (2) a contract signed by someone through coercion is not binding and (3) be careful not to misrepresent yourself in getting the person to sign it. I wonder if this includes misrepresentation of abilities or qualities? The potential jokes here seem to be endless.

 

Owens Fails to Declare for Free Agency: San Francisco 49er's receiver Terrell Owens and his agent, David Joseph, failed to file the proper paperwork with the NFL league office, meaning that the receiver did not void the final three years of his contract and will not be an unrestricted free agent. Joseph, however, stated that the paperwork was filed and he believed the contract had been voided. He plans to file a grievance with the NFL Management Council.

What does this mean for the 49ers? On the one hand, they were probably welcoming the departure of Owens, who was seen around the league as a distraction and a self-centered player. On the other, there is a chance now that they could trade Owens, who now has three years left with the team, and get something for him in return.

What now for Owens? There is still a chance that the league could allow him to be a free agent, if it determines that the paperwork was merely filed incorrectly. In addition, he could have a malpractice suit against Joseph, his agent, if he is not allowed to test the free agent market because of a mistake Joseph made. The difference in annual salary between what Owens makes now and what he could have potentially earned is somewhere between $7-$10 million.

 

More on Disney: The New York Times has an article discussing the increasing perilous position in which Disney CEO Michael Eisner now finds himself. After numerous large shareholders have voiced their lack of confidence in Eisner, it appears that a large percentage of voters may abstain from voting in the upcoming board election, rather than vote for the unopposed Eisner. A similar tactic led to the resignation of Stephen M. Case, the former chairman of AOL Time Warner. Reuters reports that the vote against Eisner could top thirty percent.

In more bad news for Disney, a Delaware court unsealed many documents in a shareholder lawsuit against Disney, which includes allegations that Eisner unilaterally hired friend Michael Ovitz to be the company's president, and then negotiated his termination and buy-out also without consulting the Board of Directors. The case, filed in 1997 a shareholder derivative action (which means that any money awarded goes to Disney rather than to individual shareholders), is scheduled to go to trial this year in Delaware Chancery Court. One of the documents unsealed is a letter from Eisner to Ovitz, which states the problems with the structure of Disney's boards and the changes that need to be made.

Thursday, February 26, 2004
 

Shameless Self Promotion: My article, "Payment for College Football Players in Nebraska," which deals with legislation proposing a stipend for college football players and the problems this would cause with Title IX, is now available on Westlaw (subscription required). The Harvard Journal of Legislation has not yet posted the article on its website, but it usually does so. The cite is 41 Harv. J. on Legis. 319 (2004).

 

Interested in Working in Sports?: Maybe you should start your own business based on professional sports.

 

Fenway Groundskeeper Sues Yankees: The Fenway Park groundskeeper who was involved in an altercation during the ALCS with Yankees players Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia has sued the players for more than $33,000 for medical bills, lost wages and damage to his sense of smell.

In the criminal case, all three men pleaded not guilty to assault and battery charges last month, with pre-trial hearings set for March for the Yankees and April for the groundskeeper.

Depending on the outcome of the criminal trial, the Yankees players may decide to settle the case, rather than spend the time and energy to litigate it.

 

How Will Steroid Scandal Affect Baseball? Baseball stars have for the most part been mum about the latest indictments and allegations of steroid use. However, as Tom Verducci notes, a number of players may report to camp noticeably underweight and looking thinner. At least one player, Rockies pitcher Denny Neagle, has noticed a difference in some of the top players. However, David Pinto over at Baseball Musings thinks this is a non-story, as players don't need steroids to maintain muscle mass (or at least for there to be a noticeable difference).

However, as the season progresses, it will be interesting to see whether more frequent drug testing or increased public scrutiny will affect player performances. If the highest home run total this year is 40, who will not question the impact that steroids has on the game of baseball?

 

Former Baseball Umpire Admits Fraud: In news to sports memorabilia collectors, former American League umpire Al Clark has pleaded guilty to fraud for falsely authenticating hundreds of baseballs he said had been used in notable games in which he took part. Clark reportedly prepared false certificates of authenticity for normal baseballs, saying they had been used in the games in which Cal Ripken Jr. tied and broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games-played record, the one-game playoff in 1978 in which the Yankees defeated the Red Sox, and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan's 300th career victory.

You can read more here.

 

Judge Once Again Dismisses Big East Lawsuit: For the third time in four months, the Big East's attempted lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference was thrown out on personal jurisdiction grounds. You can read more in this earlier post. The lawsuits against Boston College and Miami may continue, though the Miami lawsuit has been moved back to state court.

 

Judge Dismisses Baylor Suit: A federal district court judge dismissed the final count of the wrongful-death lawsuit filed against Baylor University by the father of Patrick Dennehy, Jr., saying that the school could have in no way foreseen the killing of the former basketball player.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
 

adidas Sues US Polo Association: Shoe and apparel manufacturer adidas has filed a trademark infringement suit against US Polo Association, after US Polo put out a shoe with two stripes that adidas says infringes on its traditional three-stripe design.

You can see the adidas three-stripe design here. I have been unsuccessful in my search for a picture of the offending shoe. If anyone comes across one, please email me.

 

Title IX Claim in Colorado Case?: Deborah Zabarenko has an article on FindLaw about the possible Title IX claims that could be raised by the female victims in the Colorado sex recruiting scandal, especially depending on how much the administration knew.

 

Yankees and American Capitalism: This is one of the most entertaining articles I have seen pertaining to the Yankees acquisition of Alex Rodriguez. In short, if you like American capitalism, you should like the Yankees.

 

NBA Union to Decide on Baker Today: The NBA Union will decide by today what action, if any, it will take in the case of Vin Baker, who was released by the Celtics last week. The union is trying to determine if Baker's signing with another team will interfere with the union's action against the Celtics on his behalf. The union filed a grievance after the Celtics declared Baker "unfit to play" for missing ten consecutive games due to substance-abuse related problems.

The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune has an entertaining editorial discussing the absurdity of the situation:

"Please imagine a business enterprise in which an employee could perform dramatically below expectations, violate terms of a contract to which he once agreed, cause himself to be terminated for his actions ... and then expect his employer to cough up $36 million as a parting gift."

The Boston Globe questions (1) why Baker would jeopardize his $30 million grievance against the Celtics to sign for the veteran minimum and (2) why another team would want Baker. I don't know about Baker's motives but other teams will take on a big man who can (sometimes) rebound, no matter his problems. And we all love second chances, right? I mean, look at the coverage John Daly is getting.

 

Verdict in Broncos Trial: The jury in the case over ownership of the Denver Broncos has decided that current team owner Pat Bowlen breached certain terms of the contract in which he purchased the team from Edgar Kaiser. According to the sale agreement, Bowlen was required to make any offer to sell part of the team to Kaiser before anyone else. However, in 1998, Bowlen offered former Bronco quarterback twenty percent ownership in the team, an offer which Elway rejected. The jury found that this offer violated the terms of the contract between Kaiser and Bowlen. The jury rejected Kaiser's other claim, that Bowlen misrepresented himself as the sole buyer of the team.

The trial now shifts to the damage phase, where Kaiser will try and assert a claim to owning twenty percent of the team. Attorneys for Bowlen, however, say that Kaiser's only possible claim is for monetary damages resulting from a breach of contract. No date has been set for the hearing on this issue.

What now for Bowlen? Smart money is that he will make a settlement offer to Kaiser to try and make this issue go away as quickly as possible.

 

Final Reggie Lewis Appeal Denied: A state appellate court in Massachusetts has denied the request of Reggie Lewis's widow for a third try at persuading a jury that a cardiologist's negligence caused her husband's death. Lewis, a former player for the Boston Celtics, collapsed and died in the summer of 1993 while shooting baskets in a local gym. Lewis's widow claimed that Dr. Gilbert H. Mudge committed medical malpractice by failing to diagnose a lethal heart condition. Lawyers for Dr. Mudge responded that cocaine use by Lewis helped to contribute to his death. This latest denial most likely represents the final chapter in the case.

Friday, February 20, 2004
 

Baseball Arbitration Results: Via the Sports Economist, baseball arbitration ended today, and surprise, salaries are up. Although the average is a bit out of proportion due to the seven year, $100 million contract signed by Albert Pujols this week, the average annual salary of the 65 players who filed for arbitration is a record $3.26 million, up from $2.76 million last year.

Of the 65 players, all but seven reached an agreement before going to a hearing, including Pujols, Roy Halladay and Kevin Millwood. In baseball arbitrations, the team and the player each submit an amount and then make a case, complete with briefs, exhibits and complex statistical analyses. The three-member arbitration panel then makes a decision, and the winner's salary amount is selected. The player is bound to that amount in a one-year contract. The hearings take place over the course of a few weeks in a central location-- this year, Phoenix. Usually, the player's agent is his representation and teams are represented either by their general counsel or by an attorney who specializes in arbitration.

In this year's hearings, the owners won 4 of the cases, and players, most notably David Eckstein, won three. The best win for the owners was the Dodgers, whose $5 million figure was chosen by the arbitrators in the case of Eric Gagne, the NL Cy Young Award winner. Gagne sought a figure of $8 million.

You can see a complete list of the players and their final salary amounts here.

 

3rd Circuit Rules on Umpire Labor Dispute: In what is probably the end of one of the worst labor strategic moves of all time, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an arbitrator's decision that ordered the reinstatement of nine umpires and denied the reinstatement claims of 10 others. The decision upholds the same rulings made by a federal district court judge.

The case stems from actions taken by Major League Umpires Association [MLUA] during the 1999 season. In an attempt to force the leagues to negotiate with the umpires, the umpire's union orchestrated the resignation of 57 of 68 major league umpires. But the move allowed the leagues to get rid of the least-popular and poorest-performing umpires, who were replaced almost immediately. The quick replacements caused the other umpires to rescind their resignations and return to work. The umpire's union filed a grievance, challenging baseball's hiring of replacements as against the collective bargaining agreement.

The arbitrator held that management was entitled to hire permanent replacements due to the concerted but "unprotected" activity of the MLUA. The federal district judge agreed, saying the leagues "could have been stopped short without most of [their] umpires at the most crucial point of the year, at the end of the regular season and during the post-season playoffs."

The 3rd Circuit ruled that "[a]rbitration awards enjoy a strong presumption of correctness that may be overcome only in certain limited circumstances." Only if the arbitrator demonstrated a "manifest disregard" for the collective bargaining agreement should his decision be overturned.

The cite for the case is 2004 WL 293121.

 

More on Colorado Scandal: The news out of Colorado is getting worse for university officials, students and fans. There have been more allegations of rape and it looks as if Gary Barnett will lose his job as head coach. Colorado has named Brian Cabral as the interim head coach after Barnett was placed on administrative leave. It appears that Barnett will take the brunt of the blame, and some writers have said he must have been "clueless or dishonest."

The issue is reaching far past Boulder, CO. The AP reports that Congress could potentially enter the fray if the NCAA does not take action, but it is uncertain what type of legislation might be passed. In addition, as Mike Lopresti writes, this showcases a far greater problem inherent in big-time college athletics. Earlier tonight on SportsCenter, Kirk Herbstreit said that this is not a problem unique to college football, and that football players are taking the blame for a larger societal problem. I agree, and it has been said by many in this case, that date rape and sexual assault in a large problem in this country, especially on college campuses. But big-time college athletes are in no sense being singled out, especially, if the overwhelming evidence of sex parties and visits to strip clubs is indeed true.

Big-time athletes, especially male football and basketball players, are often treated as celebrities on campus and believe they are above the rules and the law. So long as this is the case, for every incident that is reported, another ten will go undiscovered. A change is needed in college athletics, all the way from the NCAA down to the players. Is college sports a business or is it amateur athletics? Are players student-athletes or are they professional-athletes-in-training? College sports is in a transition phase now, as marketing dollars, agents and high school basketball on ESPN are threatening to replace pep bands, going to class and playing for the love of the game. The time has come for the NCAA and the individual schools to take a stand, enforcing discipline on 18 year-olds who think they know it all, and ensuring that headlines focus not on rape and scandals, but rather on achievement and the glory of sport.

 

Wallace Benched Over Paperwork Problems: From Espn.com:

"Rasheed Wallace and Mike James both made their debuts with the Pistons in the first half Thursday against the Timberwolves, but the team was told at halftime that neither would be allowed to play in the second half. Michelle Tafoya reported on ESPN's broadcast of the game that the Pistons were informed that Wallace and James could not play the second half in Detroit because of an agent certification issue. For a trade to be complete, paperwork for all the teams involved -- in this case the Pistons, Celtics and Hawks -- has to be filed with the league. That has not been done in this case. Without that, the trade is not officially complete, and the Pistons should not have played Wallace and James."

Thursday, February 19, 2004
 

NFL Sues Orlando Brown: The NFL has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Orlando Brown, alleging that he owes the league money because he returned to professional football after receiving an injury settlement. Brown received a $15-20 million settlement from the NFL, after he sued over an incident in which he was hit in the eye with a penalty flag weighted with metal pellets. According to The Washington Post, the settlement stipulated that if Brown returned to play, the NFL would get 50 percent of his after-tax income each season, up to a total of $1 million. Last season, Brown played for the Ravens under a one-year, $1 million contract.

 

Bobby Knight Drops Lawsuit Against IU: In an update to this earlier post, Bobby Knight has decided to forego any further appeals in his breach of contract lawsuit against Indiana.

I agree the former player quoted in the article in hoping that the end of the lawsuit will lead Indiana and Knight down a path of reconciliation. Knight excelled as coach of the Hoosiers for 29 years, including several national championships and the last perfect season in men's basketball (1976). I, for one, would like to see them both put their differences aside, a la Jerry Jones and Tom Landry in Dallas, and see the great coach honored for his years of service to the school. While Knight has been known to be in some lengthy feuds, including one of nearly ten years with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, perhaps the 30th anniversary of that perfect season in a few years will provide the opportunity for the coach so many Hoosier fans loved to return to Bloomington for a proper send-off.

 

Colorado Coach Placed on Paid Leave: In the continuing saga of the Colorado football recruiting scandal, head coach Gary Barnett has been placed on paid administrative leave, not because of the alleged sex parties used to get recruits, but rather because of statements he made two days ago concerning a former Buffalo kicker, a female who claims she was raped at one of the parties. In responding to the woman's allegations, Barnett's comments focused solely on the fact that she was not talented as a placekicker, leading many to believe he was insensitive to the allegations swirling around his program. Barnett has since apologized, but this has only served to pour fuel onto the fire at Colorado.

This looks to be a very big blunder by Barnett, who up until now had escaped blame for something he surely must have known about. However, by making these statements he has given the university an opportunity to make him the scapegoat for the entire affair. Will Barnett be fired? It is looking more like yes. Colorado could not have fired him solely for knowing about the sex parties, because then nearly every Division I coach would have to go, but now he has given them another reason, and the school most likely will take it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
 

How Valuable Is ESPN?: The Comcast-Disney merger talks (see more below) have significance in the sports world mainly because of the value of Disney-owned ESPN, which many consider to be the most important cable channel. However, Meg James of the LA Times asks, has ESPN peaked? James notes that ESPN already reaches 80% of all homes and must explore new ways of generating revenue, especially as rights fees for sports programming continue to skyrocket. The costs of this programming is passed on to the cable subscribers, which does not always make the cable companies happy. Currently ESPN costs about $2 per subscriber, which although "less than a cup of coffee," is by far the highest fee for any channel.

What is the future for ESPN and other sports networks? Of course, the network thrives on live sports programming, including the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and college athletics. Recently, the network cancelled its critically-acclaimed series 'Playmakers,' which many believe was in response to pressure from the NFL that if the series did not go, the league would not resell its rights to ESPN. However, there are some in the sports industry that believe that in the next decade or so, the leagues may begin to negotiate directly with cable and satellite companies, bypassing networks altogether. Already, the NBA and NFL have their own networks, and all leagues have packages with digital satellite companies that give viewers the chance to see every game played. Once cable and satellite have reached every home, or nearly every home, in the US, the leagues can keep the games on their own networks, and sell the networks to the cable and satellite companies.

So long as ESPN has high quality live sports programming, cable companies and subscribers will continue to pay the exorbitant access fees needed to get the channel. However, should ESPN lose its grip on this golden goose, it may no longer have the value it has today.

 

Former Globetrotters Sue Team: Via the Sports Business Daily (subscription required), six former members of the Harlem Globetrotters have filed a lawsuit, claiming that the team and several other companies used the players' names and images on merchandise without their permission. The players are seeking an injunction to prevent the Globetrotters from using their name and likenesses and $1 million in punitive damages.

 

Clarett Hires Agent: Maurice Clarett has reportedly hired an agent, removing any possibility of the former Ohio State running back returning to school. There is still a chance that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals could stay the District Court ruling allowing Clarett to enter the draft. If this were to happen now, Clarett would not be able to be drafted or play in college next year, due to the NCAA rule that forbids players who have hired agents from returning to school.

 

Maker of AstroTurf Going Out of Business: Southwest Recreational Industries, the Texas company that has made AstroTurf since the 1960s, has filed for bankruptcy protection and is going out of business. The company originally developed the artificial playing surface for the Astrodome, the first domed stadium, after the grass originally planted in the facility died. Since then, AstroTurf has been installed in stadiums, indoor and outdoor, for both basketball and football.

 

Bulls Buy Out Williams Contract: The Chicago Bulls have waived Jay Williams, the guard who has missed this entire season with injuries sustained in a June motorcycle accident. As part of the agreement, the Bulls will pay Williams $3 million of the $7.7 million remaining on his contract, despite the fact that Williams violated the provision in his contract prohibiting use of motorcycles. Williams is currently rehabilitating at Duke, where he played three years of college basketball.

On a personal note, I met Williams several times while we both were at Duke. He is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and I wish him the best in his attempt to recover and return to the NBA.

 

Disney Board Rejects Comcast Offer: The Disney Board of Directors unanimously rejected Comcast's bid to purchase the company, saying the offer undervalued the stock of the corporation. The Board also re-affirmed its support of CEO Michael Eisner. The rejection by no means ends Comcast's bid, however, as the company, which holds Disney stock, now most likely will attempt a proxy contest to attempt to win control of the Disney Board.

Comcast will have an easier road in staging a hostile bid due to the limited anti-takeover measures in the Disney charter and by-laws, which makes it "easy prey" for a potential bidder. Disney has neither a "poison pill" nor a staggered board, meaning that a potential bidder can buy up as much stock in the company as it wishes and can run a full-slate of opposition directors in the next corporate election. Other defenses also seem unavailable to Disney. The company does not appear to have the resources necessary for a "Pac Man" defense, in which a company buys up assets, making it too large to be purchased. And Disney's corporate culture and reputation would be put on the line by a "scorched earth" defense, in which a company sells off many of its assets, making it unattractive to the potential bidder.

The LA Times wonders if there are other bidders "waiting to pounce," now that Comcast has been rejected. In many cases, a company can be saved from a hostile bidder by a "white knight," a friendly bidder that swoops in and acquires the company before the hostile takeover can be completed. However, there appears to be no taker in this case, as Viacom and others have shown no interest in obtaining Disney.

Analysis of the proposed merger continues to be mixed. Eric Gillin of TheStreet.com describes the merger as "a good match of pricey assets" but says the proposal looks eerily similar to the largely unsuccessful recent AOL-Time Warner merger.

Monday, February 16, 2004
 

Law Review Article on Baseball: Courtesy of JD2B, here is a link to an article in the upcoming Texas Law Review that discusses the relation between law school and faculty rankings and Billy Beane and the Oakland A's. I have not read it yet but will post more when I do.

For now, Jeremy Blachman has a summary and review of the article.

Sunday, February 15, 2004
 

More on Recruiting Sex Scandals: An assistant coach at the University of Colorado has admitted what many people have been waiting to here: sex parties were needed to recruit the top athletes. This means, of course, that other top schools have the same enticements. Or as Michael Wilbon said on PTI: "There are 117 D-I football programs. You know how many do this? 117."

You can read the civil claims of the women claiming rape at one of the sex parties here.

 

More on Balco: The New York Times asks after four individuals are indicted, what about the professional athletes?

You can read the indictment here.

You can look at the search warrant affidavit in the case here.

 

Stern Discusses NBA Age Requirement: In his State of the League address, NBA Commissioner David Stern said that he did not agree with the recent ruling in the Clarett case and that he expects it to be overturned on appeal. Stern, a lawyer before working at the NBA, says the league will continue to pursue an age minimum for its players.

Saturday, February 14, 2004
 

Celtics to Terminate Baker's Contract; Union to Appeal: The Celtics placed Vin Baker on waivers on Friday, in anticipation of releasing him on Wednesday, a move that would save the team $36 million over the next 2 1/2 seasons. The team has the power due to a clause in Baker's contract that allows them to release him if he misses ten consecutive games due to substance abuse. Baker was suspended indefinitely on Jan. 23 for violating a testing program he agreed to last season when he left the team to check into alcohol rehab.

The NBA Player's Union, not surprisingly, plans to appeal the ruling and the matter most likely will end up before an arbitrator. The union and Baker's agent contend that the player could have returned by the deadline, but was prevented by the team. In addition, the union has stated that Baker's substance-abuse problems "are irrelevant to the question of whether he is physically capable to perform for the Celtics" and that the only factor that matters is his ability to play.

However, it is impossible to see how Baker's substance abuse could be any more relevant to the issue at hand. Baker signed an agreement to play professional basketball, a sport which takes incredible conditioning and strength. For this, the Celtics have already paid him tens of millions of dollars, despite the fact that he missed the last half of the season, as well as the playoffs, last year. His substance abuse also clearly affects his performance on the court, as his production dropped off mightily this season once his substance abuse problems began anew.

Were the Celtics dumb to sign Baker to such a large contract after he had similar problems in the past? Yes. But that does not relieve Baker of the burden of performing under the terms of the contract, something he clearly has not done. This is not the case of management exploiting a worker who has no individual bargaining power, which is what unions and labor laws are designed to protect. This is the case of a worker who has already made enough money to last the rest of his life, despite a performance that would get most people thrown out of the office. Baker deserves pity and support as he tries to fight his addiction, but the Celtics should not have to bankroll him when he cannot do the one thing for which he is paid -- play basketball at the highest level.


Friday, February 13, 2004
 

Four Indicted in Balco Case: The Grand Jury indicted four individuals, including Barry Bond's personal trainer, following its investigation into the scandal involving the designer steroid Balco. All four have pleaded not guilty.

 

News Update: In today's news:

The sale of the Dodgers to Frank McCourt was completed this afternoon. You can read more on the bid here.

NCAA President Myles Brand announced a task force to look into recruiting practices across the nation. This is in response to the allegations of recruiting-sex parties at the University of Colorado.

The New York times reports on the financial report released yesterday by former SEC-chair Arthur Levitt, who said he found the league in "dire financial shape." While 11 of the 30 teams were profitable last year, “earning nearly $70[M] or an average of $6.4[M] each. The other 19 lost a total of $342[M] or, on average $18[M]." Read more on the impending NHL labor dispute here.

Finally, the Open Wheel Racing Series is close to finalizing its deal to purchase CART, the racing series currently in bankruptcy, for $78 million.


 

More on Comcast and Disney: As expected, Comcast's proposed bid for Disney has made ways throughout the country, including in the sports world. The bid would have a strong effect on ESPN, as Comcast would not only be the largest cable provider in the nation, but also own the most popular cable channel. The deal, if successful, would also force Disney to sell the Mighty Ducks, the NHL franchise it has owned since the mid-90s and that has the name of the popular Disney movie.

The merger would also shake up the media industry. The New York Times reports that, as brands, Comcast and Disney make an awkward pair, but that Comcast investors are noticeably excited about the proposed deal.

In the latest news, Disney's board has vowed a fair review of the Comcast offer, though many analysts think it is undervalued.




 

Pitt Seeks Out of Nike Deal: The University of Pittsburgh has filed suit seeking to invalidate a contract with Nike to outfit its athletic teams. Pitt argues it never signed the deal with the apparel company, even though Nike officials provided the university with the products specified under the contract.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
 

Judge Denies Motion for Stay in Clarett Case: The Associated Press reports that Judge Scheindlin denied the NFL's motion for a stay of her ruling, saying that the league would not suffer "irreparable harm" if underclassmen are allowed to declare for this year's draft. Judge Scheindlin also defended her ruling, saying that it was based on law established decades ago. In addition, she echoed this post in saying that if the ruling is stayed until after this year's draft, Clarett's lawsuit will become moot.

Not surprisingly, the NFL will appeal to the 2nd Circuit, which could still issue a stay prior to the draft. You can read more on the motion for a stay in this earlier post.

Update: You can read the court's denial of the stay here. Thanks to How Appealing for the pointer.

 

Comcast Makes Bid for Disney: Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider has made a $50 billion stock swap bid for Disney, in a deal that would create the largest media company in the world. At least initially, investors have said the deal is undervalued and Comcast may need to increase its bid by as much as $10 per share to complete its bid. The initial offer was for $26.47 a share, a 10% premium on Tuesday's closing price.

This could prove to be a major battle for Michael Eisner, the CEO of Disney. He turned down the offer made by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts in a meeting Monday, prompting Roberts to go public. Eisner has come under increased fire in the past year over Disney's performance and his management of the company, prompting some to believe this may give the stock holders a chance to bring about his ouster.

Comcast owns a number of professional sports franchises in Philadelphia and is the major cable provider in the nation. Disney owns ESPN and ABC, and at one time owned both Anaheim Angels (MLB) and Mighty Ducks (NHL).

 

Dixon and Statutory Rape: Sherry Kolb on FindLaw has an article discussing the pros and cons of statutory rape laws in conjunction with the Marcus Dixon case (read more below).

There are a number of problems with the statutory rape laws as they are applied in several states. 'Mistake of fact' cannot be a defense, even if the victim consents and directly lies about her age to her partner. Also, I say "her" because statutory rape laws often only apply to an older male and a younger female, or are only applied in that direction. The Dixon case showcases how the law can be applied absurdly, as Dixon, an 18 year-old had consensual sex (as found by the jury) with a young woman just months short of her 16th birthday. I do not know if Dixon knew the girl's age, but the fact that the prosecutor could use this coincidence to prosecute someone after failing on a rape claim shows that the system must be changed. We must protect young children from sexual abuse, but the question of 'consent' does not necessarily always have to be determined objectively.

 

Wrestling Coach Sues Over Title IX: The wrestling coach at the University of Minnesota has sued the university for gender discrimination stemming from the manner in which the school has implemented Title IX.

Title IX forms the basis of my piece that will be published this month in the Harvard Journal on Legislation (no link available yet, but it is v.41, p.319). In one part of the piece, I discuss that male athletes have been held to have no recourse against cutbacks in, or the elimination of, their sports at universities attempting to comply with Title IX (internal citations omitted).

"Male participants in non-revenue sports appear to have little legal recourse against the elimination of their sports. Recently, in Miami University Wrestling Club v. Miami University, the Sixth Circuit held that Miami (Ohio) University’s decision to eliminate its wrestling team to comply with Title IX did not constitute gender discrimination. Referencing the 1996 OCR Clarification, the Court conceded that 'universities and other recipients of federal funds do not have infinite money supplies.' Therefore, the court continued, '[i]f a university cannot afford to add sports teams in order to provide equal athletic opportunity for men and women, it may be forced to subtract in order to equalize.'"

Thus, it does not appear that the coach's suit will go very far, but perhaps it can help spark a debate over how to protect non-revenue male sports from extinction.

 

Update in Price v. SI Case: Federal judge C. Lynwood Smith in the Northern District of Alabama has certified the question of whether or not a Sports Illustrated writer must reveal his sources to the Alabama Supreme Court. In a 31-page opinion (no link available), Smith reiterates his position that Alabama's press shield law does not apply to magazines, but asks the Supreme Court for a ruling on the issue. The move heads off a decision by the publication to appeal to the 11th Circuit.

The Shield Law, Alabama Code § 12-21-142, provides:

"No person engaged in, connected with or employed on any newspaper, radio broadcasting station or television
station, while engaged in a news-gathering capacity, shall be compelled to disclose in any legal proceeding or trial,
before any court or before a grand jury of any court, before the presiding officer of any tribunal or his agent or agents
or before any committee of the legislature or elsewhere the sources of any information procured or obtained by him
and published in the newspaper, broadcast by any broadcasting station, or televised by any television station on
which he is engaged, connected with or employed."

The fact that the case will not (for now) go to the 11th Circuit also has implications on another high-profile case, that of Richard Jewell, the man accused in the Olympic Park bombing case.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
 

News Update: In an update to the Colorado recruiting scandal, the president of an adult entertainment company reports that Colorado football players often hired strippers to perform at parties for recruits, in one case as recently as "a few weeks ago." The leader of the investigation into the scandal also said she would not resign, despite receiving criticism for suggesting that the young women put themselves at risk for rape by attending alcohol-fueled sex parties. The exact quote: "The question I have for the ladies in this is why they are going to parties like this and drinking or taking drugs and putting themselves in a very threatening or serious position."

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed detailed results of drug tests performed on every major-league baseball player last season as part of an investigation into an international steroids scandal. The tests were conducted under the understanding that the results would remain anonymous.

New York Newsday reports that "a three-member arbitration panel began hearing testimony yesterday to determine how much Cablevision subscribers will pay to watch Yankees games on YES this season and in future years." The panel's decision is expected by April 1.

Finally, a federal judge ruled Monday that a taxpayer can pursue a lawsuit alleging that the NFL has illegally used its clout to "extort" new stadiums from cities. This suit could prove troublesome for the league, as it may force them through discovery to release detailed financial records about costs and revenues that the league and teams are often reluctant to make public. A similar issue concerning the release of financial records has come up in the San Diego Chargers lawsuit.

 

Hearing on Stay in Clarett Matter: The NFL will seek a stay in oral arguments before U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin tomorrow at 1:00 pm. While the NFL declined to comment on the substance of its argument, the overall theme will probably be the damage that could be done to the league in allowing in some underclass players while an appeal is pending. The opposite argument is that a stay will prevent Clarett (and others) from exercising the very right the court sought to protect in its ruling last week, because the appellate court will not issue a ruling before the April 24th draft. Clarett is eligible for next year's draft even under the current rule, meaning that his lawsuit would become moot.

If Judge Scheindlin declines to issue a stay, the NFL can next ask the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Even though a full appeal will take up to a year, the 2nd Circuit could decide the motion for a stay prior to this year's draft.

Monday, February 09, 2004
 

How Free is Speech at Sporting Events?: University of Maryland officials have asked the state attorney general for guidance on the issue of whether it can remove or discipline students at basketball games that yell expletives or wear shirts with obscene phrases. Maryland came under fire following its game against Duke two weeks ago, at which students wore "F--- Duke" shirts and chanted "F--- you Reddick" at Duke guard J.J. Reddick. However, the school feels that it cannot discipline fans because it is a public institution that plays its games in a public arena.

 

NFL Will Seek to Stay Ruling: The New York Times reports that the NFL will seek to stay the federal court ruling in the Clarett case, which means that Maurice Clarett could still be "shut out of the April 24 draft." The judge could reject the league's request, but it could be granted by an appellate court prior to the draft.

It is unclear what would happen if any underclassmen declare for the draft by the March 1 deadline and sign with an agent, only to have the judge stay the ruling. Under NCAA rules, the player could not return to college, but under a stayed ruling, they would also not be eligible for the draft. Thus, if underclass players are wise, they will declare but not sign with an agent, thus preserving their eligibility.

Numerous publications have downplayed any potential impact of the Clarett ruling on the NFL. Some commentators have noted that the restrictive salary cap keeps teams focused on the present and does not allow them to spend time waiting for younger players to develop. Other writers have noted that the NFL's need for larger, matured bodies will lessen the impact. But not everyone thinks that the impact will be minimal, as one team "prepares for the youth invasion."

Geoffrey C. Arnold of the Oregonian makes the astute observation that this ruling could impact the NBA, specifically, David Stern's desire to raise the league's minimum age to 20.

 

More on the NHL Labor Dispute: The NHL All-Star weekend has created a number of articles about the impending work stoppage. The Sports Business News has two articles: one about the dispute in general and one saying it's all about the money. The Tennessean has an article asking if the NHL's future is "on thin ice."

You can read more about this below.

 

Arbitrator Rules Against Raptors: An arbitrator has ruled that the Toronto Raptors owe former center Nate Huffman $2.56 million of a $5.2 million contract he signed last season. The team argued that Huffman did not inform management of a chronic knee problem that caused them to release him. Huffman responded that he had seen team trainers for the problem, as is the common practice in professional sports.

 

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against ACC: For the second time in four months, a Connecticut state judge has dismissed the ACC as a defendant in the Big East's lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction. The judge ruled that the ACC did not have sufficient ties to Connecticut to be sued in the state. Under International Shoe and Hanson, a defendant must have continuous and systematic contacts with a state and purposefully avail itself of the protections of that state in order to be sued in the state's courts.

Sunday, February 08, 2004
 

Analyzing the Opinion in Clarett Case: Putting aside the policy issues of the Clarett case (below), was the case rightly decided on the law? I have little knowledge of antitrust law, so I will defer to the experts on this one.

You can read the full opinion here, or just excerpts from the LA Times.

The key issue in the case is whether or not the draft eligibility rule falls under the league's collective bargaining agreement. If it does, then it is exempt from antitrust provisions through established common law that favors the union negotiations and labor law over anti-trust law. See CASE. To fall under the exception, the rule must be a mandatory subject of bargaining between employers and unions pertinent to "wages, hours, and other terms of employment." As the court noted, "Only agreements on these subjects (and intimately related subjects) are exempt from the antitrust laws."

The NFL argued that since the draft is the main avenue by which players enter the league, a rule pertaining to the draft had the needed intimate relation to "wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment." The judge disagreed, distinguishing three Second Circuit opinions pertaining to professional basketball and relied on by the NFL. In each of those opinions, the court reasoned, the player challenging the rule had already been drafted, and thus become a member of the league. In this case, however, the rule makes players such as Clarett "unemployable" (emphasis of the court). "Wages, hours, or working conditions affect only those who are employed or eligible for employment."

The court then added that the rule could not apply to those who were excluded from the bargaining unit. This argument proves a bit more troublesome, though, because established law states that collective bargaining agreements cover those employees who join after the agreement is signed. The court distinguishes this case by noting that individuals that are "categorically denied eligibility for employment" are not covered by the CBA. However, the court fails to note that Clarett is not categorically denied from employment in the NFL. Three years after the graduation of his high school class, he can join the league and thus benefit from the terms of the CBA, including the draft eligibility rule. No matter how you look at it, Clarett is a prospective employee of the NFL, and as the court states, "There is no dispute that collective bargaining agreements, and therefore the nonstatutory labor exemption, apply to both prospective and current employees."

Legal scholars have been divided over the court's opinion. Gary Roberts, the Director of Sports Law (note: sports law does not exist) at Tulane Law School, stated on the NFL Network, "I think the court's decision was horrible. I think this judge just sort of made it up as she went because she thought the rule was unfair and she made a number of legal rulings that are just flat out wrong." Roberts also indicated that he would be shocked if the ruling was upheld on appeal. Fordham Law professor Mark Conrad also seemed skeptical of the reasoning and said the case "would call for an appeal."

Other scholars, however, seemed to agree with the opinion. Mel Helitizer, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University called the NFL's rule a "restraint of trade" that had been exposed in the other professional sports leagues. Matt Mitten, the director of the National Sports Law Institute, said that while he supported the NFL's rule in general, "applying the antitrust law, it's difficult to justify."

It appears that the appeal will turn on two key issues. One, does it matter that Clarett was only temporarily excluded from employment and that he was indeed a prospective employee? And two, does the rule cover "wages, benefits and other terms of employment"? While the NFL may not get the stay it needs to prevent Clarett from entering this draft, the league appears far from conceding the issue all together.

 

NHL Labor Update: During the NHL All-Star weekend, much of the focus has naturally been on the impending labor show-down between the league and the players. Gary Bettman expressed cautious optimism in his State of the League address, urging patience from fans as a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated to ensure "stable franchises" and the ability of fans "to enjoy outstanding hockey entertainment at affordable prices." Bettman also stressed the goal of a "competitive environment in which their favorite team has just as good a chance of making the playoffs and possibly winning the Stanley Cup as any other team."

The players, on the other hand, sound much more defiant than they did at this point last year. Many players expect a shutdown of up to two years, and many have made plans to play in Europe or for the World Hockey Association. Players such as Jeremy Roenick believe that they have the better bargaining position:

"I think it [a shutdown] is scarier for the sport and for the owners than it is for the players," Roenick said. "The
players can play in Europe; they can play in different leagues. The owners? They can lose their franchises. They have
to deal with the buildings that sit empty.

"Is Buffalo going to stick around? Is Carolina going to stick around? Is Ottawa going to stick around? Calgary?
Edmonton? These teams are not going to be able to withstand one or two years [with no games]."

However, this may just be big talk from one player who is both a bonafide star and financially stable. For every franchise that folds, an additional 20 players will be out of work. In addition, players that are older or less talented could very well have their careers ended by a prolonged lay-off, with younger, more talented players ready to step in after play resumes. However, if players can indeed find work (albeit for much less pay) in other leagues, something not available to professional football or baseball players, the lock-out could have less of a dramatic impact and continue for years.

What the players must also realize is that with the league's current economics, a number of the franchises mentioned by Roenick could fold, anyway. The harsh reality of the NHL is that without a salary cap, smaller market teams, especially those run on the weaker Canadian dollar, will quickly be unable to compete with their larger-market opponents. NHL salaries are growing exponentially, but the league's revenue is not, creating a wide economic disparity.

Finally, both the leagues and the players must examine if the fans will still be here after two years. Fans in Canada will always love hockey; unfortunately, the real money for salaries is below the border. The last work stoppage to cancel a championship, in baseball in 1994, severely impacted the game's popularity and television ratings. However, while baseball had a strong base from which to fall, hockey stands on "thin ice" as it is. Ratings for hockey telecasts are well below those of the other "Big 4," as well as most golf tournaments and NASCAR races. The NHL has done good work building the league's popularity, especially in new markets, but newer fans will quickly turn to the NBA or college basketball to fill the winter sports months. When the game resumes, several franchises may fold and countless others could be facing years of financial ruin. Initially the burden will fall on the owners, but eventually the players will also be impacted.

The NHL has numerous problems, and it remains to be seen what shape the labor war will take. But one thing is for certain-- the NHL is headed for big change, one way or another.

 

More on Clarett: The fall-out on the Clarett case has been predictably widespread and conflicted. The NFL plans to appeal the case, but the only way to prevent Clarett and other underclassmen that declare for the NFL by March 1 from entering the April 24 draft is to have the original court or an appellate court issue a stay. However, even the league lawyers admit that thestay won't come in time.

How will the decision affect Clarett? The public reaction to his case is mixed, as evidenced by Espn.com Writer's Bloc, which lists Clarett among the five biggest legal players in sports history. Many columnists have noted that Clarett should not be vilified for his professional desires, especially when teenagers have turned pro in nearly every other major sport, including Freddy Adu joining the MLS at age 14. However, despite Clarett's declaration that he is ready to play in NFL, there are numerous questions about where Clarett will actually go in the draft. Citing his health and inexperience, some columnists think he may not be ready for the NFL and could be a second round pick at best.

How will the decision affect football? Agents are salivating at the chance to sign numerous draft hopefuls in their first or second year of college, with one describing the situation as a "free-for-all". This, of course, signifies the most pressing issue. A number of talented athletes will have friends and agents whispering in their ears about how they are a "lock" to be taken high in the draft. But by most accounts, the NFL is the professional league that represents the biggest step up from the college game, and it most definitely is a different game than the one played in high school. A number of athletes may be misled into believing that they can star, or even play, in the NFL, and once they are drafted or sign with an agent, college will be foreclosed forever. Thus, the greatest impact may be on the individual players. In addition, with limited roster sizes and the league's hard salary cap, teams will not have the patience for players to develop the needed skills normally obtained in three years of college games and practices.

In addition, there is the fear that the new rule will degrade the quality of play in the NFL, by adding players will less-defined skills, and also degrade college football by taking out the best talent. Critics point to the NBA and college basketball for an example of how this can happen.

Is it fair for Clarett to receive such criticism, when athletes in other sports turn professional at such a young age? Many argue that the distinction for basketball and football players, when players in baseball, hockey, golf and tennis routinely turn pro as teenagers, is nothing more than racism directed at the African-American stars. But the opposite argument is that the other leagues mentioned are either individual sports, thus quickly identifying those you can make it and those that cannot, or sports will development systems that can allow professional franchises to develop their younger players in the minor leagues before exposing them to the professional game. Neither the NFL nor the NBA has such a system and as a result, entering players are expected to produce at the highest level from day one.

Legally, the NFL probably should have lost. But as a sports fan, one is not unjustified in saying that a judge who has admitted to "never watching a football game" may have seriously harmed the top spectator sport in the US.

 

Golf Club Manufacturer Sues Nike: Despoir, Inc. (which has no website), a manufacturer of golf clubs, has filed suit against Nike, alleging that the sporting goods giant infringed three of its patents in making certain clubs, including the 'Nike CPR Wood.' The suit, Despoir Inc. v. Nike Inc., was filed in the Northern District of Illinois in December. Below are the links to the patents at issue.

U.S. Patent No. 6,248,026
U.S. Patent No. 6,139,446
U.S. Patent No. Des. 418,885

Friday, February 06, 2004
 

Administration Update: I have recently added syndication to the site (see the link in the right-hand box). If you experience any problems with it, please let me know.

Also, I apologize for the relatively few posts in the last week. My schedule will begin to calm down next week and I should be back to posting daily.

Thursday, February 05, 2004
 

Clarett Cleared to Enter NFL Draft: A New York federal district court judge has ruled that the NFL's three year rule violates anti-trust law and "must be sacked." You can read the opinion here. I haven't read it all (because it is 71 pages) but I will post more later on the subject.

I assume that the NFL will appeal the decision, but I do not know how an appeal will affect Clarett's ability to enter this year's draft.

 

Super Bowl Halftime and First Amendment: Columbia Law professor Michael Dorf writes that the Jackson-Timberlake performance may be protected by the First Amendment, because it cannot be described as "obscene" under Miller v. California, nor "indecent" under FCC v. Pacifica (as applied in City of Erie v. Pap's).

Obviously, the case is not cut-and-dried and would make for a highly entertaining legal battle, should the FCC impose a sanction and the artists or networks appeal.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004
 

Final Four in Indianapolis Every Five Years: The NCAA reached a Memorandum of Understanding today with the Indiana Sports Corporation that will bring the Final Four to Indianapolis every fifth year until 2039, marking a significant change from the NCAA's traditional policy of cities bidding to host the lucrative championship. The city is also guaranteed the Women's Final Four, Men's and Women's preliminary round games and the NCAA Convention (one a year) for the four other years in the five-year cycle. It is unclear what guarantees the NCAA will receive (such as an exit clause) to ensure that the city continues to achieve the excellence required to host such a high-profile event.

 

More on the Super 'Bare': The Sports Business Daily (subscription required) has a nice summary of the latest updates in the Super Bowl Halftime Scandal. I will post more later for non-subscribers.

 

NFL Unhappy with Las Vegas Ads: The NFL expressed extreme displeasure with the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority ads purchased on the local CBS affiliates in five of the top seven markets during the Super Bowl. The NFL has called the ad, which promotes watching the Super Bowl in Las Vegas by saying "if only it were this much fun in Houston," a violation of league policy that prohibits gaming-related ad content. The advertising company responsible for the ads has attempted to buy national airtime during the Super Bowl the past two year, but both times the league intervened. By purchasing one of the few local ad slots in the top markets, LVCVA was able to reach a large audience while flying under the NFL's radar.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello was quoted as saying: "If we had known about it, we would have taken steps to stop it. Whatever our policies are relating to (national) advertising on our games extends to the local spots from the affiliates. There is no loophole." Aiello also said that steps will be taken to prevent similar local ad buys during next year's telecasts. In response, the advertising agency has said that the spots promote tourism, not gambling, and in no way violate the NFL's policy.

I do not know the specifics of the NFL's television agreement with the networks, but I assume that their authority to dictate what ads can and cannot be shown is a factor of this contract. I also do not know what remedies the contract provides for a violation, if indeed was is found. The NFL has stated that it considers the actions of a local affiliate to be an action of the network as a whole.


 

More Problems for Clarett?: Maurice Clarett may have bigger problems than just the extra benefits given to him by Robert Dellimuti, which resulted in his suspension from the University. ESPN.com is reporting, based on cell phone records it has obtained, that Dellimuti is a frequent gambler and placed numerous bets leading up to last year's Fiesta Bowl, in which Ohio State defeated Miami for the National Championship. The NCAA frowns heavily on any contact between an athlete and an established gambler, for obvious reasons.

Now, this may just be a coincidence, considering the fact that thousands of people every year bet on sporting events. But it is more negative press for Clarett, who is drawing closer not only to losing his lawsuit with the NFL, but also not having a college game to rely on as a backup. Will Ohio State want to take a chance on a player who (1) has spoken out against the University, (2) may have taken payment from a gambler and (3) has not played football for a year? The answer is still up in the air, but the smart money is on "no."

 

Did Bobby Knight Violate His Contract?: Texas Tech basketball coach Bobby Knight was reprimanded by the University, but not suspended following an outburst aimed at a University official. Did Knight violate his contract? Judge for yourself, by reading the contract courtesy of FindLaw. Regardless, I agree with Dick Vitale, who says that for his own good, and the good of his team, Knight should try to keep a low profile.

 

'Playmakers' Cancelled: ESPN has decided not to continue 'Playmakers,' its fictionalized account of a professional football team, in part because of pressure applied by the NFL. I find this very disturbing, as I posted earlier.

Monday, February 02, 2004
 

Corporations Out of Style as Team Owners?: The LA Times has an interesting article about the changing nature of sports teams' ownership. Apparently, corporations are out and families are en vogue.

 

NHL Labor Strategy?: Mark Madden of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an interesting take on the impending NHL dispute.

 

MLB Asks MLBPA Not to File Grievance: According to the Sports Business Daily (subscription required) and the Washington Post, Major League Baseball has reportedly asked the Player's Association "not to file a grievance charging that owners are colluding on salaries." This claim would probably receive more sympathy if the average salary in the league was not over $2 million per year.

 

Super Bowl Aerial Camera Flies Over Patent Hurdle: As you probably noticed if you watched the game, CBS used its aerial camera system during the Super Bowl on Sunday. What you may not have known is that it took a decision by a Philadelphia federal district court judge to allow that to happen. In CF InFlight Ltd. v. Cablecam Systems Ltd., Judge Legrome D. Davis concluded that the plaintiff, which holds the patent for the "Skycam" aerial camera system, failed to show that it is likely to win a patent infringement claim against the makers of the "Multi-V" camera suspension system.

If anyone comes across the opinion from the case, please let me know.

 

Clarett Case Causes NFL to Delay Fitzgerald Announcement: The NFL has delayed an official announcement on the draft status of Larry Fitzgerald, stating it was doing so out of respect for the pending Maurice Clarett litigation.

The judge in the Clarett case held a conference call this week with both parties to clarify Clarett's intentions, after reports surfaced that the player might return to Ohio State, even if his lawsuit proved successful. The Fitzgerald delays fuels speculation that a ruling in the case is imminent, perhaps coming as early as next week. The NFL repeated over the weekend that the league will not consider settlement in the case.

 

Trial Begins in Suit Over Broncos: The trial pitting former Denver Broncos owner Edgar Kaiser against current owner Patrick Bowlen began jury selection today in Colorado. Kaiser, who sold the team to Bowlen in 1984, claims that Bowlen "cheated him out of the chance to buy back stakes in the team years later." In addition, the suit claims that Bowlen misrepresented himself as the sole buyer of the team and then repeatedly violated Kaiser's right of first refusal by secretly transferring shares of the team among members of his family.

 

More on the Super 'Bare': In an update to last night's post, the FCC has announced an investigation into the ending of last night's Super Bowl halftime show, when Justin Timberlake ripped a portion of Janet Jackson's top, revealing her right breast. The Chairman of the FCC went so far as to issue a public statement regarding the incident.

The incident comes at a time when sexuality and indecency on television has become a heated issue. Legislation has been proposed to increase the maximum fine for indecency 10-fold, from $27,500 to $275,000, and newspaper editorials have denounced the direction in which televised entertainment is heading. All of the parties involved have apologized, including CBS, MTV and Timberlake. Jackson also apologized, but instead of saying the incident was unplanned or blaming a "wardrobe malfunction," admitted in a statement:

"The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals.
MTV was completely unaware of it," Jackson said. "It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to
anyone offended including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL."

Slate has a related article on who should be punished for the incident. As I posted yesterday, I feel the blame, and any fines, should fall on the artists.

Update: The New York Times has a more detailed description of what may have been originally planned for the halftime show, along with more NFL criticisms of the show and MTV generally. Thankfully, it looks like this event will cause the league to tame Super Bowl halftime shows in the future.

 

News Update: There have been a number of updates to posts I have made in the last few weeks.

Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the sale of the Dodgers to Frank McCourt. Read more here, here and here.

The University of Colorado delayed state senate plans for a special legislative investigation of alleged recruiting violations, including sex parties, after the university's president agreed to form an independent commission to look into the allegations. Since the Colorado allegations, there have been stories emerging about other schools as well, including the University of Minnesota.

Shaquille O'Neal has been suspended for one game by the NBA following a profanity-laced tirade directed at officials and the league, including David Stern. O'Neal said one profanity during a television interview, and then when reminded that the interview was being shown live, responded with another profanity.

Finally, two days of pre-trial hearings began in the Kobe Bryant case. Bryant, however, missed the closed-door hearings because of an illness.

Sunday, February 01, 2004
 

CBS Apologizes for Halftime Show Ending: CBS has apologized for the unexpected ending of its halftime show, where Justin Timberlake pulled off part of Janet Jackson's top, revealing her right breast. What is unclear is whether the network could be fined for the incident, even though CBS changed cameras very quickly and did not mention the incident for the remainder of the broadcast. The FCC recently proposed a record fine of over $750,000 against four Clear Channel radio stations in Florida which aired 26 episodes of the sexually-explicit "Bubba the Love Sponge." It is part of the FCC's mission to more strictly enforce the indecency codes against broadcast stations.

CBS is clearly pleading ignorance and the incident was so brief most viewers may have missed it. However, the FCC received a great deal of criticism last year when it failed to fine NBC after Bono used the F-word during the Golden Globes and the network censors failed to bleep it out. Thus, it is possible the agency may fine CBS to prove that networks must take greater responsibility for what they show.

But should the networks be the ones that are fined? If this incident was, as it appears, planned by Timberlake and Jackson and unknown to CBS, why should the artists not be fined? If the gauntlet falls on the networks, they will become overcautious in what they show and do not show, possibly leading to the cutting of potentially scandalous acts. Since it will be at the purview of the government, such action would be dangerously close to censorship. If, however, the artists were held responsible for crossing the line, the networks could air performances and the artists could perform within the very reasonable limits imposed by the FCC. Under this system, networks could air performances without fear of retribution, allowing for greater potential artistic expression.

And, for those of you that missed it, the Patriots beat the Panthers 32-29 on a last second field goal. For a boy who went to Duke in North Carolina, this was most disappointing. I also found the commercials to be a letdown.