Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Sick of Your Family Yet? If you read Espn.com (who doesn't?), then take a minute and help out Kareem. He would love to hear your thoughts about ESPN Insider here.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Williams to Serve Suspension and Return to Dolphins: Reports out of Miami have Ricky Williams being moved from the retired list and sitting out the final four weeks of the season as a 4-game suspension. After serving this four-game suspension, Williams will be cleared to play in the NFL next season. He will remain part of the Dolphins, to whom he is still under contract. The question remains, though: will the Dolphins want him back after he abandoned the team this season?
ESPN's John Clayton says that Williams's attorney did an amazing job in brokering this deal, but wonders, will Williams accept it?
Happy Thanksgiving: Posting will be light the next few days, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Hope everyone enjoys a nice break, some turkey and some football.
Seven Years Later, Simpson Has Not Paid: This is only tangentially related to sports, but it is an eye-opening story about how getting a judgment only begins the battle. Seven years after a jury found OJ Simpson civilly liable for the deaths of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, the LA Times reports that the families have collected only a tiny amount of the $35 million awarded. The exact amount the families have been paid was not stated, but it looks to be only $1-2 million.
How is Simpson avoiding paying? Well, he is "searching for the real killer," oh wait, I mean playing golf every day. From the article:
The Heisman Trophy winner and pro football great is living in Florida on $25,000 monthly income that is exempt from court judgments.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Frustrating: I just had a long post written about the new legal updates for the brawl, and blogger lost it. Very frustrating. Since I don't have time to re-write it, I am linking to the best articles from today and will hope to write more later.
Very good update of the legal situation and the appeal
Is this bound to happen again?
Violence is a part of the NBA's history
Some local fans have already filed a lawsuit
Agassi Wins UK Tax Battle: From The Independent.
Contractual Implications of the Other Brawl: With all of the focus on the Pistons-Pacers melee over the weekend, few people are talking about another ugly sports fight, this once occurring on the field between the Clemson and South Carolina football teams. A player fight escalated into a ten-minute brawl, with police having to come onto the field to break it up.
The teams have responded with a swift and definitive punishment: neither team will play in a bowl game. I think this is a great statement for the schools to make: if you embarrass the school, you will not represent the school in a prized bowl game. This is a tough punishment, especially for the seniors whose college careers are now over, but it sends a clear message and, in my opinion, sets a good precedent for college football.
What of the bowls involved, however? Both teams were bowl-eligible at 6-5. South Carolina was headed to either the Peach, Independence or Music City bowls, and is forfeiting an estimated $1 million by not attending. Clemson was expected to attend the MPC Computers or the Continental Tire bowls. Now, bowls with contractual ties to the ACC and SEC may be left scrambling to find teams that are bowl-eligible (a team must have 6 wins to play in a bowl). The LA Times's Chris Dufresne noted that there may not be enough bowl-eligible teams for the increasing number of bowl games across the country. Thus, a few bowls could be left out if there are no more 6-win teams.
In this case, could the empty bowls bring a breach of contract suit against Clemson and South Carolina? Both are bowl-eligible and by declining their bids, the bowls with contractual ties to their conferences may be forced to accept lower-ranked, and thus, less lucrative teams. The ACC has agreements with seven bowls and Clemson would have been the seventh bowl-eligible team; now one ACC bowl will be left picking up a team like Troy (7-4), Northern Illinois (8-3) or Akron (6-5). Nothing against those teams, but they are not the draw that Clemson is. Without South Carolina, the SEC will have at most seven teams for eight bowl slots, and could be left with only six should Arkansas lose to LSU this weekend. Thus, one or two SEC bowls will be replacing the huge southern alumni base of the Gamecocks with a Marshall (6-5) or North Texas (7-4). Most definitely, there will be a loss of income for these bowl games.
So, could there be liability for breach of contract? It depends on the nature of the agreements between the conferences, the schools and the bowls. Obviously, a conference cannot be held liable if its teams all stink, and thus, are not bowl-eligible because they do not win six games. But I am not certain what the contracts state about eligible teams refusing to play. One can imagine it would be included, lest every team from a conference refuse to play in a bowl during some kind of mass-protest. This is not the situation this year, but with the shortage of bowl-eligible teams, the loss of two lucrative schools could be the start of a legal battle.
Monday, November 22, 2004
A Few Legal Ramifications of the Brawl: I have not heard any definite reports, but one rumor has the Pacers season-ticket holders filing a class action suit against the Detroit Pistons organization. I assume the theory is that the failure to control their fans led to the fight that led to the suspensions which have reduced the value of their season tickets. Good luck. You might want to add Ron Artest to your list of defendants.
The second thing I have heard, and the one that seems more plausible, is that the NBA's actions could severely hurt the league in the next collective bargaining negotiations, which will occur this summer. The theory goes that the NBA has made it clear through these punishments that it does not have the best interests of the players in mind. Why, the argument will go, did the league throw the book at the players while allowing the fans and the Pistons organization off with almost no punishment? Why is the league not doing more to protect the players? And so on. Whether or not these arguments have merit, if the players use them, it could throw quite a wrench in the negotiations.
Is David Stern a Coward? A corollary of the argument that the fans are to blame is that David Stern was wrong in reprimanding the players and not the fans in his press conference on Sunday. I think this is misguided for a few reasons.
One, as I said below, the players should shoulder the majority of the blame, and thus, they should have received the majority of the reprimand.
Besides that, however, ultimately Stern is not responsible for the fans. He is responsible for the players and the teams, but it is the teams that must control their fans. You can argue that Stern and the NBA are responsible for everything in the league, including the fans, but a team has to control the individuals that come into its arena. Thus, it would be more appropriate for the team owner, and not Stern, to publicly reprimand the fans.
But neither one of them will do this for the most obvious reason: the fans are the life-blood of the league. Stern and the owners are businessmen, and you do not insult your clients. Without the fans, there is no NBA. There are no teams; there are no owners; there are no multi-million dollar salaries. Stern cannot risk this and he knows it. One can calls this cowardly, but I call it a shrewd business practice. Let the police and stadium officials deliver punishments; Stern is in no position to punish and thus is not going to lecture. Why take that chance? He has directed the NBA teams to beef up security and they have done so. Players are not in danger. And Stern wisely, in my opinion, is not going to bite the hand that feeds him because a few fans crossed the line.
Are the Fans to Blame? Although many people (myself included) have come out blaming the players after the Pistons-Pacers brawl, there is a vocal group that wishes to place the blame squarely on the Detroit fans. Juan Non-Volokh links to the Miami Herald's Dan Le Batard:
But the fans are more to blame for the riot in Detroit than those players are. Not to make this too playground childish, but, Mommy, they started it.
Ron Artest doesn't lose what little is left of his mind and charge into those stands if some dope doesn't hurl a cup and hit him in the head first.
It is lazy to say it is the responsibility of the athletes to remain rational, calm and professional in these instances. But you might not remain so rational, calm and professional if someone came into your emotion-and-intensity-soaked workplace and hit you in the head with something. And you might not remain so rational, calm and professional if you saw an angry mob surrounding your scared friend in a fight, either.
Don't make the rules different for the athletes than you would make them for yourself.
Second, I find the argument, "You would overreact if it happened to you" wholly unpersuasive. No one expects to be heckled at their job, except for professional athletes. It is part of the gig. And, as I have said before, athletes are paid absurd amounts of money. Part of that huge salary is putting up with stuff that regular Joes do not have to take. You cannot analogize to what an accountant has to tolerate.
So, in summary, I believe that this section of Le Batard's argument is faulty. I do not, however, mean this as a complete pardon of the fans. The fans acted in a despicable manner and the organization was woefully ill-prepared for an event of this magnitude. Both should be punished. Besides the legal ramifications, I like the idea of playing the next Pistons at Pacers game in an empty arena. This sends a clear message to the fans -- you were wrong -- and makes the organization pay a steep fine (loss of all of that game revenue).
One friend had the idea of banning all beer sales at Pistons games this year. I think this is a little harsh -- it is possible to enjoy beer responsibly while watching your team play. I don't think that all fans should be punished for the entire year because of the idiocy of a few.
But the punishment for the fans and the team should pale in comparison to that of the players, because the players shoulder the load of the blame. It does not matter who started it; the players have the responsibility to end it, and to do so maturely, without resulting to violence.
Appeals Court Preserves Two-in-Four Rule: In a decision issued last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the NCAA's "Two-in-Four rule", overturning a lower court decision that the rule violated antitrust laws.
The rule limits NCAA basketball teams to playing in an "exempt" tournament only twice in a four-year period. An exempt tournament is one in which the three or four games only count as one for the purposes of the maximum 28-game regular season. The exempt rule was created to encourage participation in tournaments in hard-to-reach places such as Alaska and Hawaii. The limitation was recently imposed because the NCAA was concerned that only "marquee" schools were being invited to the tournaments each year. The top programs such as Duke and Arizona like the tournaments because it provides a neutral site at which to face both the best teams in the nation, as well as the mid-major schools that can present such a problem to a team in the NCAA Tournament.
A group of tournament promoters sued the NCAA in 2000, claiming that the rule was an unlawful restraint on free trade. The lower court agreed, stating that "the undisputed decrease in output in the relevant submarket of school-scheduled events is sufficient to show that the Two in Four Rule has led to an adverse effect on competition." Worldwide Basketball and Sports Tours, Inc. v. NCAA, 273 F. Supp. 2d 933 (S.D. Ohio 2003).
The appellate court reversed. The panel ruled that the district court erred in applying the "quick look" test, which allows a court in some circumstances to adjudge a rule anticompetitive based on only scant data. Application of test is determined on an ad hoc basis, and the appeals court felt that the district court used it inappropriately.
effect of [the rule] on customers rather than merely on competitors. (citations omitted)
Hat Tip: Reader John Infante.
Father of Teen Football Player Sues League: The father of a teenage Florida football player that died during a game has sued the youth league, claiming that his son received no medical attention after collapsing on the field. The exact cause of death from the November 6th accident has not yet been determined, but officials suspect a neck injury. The suit claims that the South Florida Football League failed to have trained medical personnel or equipment available at the game.
This is a tragic accident and one feels for the player's family. It could also have a decided impact on recreational sports in Florida. Football is a dangerous sport at all ages and it is important that the proper medical equipment be available at the fields, as well as trained medical personnel. But this is not easy for youth leagues, as it is prohibitively expensive. The question is: will parents be willing to pay more to the youth leagues to pay for medical equipment and training staff on how to use it? And not only that, but will the increased costs prevent many children from playing youth sports?
A Tale of Two Cities: As an update to my posts on the DC baseball stadium (here and here) and the comments debate, this article on TNR Online says that DC Mayor Anthony Williams has sold out his city in order to bring in professional sports. The article cites a number of studies that find that spending public money on professional sports decreases, rather than increases, overall public welfare.
Hat Tip: My friend Josh, who would appreciate this cartoon.
When $252 Million Isn't Enough: Murray Chass has another great article over at the NY Times. In this piece, he comments on the absurd practice of giving bonuses to players making $20 million a year for accomplishments such as making an All-Star team or finishing in the top 10 in the MVP voting.
Just last week, Barry Bonds and Vladimir Guerrero each gained a $500,000 bonus for winning his league's Most Valuable Player award. Bonds's salary and prorated share of his signing bonus totaled $18 million this year, Guerrero's $11 million.
A year ago, Alex Rodriguez, the man with the $252 million contract, was the A.L. M.V.P. and earned a $500,000 bonus on top of his $22 million guaranteed income for the year.
It's one thing for a losing pitcher to win a $10,000 bonus on top of his $175,000 salary; it's quite another for players of the magnitude and salaries of Bonds and Rodriguez to win bonuses of any amount.
Are they not being paid millions in salaries for performing like most valuable players, whether or not they win the award?
Sunday, November 21, 2004
The Verdict Is In... ...and the punishments are appropriately severe for the players involved in the Pacers-Pistons debacle this weekend. Fortunately, David Stern did not give out slap on the wrists, as I had feared, but suspended 9 players for 140+ games. The harshest penalty was assessed against Ron Artest, who was suspended for the remainder of the season (72 games). Teammates Stephen Jackson, who ran into the stands and punched several fans, and Jermaine O'Neal, who clocked another fan that had come down onto the court, were suspended for 30 and 25 games, respectively. Ben Wallace drew 6 games, Pacer Anthony Johnson got 5 and four players got one for leaving the bench during the initial players fight.
The harshest part of the suspensions, though, is that they must be served concurrently. In my mind, this may end the Pacers' season. They will be without their 3 best players for 25 games and will be short-handed the entire season. The league will allow them to sign other players to take their place during the suspensions, but this no doubt will have a highly detrimental impact on the team's record and play-off chances.
Of course, the players' union will appeal the suspensions. Will they be reduced? I don't know, but a part of me thinks that Stern and the league believed that they will. The suspensions are harsher than many thought they would be, and I wonder if Stern did this so that when they were reduced on appeal, the final punishment would be what the league deemed appropriate. If so, this introduces a new ploy on the part of the league to impose its will, no matter the desire of the union.
Though I believe they will be, I hope that the suspensions are not reduced. As I wrote yesterday, the only way the league can prevent future instances with perhaps even more dire consequences is to crack down now, and crack down hard. The league has acted appropriately to make its message clear: if you want to play in the NBA, you don't go into the stands.
Update: In the comments, someone has posted a link to an online petition to reduce the suspensions. I hope this is a joke, because the statement given in support is ridiculous and is exactly the reason such drastic punishments were needed.
The quotation is from the Pacers David Harrison: "If someone is throwing something at you with intent to harm you, you're going to defend yourself," he said. "It doesn't matter if the person is a fan or whatever. I just wonder what would happen if we went to where they work and harassed them for 48 minutes to an hour and then threw a beer at them when they were trying to leave. We'd go to jail."
First, defending yourself does not include vaulting four rows into the stands and pummeling any fan in sight, as Artest and Jackson did. It also does not include running up and punching a fan on the court, as O'Neal did. In fact, someone would have a hard time justifying punching someone, even if they had thrown a beer in your face from five feet, but this was a far-different situation.
Second, what this quote is really saying is that players have to defend their honor and act tough. Artest could have moved to the center of the court, relying on the stadium security to get rid of the thug that threw the beer. But instead, he stooped to the fan's level and acted like an even bigger thug. You start a brawl like that in a bar and chances are good that you will get arrested.
Third, the analogy to going to the fan's workplace is absurd. If you get paid $6 million a year (Artest's salary) to play basketball in hostile arenas, you come to expect a little verbal abuse. It is not all pretty language and there are times that you may want to jump into the stands, but you resist the urge and cash your paychecks. Yes, you cannot berate someone making $30K a year in their cubicle, but no NBA player would even think about changing places with them. The throwing of the beer was of course inexcusable, but someone making $6 million cannot react like Artest did.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Thoughts on the Pistons-Pacers Brawl: I plan to think about this more in the next few days, but I wanted to put in some initial thoughts on the despicable scene that happened last night at the end of the Pistons-Pacers game in Detroit. You can watch the video on ESPN Motion or one of the countless times it will be shown on TV today.
To summarize, in the game's final minute and with Indiana holding a big lead, Ron Artest fouled Ben Wallace as he went in for a basket. The foul did not appear to be overly flagrant, but it was from behind and came with the Pacers holding an insurmountable lead. Wallace, obviously angry, responded by shoving Artest in the face. And while Artest initially walked away, this led to a fight between the teams, with benches clearing and fists flying.
This part of the altercation should result in no legal liability. This was part of the game and involved only players of the two teams. I am certain that NBA sanctions will be handed down, especially for the players that (1) left the bench and (2) threw punches. This scene hearkened back to the days of the 1970s, when the 'B' in NBA stood for brawl and fights among entire teams were common. The NBA cracked down hard after the horrific Rudy T incident (for those interested in learning more, I recommend John Feinstein's The Punch). Ever since, the NBA has leveled serious fines and suspensions for fighting, including mandatory suspensions for players leaving the bench.
But what happened next was even uglier. The brawl between the players died down and the teams looked ready to go back in and finish the last 45 seconds of the game. But, as Artest was lying on the scorer's table waiting for the action to resume, he was hit by a cup of beer thrown from the stands. He immediately leapt up and into the stands, throwing punches as he went. His teammate Stephen Jackson followed, also throwing punches. A number of other players leapt into the stands, most trying to break up the fight. After the players returned to the court, a fan came up to Artest, screaming at him. Artest punched the man in the face, knocking him down. When the man got up and charged at Artest, Pacer teammate Jermaine O'Neal punched the man again. Finally, as the Pacers left the floor, they were belted with beer, ice, popcorn and a chair.
Unreal. I don't even know where to begin.
I think I will start with the ESPN NBA announcers, including John Saunders, a man I have a good deal of respect for. I believe that their reaction to this situation, summarized here by Tim Legler, was repugnant. They immediately blamed the fans, calling them "punks" on multiple occasions. Yes, I agree that the behavior of fans was despicable and should lead, where applicable, to criminal charges and loss of season tickets. But not once did I hear the cardinal rule of professional sports: PLAYERS DO NOT GO INTO THE STANDS. There is a line between these million-dollar athletes and the fans that pay their salaries, and this line should never be crossed. It was juvenile and even dangerous for the fan to throw a cup at Ron Artest. And he had every right to be livid. But he had no right to go into the stands. Move to the center of the court to avoid getting hit. Call over the arena security and have the man arrested. Yell at him and say some choice words about his mother. But DO NOT go into the stands.
The reasons for this are almost too many to name. NBA players are some of the biggest and strongest men in the world -- they could do some serious damage to the person responsible, or more likely, an innocent bystander. That is what happened to Rudy T -- he was running in to break up the fight and he ended up paying for it with his career. From the other angle, security at arenas is incredibly lax. Who knows what weapon -- a switchblade or even a gun -- some drunk fan has in the stands? Players are safe on the court; they are not safe surrounded by a bunch of drunk fans not in their right state of mind. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the line between player and fan must not be crossed. Fans must remain in the stands, players must remain on the court. And heavy punishments is the only way to ensure that this happens.
For Artest, Jackson and any other player who went into the stands and threw a punch, the league suspension should be among the longest in history. The suspensions should be unpaid. And the league should make perfectly clear that any other player who goes into the stands will be suspended for at least a month, if not longer. Send a message.
The league must act now, or it runs the great risk of an even more horrible situation occurring. If the only response is a slap on the wrist, this will happen again. And the next time, a fan could be crippled. Or a player could be stabbed. Someone could even be killed. Sadly, in many instances it takes a major injury of some sort for changes to be made -- again, see the Rudy T tragedy. But the league should know better, and should act now so that this never happens again. Other leagues should issue similar statements, especially baseball, which recently faced the Frank Francisco incident and is the only other professional sport where fans are so close to players.
From the team side, the Pistons should follow the example of the New York Giants a few years back. In what became a famous game, Giants fans responded to bad calls and some questionable hits by throwing snowballs, some containing rocks or batteries, down on the field at the opposing team. The team not only had fans arrested, but cancelled the season tickets of any fan caught on camera throwing a snow ball. With the lengthy waiting list for Giants season tickets, this proved to be a tough, and appropriate, punishment. The Pistons front office should do the same. Any fan caught on camera throwing something at a player or any fan that came onto the court should have their season tickets cancelled and, if possible, should be banned from the arena for the rest of the year. And, of course, the Pistons should step up their security at all future games.
So what about legal liability? I plan to look further into past cases of fan vs. player. In the most recent case, charges were not pressed against Rangers pitcher Frank Francisco, who threw a chair at an Oakland fan. But this does not mean that they could not have and I believe the civil lawsuit is still ongoing.
The players have the most to lose. As fellow NBA player Quentin Richardson said, "Man there are going to be some lawsuits. You don't think some of those fans aren't going to want some NBA money?" I expect civil lawsuits to be filed against any fan that was struck in the melee. And these cases have some merit, especially for those fans in the stands. You cannot punch another person merely for throwing a cup of beer at you. There was no way Artest was in any danger on the court or had to act in self-defense. Obviously, the judge or jury will look to laws of contributory or comparative negligence (I will check on Michigan tort law) when assessing liability, but some fans may have a case.
Even the fan that was punched on the court might have a case. His is tougher because (1) he was criminally trespassing and (2) he was going after Artest. But Artest will have a tough time claiming self-defense. From all reports, the man was not running at Artest, brandishing any type of weapon or physically threatening the player. Artest is 6' 7" and weighs 250 pounds -- he will have trouble convincing many that he was fearful of bodily injury. The fan may have a tougher case against O'Neal, who seems to have been protecting his teammate from the now charging fan. But again, the fact that the fan was on the court will severely hurt his case.
Criminally, this fan should be charged with trespassing. Just as the league must keep players out of the stands, fans must remain off the court. Criminal charges could also be filed against the fans throwing objects or throwing punches. But, if any fans are charged for their participation in the brawl, so too should the players. They are just as culpable and were just as involved. If this was a bar, citations would have been handed out. I see no reason why they should not be handed out here.
I think I have covered most of the legal bases -- but I will be thinking about this more and possibly adding more thoughts.
There are a number of different avenues the league, the team and the arena can take in this matter -- both legally and internally. Unlike in the past, I hope that all act with extreme prejudice and hand out punishments that will deter anything like this from happening ever again. Because the next fight could have results much more tragic than just a few black eyes.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
This is what Canadians do when there is no hockey: Distraught Saskatchewan Roughrider fans vandalized the house of the team's kicker after he missed an 18-yard field goal that would have won the game. Instead, his team lost the conference final and is done for the year.
If hockey was going on, would anyone have even been watching this game?
His excuse: the laces were in!
Baseball in DC: An Update: An arbitration panel has ruled against 14 former limited partners of the Expos baseball team, paving the way for the team to move to Washington, DC.
But what about the stadium? The move is contingent upon the District approving a stadium financing plan by December 31. After initial good news, the DC Council has since balked at the rising cost estimates, and public opposition to public funding. The Council has also refused to endorse a private financing plan, because it would require the District to re-open negotiations with Major League Baseball.
Do ballparks reinvigorate the area, leading to the economic boom often used to justify the use of public funds? The results are at best unclear. In New York, this columnist takes issue with "greedy billionaires" asking for hand-outs when schoolchildren have no gyms. But, as the new Clinton library in Little Rock shows, publicly-built structures can breathe life and pride into a community.
Where does this leave DC? In a fight that may take several months to resolve. Where does this leave the Expos? In limbo, but sadly, this is nothing new for the red-headed step child of baseball franchises.
Member of OU Spirit Group 'Attacked' by Husker Player: A member of the Ruf/Nek spirit group at Oklahoma claims that a Husker player charged him and hit him with his helmet before Saturday's game. His injuries were extensive, including losing teeth and requiring oral surgery, and so he has decided to press charges against the player.
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan issued a statement apologizing for the incident, but wondering why the spirit group was so close to the players to begin with. Perhaps Callahan should worry more about his team's woeful play and the fact that his lineman are attacking the opposing fans with more fury than the opposing players.
ABC Criticized over 'Desperate' Lead-In: The NFL issued a public criticism of ABC today for its lead-in to last night's Monday Night Football telecast. The intro featured a star of Desperate Housewives, the network's new prime-time soap opera. The woman, who was wearing only a towel, attempted to seduce Eagles' star Terrell Owens. When unsuccessful, she dropped the towel and T.O. agreed to stay put. Of course, nothing was shown but the implication was clear.
To be honest, I don't know what the NFL was so concerned with. The lead-in took place at 9:01 pm EST. There wasn't anyone under the age of 10 up to see it (or any other part of the game) anyway.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Two Doping Articles: One is funny and the other is not. From the Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link available, but it is from the November 11 paper):
But a pall has been cast on the venerable sport. In Belgium, where the pastime is also popular, scores of pigeons have tested positive for steroids. A number of fanciers have been suspended since the Ministry of Health imposed drug testing in 1995 out of concern for the birds' welfare. In 2001, Belgian police raided 80 homes of breeders and feed-and-medicine suppliers, confiscating large quantities of illegal products that were being used to goose performances.
Until recently, no one had raised questions about the sport in Britain. But a series of sensational race results by fanciers here has sparked grousing that some are feeding their pigeons more than grain.
The 107-year-old Royal Pigeon Racing Association, which is based in this scenic region of western England and counts Queen Elizabeth II among its members, instituted random drug testing in July. The substances banned in the RPRA's 2004 rulebook read like a list of drugs outlawed at the Olympic Games: anabolic steroids, beta-agonists, corticosteroids, opiates, analgesics and synthetic hormones, among others.
So far, the RPRA's 40 tests have all come back negative. But some of the country's top fanciers nevertheless remain under a cloud of suspicion. Among the rumors flying: They are using new drugs that can't be detected, or the drugs have left the pigeons' systems by the time tests are administered. The successful fanciers reply that the doping allegations are sour grapes from jealous rivals.
On the NFL TV Deal: Last week the NFL announced that it had renewed its contracts with CBS and FOX for another six seasons, until 2011. This announcement came as a bit of a surprise, because there were no open negotiations and bidding wars that we have come to expect for television rights deals. Fox will keep the NFC and CBS will remain the network of the AFC, for a reported $8 billion.
The big news coming out of this deal was the implementation of a flexible schedule for the final seven weeks of the season. This would allow the league to move key games to prime time on Sundays and Mondays, and in some cases on Thursdays or Saturdays, to maximize ratings. This should mean that the best games of the week will be shown to a national audience, preventing such crappers as Cowboys-Seahawks and Patriots-Dolphins taking up valuable TV time while only a part of the country gets the game of the week.
This will have the added advantage of muffling some of the criticism directed at the DirectTV deal (which was also renewed). If the best games are going to national audiences or predominantly national audiences, then many fans will be happy. I hope like many that one day all fans will be able to get all games, but this is a step in the right direction. Mainly, the people with a beef will be the displaced die-hard fans of the 1-8 teams.
But what does this mean for ESPN and ABC? These two networks were not part of this latest extension and still have to work out their deals. The NFL understandably will want an increase of the rights fee paid last time by the two networks, which are both owned by Disney. But will they pay it? ABC has faced declining ratings on the NFL (albeit due to the bad match-ups that often pop up) and ESPN overpaid by a large amount last time to keep the NFL. Will these networks pony up the dough the league wants?
If not, who will step in? I would not be surprised to see Fox make a run, since Rupert Murdoch apparently made an offer to the NFL to have Fox and its affiliated networks televise all of the NFL games. It could move some games to Fox Sports Net and keep some on the flagship network. You could also possibly see NBC. NBC got out of the NFL game in 1994 because of increasing costs and a prime-time schedule busting with hits. The network may change its tune now. Not only would it be getting a very attractive primetime package of mostly all great games, its primetime schedule is lagging after many years of greatness. Adding the NFL in 2006 could provide a much needed boost. Could the NFL also choose to keep some games for its NFL Network?
The Sports Business News also has an interesting article on the effect this NFL deal will have on the television rights for NASCAR.
Update: The Sports Business News also points out that this flexible schedule is not good for many fans, especially those that travel great distances to attend games. It is another example of the networks' tail wagging the NFL's dog. But for $8 billion, what do you expect?
More on College Football: Not related to law, but does anyone else hope for a royal mess at the top of the BCS standings this year? It won't happen in all likelihood, though I would love to see USC, OU, Auburn and Utah all be undefeated at the end of the season. This would make the BCS look very bad because there would be no true champion.
I remain convinced that a college football play-off is coming. Anything that moves us there quicker is a good thing in my book.
Peterson and the Heisman: What will happen if Oklahoma star running back Adrian Peterson, who is a freshman, wins the Heisman trophy? Specifically, what happens to the NFL's attempts to keep college underclassmen from entering the professional draft? After his poor showing this weekend, this topic may be less relevant, but it could come up, even if not this season. In fact, Mike Williams came very close to winning the trophy last year.
One of the NFL's key arguments is that the rule protects younger players, whose bodies are not as developed, from potential injury in the professional realm. However, if a player can win the Heisman trophy against many of the same players that will be turning pro the following year, can the NFL make this argument with a straight face? I would think no.
In my opinion, though, the NFL losing this argument does not have a great deal of relevance on its case. So long as the rule remains in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL can use established antitrust law to keep the rule. However, if antitrust law were to change, or even to become weaker, the NFL may have to rely more heavily on its other arguments such as player safety. This could make a freshman Heisman winner fatal to the NFL's rule.
Luckily for the NFL, the Heisman voters seem hell-bent on keeping the prize out of anyone's hands that is not a junior or senior (or for that matter, anyone who is not a QB or RB). But if the honor is ever given to the legitimately best player in college, regardless of age or position, it could have a much more dramatic effect on all of football.
"Defecting Baseball Players Throw Sports Agent a Curve" This is the title of an article from law.com about defecting players and their agents:
According to a lawsuit filed in Miami, they abruptly switched agents, from MVP Sports Management to Jaime Torres Sports Management. Torres also represents their friend, Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras. Miami-based MVP claims that Torres and Contreras interfered with its contractual relationship with the two Cubans.
On Nov. 3, MVP filed suit against the two Cuban ballplayers, Contreras and Torres. The complaint in Miami-Dade Circuit Court claims that Contreras and Torres tortiously interfered with Duenas and Rodriguez's contracts with MVP by luring them away, and that Duenas and Rodriguez breached their contracts.
"We were provided information that led us to the conclusion that Jose Contreras was involved," said David K. Friedland, a partner at Lott & Friedland in Coral Gables who is representing MVP. "He and Duenas were close in Cuba."
My apologies... for the break in posting. I was awash last week in a sea of ethics rules and taking the MPRE. But now there are many things to get to.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Supreme Court Denies Cert in Boxing Case: The nation's high court declined to review a case from the 3rd Circuit involving the conviction of the International Boxing Federation's chairman on charges of tax evasion, money laundering and racketeering. The issue before the Court would have been whether recording a suspect's conversation with a government informant without first seeking a warrant violates the 4th Amendment.
The 3rd Circuit ruled it did not. The Court concluded that the Fourth Amendment does not protect and quoted the Supreme Court in US v.Hoffa that "a wrongdoer's misplaced belief that a person to whom he voluntarily confides his wrongdoing will not reveal it." The 3rd Circuit went on to state that although "Hoffa involved testimony about conversations and not electronic recordings of conversations, the Supreme Court in later cases drew no distinction between the two situations." The court also noted that although a person has a heightened expectation of privacy in a motel suite, which is where the recordings took place, this does not continue once the individual invites another person inside, including persons unknown to be government informants.
Sidenote: This case reminds me of perhaps the most interesting thing I learned in Criminal Law. All law students have read Mapp v. Ohio, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established the exclusionary rule for evidence obtained in violation of the 4th Amendment. The case opens:
Update: A reader informs me that this is not true, that in fact the police were in fact searching for a person accused of bombing this man's house and not actually the man himself. My apologies for the mistake -- I heard my version of the story in a Criminal Law class taught by this man.
Woods Sues Builder of Yacht: Tiger Woods is mighty protective of his name and likeness, as I suppose he should be. After all, he is paid tens of millions of dollars each year for appearing in a limited number of ad campaigns for a select clientele (i.e., American Express, Nike). A few years back, he sued an artist over including his likeness in a print called the "Masters of Augusta." In a 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit affirmed the summary judgment against Woods, stating that the work's historical nature and transformative elements trumped Woods's right to protect his image.
Now, Woods has filed a suit that he seems much more likely to win. In February of this year, Woods purchased a 155-foot yacht from Christensen Shipyards Ltd. The contract for the yacht included a provision that Woods' image and the name of his boat (aptly named "Privacy") could not be used in any advertisement or in any way to promote Christensen. Only if asked could Christensen disclose that he had, in fact, designed the yacht purchased by Woods.
The suit claims that Christensen has breached this agreement. The complaint claims that Christensen created a "widespread national campaign" using Woods' name and photos of the 155-foot yacht. The suit also claims the yacht was used in a display at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show last month, as well as being featured in the January 2005 issue of ShowBoats International magazine.
The suit asks for an injunction, as well as compensatory damages. While it is hard to feel sorry for anyone with a 155-foot yacht, Woods should be able to protect his image and should definitely not be portrayed as endorsing a product without his permission.
Motion for a Temporary Injunction
Emergency Motion for an Expedited Hearing
Update: The real question I have in this case, though, has to do with the ownership of the yacht. Woods created a Cayman Islands corporation, Privacy Ltd. The corporation owns the yacht and he is the sole stockholder.
My guess is that this was done to create a liability shield and/or for tax purposes. But anyone that has any specifics on (a) why he might have done this or (b) if it will work, I would be very interested in hearing them.
More on Backman: You Can't Outrun Your Skeletons: As I thought more about the Wally Backman situation, it seems that there is an important lesson for everyone: in this digital age, your past will always catch up with you. Below is my column from this week's Harvard Law Record.
Last Monday, the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team announced they had hired Wally Backman to be their new manager. Backman, a former major league player, had enjoyed a very successful run as a minor league manager, winning over 400 games and twice being named the Minor League Manager of the Year. The team lauded him as a “first class citizen” and expressed excitement over the intensity he would bring to the job. One local journalist called Backman the “ideal choice” over a month before he was selected, noting that the same fire that caused him to be ejected from several games and suspended for bumping an umpire would help to wake up the last-place team.
Fast forward to last Friday. At a press conference, the Diamondbacks announced that Backman had been fired and immediately replaced by another candidate for the job. Backman relayed that he was “stunned” by his dismissal and the Diamondbacks organization was decried as a “laughingstock” and an “embarrassment.”
What happened? How did this seemingly “ideal choice” lose his job before even signing his contract? The trouble began the day after the hiring, when the New York Times ran an article about the decision, partly because Backman was a former New York Mets player, and partly because Backman had been a candidate to manage that same team. After repeating the “intensity” rationale for the hiring, the article mentioned some legal troubles Backman had encountered in the past four years. The article mentioned a domestic dispute with his wife, a drunken driving incident; and a bankruptcy filing.
As it turned out, though, this was just the beginning. Subsequent news stories revealed that Backman’s “intensity” on the field turned far worse off, as a further background check revealed a restraining order filed by his first wife, an harassment claim by his second, a charge that he hit his teenage son and a number of tax liens on his property. Under intense public scrutiny for their decision, the team reversed course and fired Backman.
Yes, this is a story about baseball. But the message it sends goes well beyond the sports world. In short, you cannot outrun your past.
This past weekend, 3Ls received a crash course in legal ethics in their preparation for the ethics portion of the Bar exam (the MPRE). In doing so, we all learned that even if you have some indiscretions in your past, it is better to admit them sooner rather than later. For some, it might be too late, as the admission should have been done as part of application to law school. For others, the state Bar Association may allow you to explain the problem, so long as you admit it. But if you do not, and it later surfaces, there is little hope of redemption.
Backman learned the same lesson last week. If he had been honest with the Diamondbacks and revealed his run-ins with the law, the team could have set its public relations machine in motion, acknowledging the problems but downplaying their significance. The team could have spun the problems into “giving him a second chance,” an edict with which all sports fans are unfortunately familiar. And, at the worst, Backman would not have been hired, but he could keep his current job or possibly get another managerial position. With the allegations surfacing as they did, however, the team had almost no choice but to fire this otherwise excellent candidate. Moreover, the incredible publicity of the firing (at last count, over 700 newspaper articles) means that Backman now may have difficulty securing any job in baseball, no matter how small.
Now more than ever, honesty is the best policy when it comes to one’s past. As few as ten years ago, Backman may have been able to escape this past completely. Before the Internet and the age of digitization, a New York newspaper would have had extreme difficulty in tracking down the details of a DUI in Washington state. For someone not in the public eye, it was relatively easy to move to a new area, confident that past problems would not follow. But today, a simple Google search can delve deep into one’s past, allowing a lay person to accomplish in minutes what once took days for investigators. After reading of these claims, I performed a thirty-second Lexis search and pulled up three of the incidents involving Backman. Soon, all employers can begin performing such routine searches, pulling up news stories, public records and other skeletons that applicants may wish to leave in the closet. And for those in the public eye, an army of bloggers and reporters is on constant alert for the “big” story that will launch a career or increase readership.
What does this mean for the Wally Backman’s of the world? On the one hand, this is a turn for the worse, because it may prove more challenging for one to overcome an unfortunate past. It would be unfortunate if this wealth of information prevented anyone from getting a second chance. But the decision ultimately should belong to employers, and in many cases, a few minor, isolated legal problems in the past will not preclude current employment, so long as the applicant shows both honesty and remorse. Applicant to law school and to the Bar should keep this in mind, as each lie only compounds the problem and increases the consequences if caught.
In an argument familiar to many, Backman did not think the incidents were relevant to his employment. After all, he was good at what he did and the legal troubles in no way had prevented him getting a lower job within the same organization. But as he now knows, and we should all understand, even small legal problems can become relevant if covered up. And in this day and age, no matter how fast you run, information moves more faster.
Kobe Links: For the Kobe-obsessed in the audience, some good links on the demise of his criminal trial and new developments in the civil trial.
This past weekend, the LA Times featured a lengthy article on the progress of the trial.
There have also been a number of articles on whether the accuser's goal all along was to get to the civil suit.
Finally, a possibility that the accuser could file her suit in Orange County because the jurisdiction has fewer restrictions on damage awards.
Monday, November 08, 2004
Backman Fired by D-Backs: Wally Backman lasted only four days as the manager of the Diamondbacks and was fired on Friday for a number of legal indiscretions in his past. The team only became aware of Backman's legal troubles, which included a domestic disturbance charge, a DUI and numerous tax liens, after they were mentioned in the New York Times following the hiring.
I am not sure what I think about this. The team has every right not to hire someone based on their legal past, but the way in which this took place has damaged Backman, perhaps irreparably. The two-time Minor League Manager of the Year may now have trouble getting any job as a manager, much less in the big leagues. And the team should not blame Backman. Yes, they asked him if there was anything in his past that was relevant, but he had been a manager in the organization for 4 years. Was it not proper for him to assume that these legal troubles were not relevant, as they had not been for the previous four years? But in the end, Backman is at fault, because the legal troubles are his own.
What is the lesson in all of this? In today's world, it is impossible to outrun your past. Even if your employer does not know of legal troubles, there are a wealth of journalists and bloggers that have Google and a number of other tools that they can use to check your past. Perhaps if Backman had come clean from the beginning, the organization could have put some spin on this and justified the hiring. Or, at the least, he would not have been hired but could have stayed on as a minor league manager. But, at least for a public figure, failing to disclose past legal troubles appears to no longer be a viable option.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Carter Liable for Breach of Contract: NBA player Vince Carter was ordered by a federal jury to pay $4.7 million in lost commissions and damages to his former agent, who is currently imprisoned on money laundering and other charges. The agent originally sued Carter for $14 million, claiming Carter fired him without paying him a percentage of the endorsement deals he landed for the player.
Carter had also countersued, demanding the agent repay him the nearly $19 million he lost in a failed shoe deal with Puma. The jury found that Black and his company were negligent in handling the Puma contract, but decided Carter was not harmed financially by the negligence and gave him no damages.
Carter plans to appeal.
More on Stadium Financing: After a heated debate yesterday, two D.C. Council committees narrowly approved legislation to build a baseball stadium for the soon-to-be-renamed Expos. The legislation now moves from committees to a vote by the full 13-member council next week.
The details from the Washington Post:
The bill includes a community investment fund that city officials say could provide $450 million for schools, libraries and recreation centers, although some council members and activists have said the plan is vague.
Tennis Player Sues Vitamin Distributor: Graydon Oliver, a tennis player on the ATP tour has sued Barry's Vitamins and Herbs, claiming that a sleep aid he purchased and used in 2003 contained a diuretic that caused him to fail a tour drug test. The sleep medicine, Relax-Aid, contained hydrochlorothiazide, and was detected in a routine random drug test. Diuretics are prohibited because they can be used to disguise the use of other banned, performance-enhancing substances.
The ATP found the failure to be inadvertent and thus handed down a more lenient sentence of a two month suspension and forfeiture of $5000 in prize money. But in the lawsuit, Oliver claims a number of other economic and non-economic losses, including damage to his reputation.
The law.com article has an interesting angle:
More on Naming Rights Deals and Candlestick: Several readers have called me out on my harsh discounting of the importance of a stadium name. This reader said it best:
These readers have helped me to see the error of my ways -- stadium names can be very important to fans and to the identity of a team. Not being from the West Coast, I did not put Candlestick in the Fenway or Wrigley or Lambeau category, but I can see how loyal fans would.
But, the reality of sports seems to be moving towards a replacement of "traditional" stadium names with the names of corporations that will pony up large amounts of money. In today's economies of sport, this may be unavoidable. Moreover, if the increasing tide of players' salaries is not stemmed, many other things could be up for sale, including logos on uniforms, and even team names. Imagine how much a team could make for selling off its nickname. Think the Detroit Chevys. Or the Miami Blockbusters. Maybe the San Francisco Yahoos? This is not outside the realm of possibility.
Hockey is now facing the ugliness that comes when economics in a sport are allowed to spiral out of control. Gary Bettman has now said that the season may be lost because most teams are losing less money this season by not playing any games. Hockey was done in by a lack of the television revenue advertising dollars that keep the other major sports afloat. But, in any sport, the amount of advertising revenue is finite. Even in NASCAR, a sport that sponsors everything, this is quickly becoming reality, as the tension grows between companies sponsoring drivers and their rival companies sponsoring the league. In order to make ends meet, will teams result to selling off team names? Maybe, but it cannot last forever. And soon, the other major sports will have to face up to the reality of hockey: the sponsorship market is not infinite, and thus, players salaries also cannot be.
For now, though, we are stuck with corporate sponsorships in at least some realms. But this does not mean that people have to like it. Fans are right to cherish names like Candlestick and if I had been in San Francisco, I too would have voted to protect the name.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Sports on the Ballot: Everyone knows that yesterday's election featured a bitter battle for the White House and the probably more important but less-discussed Senate races. But there were also a number of races which either featured sports figures or dealt with sports-related issues.
A number of well-known sports figures were involved in elections on Tuesday. Incumbents Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) and Jim Bunning (R- Ken.) held onto their House and Senate seats, respectively. In Bunning's case, his victory comes despite a much-maligned campaign where he admitted to a number of errors and his opposition questioned his mental health. In addition, on yesterday's PTI, Charles Barkley said that if Kerry did not win, then he would run for governor of Alabama. So, I suppose we may be seeing candidate Charles in the next two years.
More important, though, are the numerous ballot initiatives dealing with sports questions. The big win was in Dallas, where voters approved $325 million in tax increases to help pay for a new retractable-roof stadium in Arlington (home to the Rangers baseball team). I am sure that this is not sitting well with Professor Sauer, who has written extensively on the excessive public subsidies given to professional sports teams. But, in the end, crazy Texas football love won out over reason and economic sense. For a wealth of information on this vote, please see Heavy Lifting.
In contrast, a much-smaller tax increase to renovate the stadiums of the Chiefs and Royals failed in Kansas City, placing both of the financially-strapped teams in somewhat problematic situations. But the local government said that while the measure failed, it succeeded in getting people thinking about public support for sports and the arts (which also would have benefited under the measure).
In San Francisco, voters approved Proposition H by a 55 to 45 margin. The measure prevents the sale of naming rights for Candlestick Park, effectively avoiding a sale to Monster.com which would have renamed the site Monster Park. The initiative will not affect any future stadiums built on the site, and will cost the city approximately $3 million. Is there anything in California they do not have an initiative for? This seems an excessively-trivial measure. I understand the argument against naming rights deals, but they play a big role in paying for stadiums, helping lessen the need for taxes like were just passed in Dallas. And is anyone really that attached to the name "Candlestick Park?"
Finally, voters in Miami approved $2.9 billion in bonds to build new museums, roads and drainage systems, and renovate the Orange Bowl. Approximately $50 million is earmarked for the aging stadium.
Monday, November 01, 2004
"I am shocked, shocked to learn that there is gambling going on at this establishment!" A group led by Congressman Tom Osbourne (you may remember that he coached Nebraska when it was a good team) and Dean Smith (you may remember that he coached North Carolina when it was a good team) have now joined forces to try and convince the NCAA to ban alcohol advertisements during collegiate sporting events. From a press release:
College officials say they want to deter underage and binge drinking, and stop the riots that disrupt campus communities and blot schools reputations, said George A. Hacker, director of CSPIs alcohol policies project. But too often, theyre complicit with beer marketers in pitching beer to their students and young fans. That totally undercuts their responsibilities to the health and safety of their students.
According to the poll, seven in 10 Americans say beer companies that advertise on sports know that their ads appeal to underage persons. Two-thirds believe beer companies use sports to reach and advertise to persons under the legal drinking age.
First, let's have a lesson in realism. College students are very good at two things. The first is not paying attention to advertisements. I have never met a college student who was not incredibly able when it came to the remote control -- hardly a commercial gets watched. The second thing college students are good at is drinking. College students drink. Alcohol. Beer. Liquor. College students have been drinking probably since universities were first founded. Until 1984, many did so legally. In that year, a number of special interest groups (such as MADD) pushed Congress to raise the drinking age. Since this type of law did not concern interstate commerce and had always been under the purview of the states, Congress accomplished this by mandating that states raise the age to 21 or lose a portion of their federal highway funds. A similar law dealing with speed limits was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Dole. So, all of the states gave into fiscal pressure, meaning that you can now adopt a child and fight in a war before you can legally have a beer.
Did this stop 18-20 year olds from drinking? Of course not. Only now, instead of being able to drink out in the open, college students electing to drink began doing so behind closed doors. Universities that could previously monitor drinking to ensure it was done more safely now began cracking down on it, enforcing no-alcohol policies that led to a culture of binge drinking (drinking a great deal in private before moving to a public "no alcohol" setting). This is in fact much more unsafe than simply allowing drinking to occur out in the open.
The argument against this point is of course that the students make the ultimate choice. It is not the law that forces binge drinking -- students choose to do this. There are good reasons to raise the drinking age, including trying to limit drunk driving and alcohol-related illnesses, injuries and deaths. In addition, by having zero-tolerance rules, colleges can limit their own legal liability for alcohol-related problems, which is a key concern in this day of solving problems through litigation. But any visitor to a college campus would quickly see that these goals are not being achieved.
This type of legislation is a step in the wrong direction. As the student newspaper at Duke argues, efforts should not be made to pretend that drinking can be prevented at college campuses. Parents and administrators should not be shocked that there is gambling going on, when they gambled and their parents before them gambled. Instead, efforts should be made to teach responsible drinking, including preventing drunk driving and binge drinking. If alcohol was once again brought out into the open, colleges could help control the negative effects of drinking, making everyone safer. This can only be done by recognizing that all adults should be able to drink and returning the drinking age to 18.
"And the peasants rejoice..." I am back from traveling and I am very disoriented. My body clock is about seven hours off, I am jet-lagged and I am just really confused. I got off the plane and someone said that the Red Sox had won the World Series. I must be more tired than I thought...
Living in Boston right now is quite the site. I thought the town went nuts after the ALCS comeback, but everyone seems to be on a high after the World Series victory. What does this mean for the world? Is the Apocalypse upon us? How will Red Sox fans deal with the success? And why have all of the pictures I have seen of celebrating fans been of 20-year olds. Wow, what misery for you -- 8 to 10 years of heartache. Please. I want to see an interview with the 90 year-old who just knew he was going to die without seeing the Sox win it all. Or the man whose father and grandfather both died without seeing a championship. These are the die-hards.
On a more whimsical note, does anyone think that there will be a lot of babies born in Boston at the end of July 2005? We will have to wait and see.
PS: Can anyone tell me where the title of this post comes from? Hint: It's from a TV show. The prize will be incredible, you can count on that.