Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Monday, February 28, 2005
 

South Carolina Fined For Fans Rushing the Court

Excellent news from South Carolina, where the Southeastern Conference has fined USC $5000 for allowing its fans to rush the court following its upset victory over Kentucky last week. I am all for college students celebrating sports (except if they celebrate like Maryland fans), but as I have written before (column and post, post, post), it is only a matter of time before the combination of fans and players on the court, especially at the end of a heated game, results in a brawl that puts the Pistons-Pacers brawl to shame. Universities should be the most concerned, because they would be the ones facing lawsuits (note: I wonder how state sovereign immunity would factor in for state-run universities), but the conferences could also potentially be named in the lawsuit. Thus, the action by the SEC.

 

Palmeiro Considers Suing Canseco

Are steroids a big issue in baseball right now? That's funny, you would think they would have a story about it on SportsCenter. And I hear Jose Canseco is involved...

Canseco's book may sell, but it appears he will need all the proceeds to cover his legal costs. Rafael Palmeiro, one of the athletes he claims to have given steroids, is considering a lawsuit, and he probably will not be the last. If the statement is untrue, as Palmeiro claims, then the elements of defamation have all been met. The statement was (1) published to third parties, (2) Canseco knew the statement was false (assuming he lied) and (3) it will likely injure Palmeiro's reputation in a real way (affect the way his achievements are viewed, etc).

The tough part for Palmeiro is that he is a public figure. Thus, he must prove under New York Times v. Sullivan that Canseco acted with "actual malice" or "reckless disregard for the truth." It will be almost impossible to establish the first, unless there exists some proof that Canseco hates Palmeiro and was out to get him. The second is possible -- after all, if Canseco knew the statement was not true, then it is pretty reckless to make such a blanket and conclusory statement.

The real problem, though, is that Palmeiro will have to prove a negative. He has to prove that Canseco never gave him the drugs and that he never took them -- which could prove to be impossible. He can parade a huge number of people onto the stand to vouch for his reputation, but the fact remains that he could have taken the drugs in private or been alone at one point with Canseco. Falsity must be proved with "convincing clarity" under Sullivan, which is not an easy standard to meet.

Palmeiro (and others) might still sue, however, hoping for a settlement or at least to punish Canseco through litigation. In any case, it is doubtful Canseco will be invited to any "Old Timers" games in the future.

Update: It appears that Canseco has bigger problems than a lawsuit.

Sunday, February 27, 2005
 

"Raiders Lose Bid on Lawsuit"

A California state appellate court has ruled in favor of the NFL, deciding that the actions of certain jurors in its trial with the Oakland Raiders did not constitute misconduct necessitating a new trial. One juror allegedly told the others that he hated the Raiders and Al Davis, the team's owner, and would "never find for the Raiders." Another juror supposedly wrote legal statements for use by the jury, violating the rule that pronouncements of law should only come from the judge. The Raiders plan to appeal the $1.2 billion lawsuit, which the NFL won at trial, to the California Supreme Court.

Update: In response to an inquiry, the Raiders sued the NFL claiming that the league sabotaged a deal for a new stadium and forced the team to leave Los Angeles. The lawsuit was not given much of a chance for success from the beginning.

Friday, February 25, 2005
 

Los (Anaheim) Angels Update

Spring training has begun and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have taken the field. Media outlets have said that the team will be referred to as "Los Angeles" or "LAA," but Anaheim is not giving up its legal battle. The city council voted to pursue an appeal of a judge's ruling denying a preliminary injunction (discussed here) and also voted to take the case all the way to trial. This will cost the city a great deal of money but the council members apparently feel very strongly that the name change violates the Angels' stadium lease.

The city also has a friend on its side in the state legislature. Assemblyman Tom Umberg plans to introduce the "Truth in Sports Advertising Act" to the state assembly, which would require California pro sports teams that use one geographical area in their name but play in another to disclose that fact with some form of a visual disclaimer on all advertising and commercials, including game tickets. One example of the language would be, "Attention: The Angels play their home games in Anaheim, not Los Angeles." Though the Angels are a private business, the regulation would be justified under existing laws that regulate advertising.

The problem with such a law is that many professional sports teams play in smaller suburbs outside of their real city "home." Thus, it could have an impact on teams that do not have an agreement like the one claimed by Anaheim. For example, Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy play their home games in Carson and would be forced to disclaim that in advertising.

Thus, the legislation probably has little chance of passing, and even if it did, it would not go into effect until next year. But the symbolism of the act is clear. Anaheim has many friends in its battle to "keep" the Angels and it will not give up without a fight.

 

"Angry Phillies Fan Tagged Out in Cyberspace"

Disgruntled fans, take note. You can boo and you can complain on talk radio. But you can't resort to hacking and e-mail spam in order to voice your displeasure. From Andrews Publications on FindLaw:
    A disgruntled Phillies fan who allegedly took his frustration into cyberspace by hacking into computers nationwide to launch spam e-mails criticizing the baseball team has been convicted of computer crimes by a Philadelphia federal jury.

    Allan Eric Carlson of Glendale, Calif., flooded the e-mail servers of the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., Knight-Ridder Inc., espnmag.com, foxsports.com and sportingnews.com to express his displeasure about the management of the baseball team, according to federal prosecutors. The jury found Carlson guilty on 52 counts of computer fraud and 27 counts of identity fraud.
I suppose this gives new meaning to the term, "Phillie Phanatic."

Thursday, February 24, 2005
 

Got Ink? Wallace Sued for Copyright Infringement

Usually, when big-time athletes get sued, they will settle the suit quickly for a nominal sum. After all, they have tons of money and don't want to get caught up in prolonged litigation that will probably end up costing them more. In this case, though, I hope Rasheed Wallace does not settle because the case involves a fascinating copyright issue.

In 1998, Rasheed Wallace contacted Matthew Reed, a well-known tattoo artist, about having work done on his arm. Wallace wanted the tattoo to be an Egyptian-themed family design, and for $450, Reed researched, designed and inked the tattoo on Wallace's arm. The tattoo has become one of the most distinctive in the NBA (photo) and has gotten Reed a great deal of exposure, which he wanted.

However, a new Nike advertisement may have taken the publicity a step too far. Although I have not seen it, the advertisement, which appeared on television and the Internet, focuses on the tattoo and its design. According to one story, "Wallace told Nike and ad company officials either that he owned the intellectual property rights to the tattoo image or shared them with Reed." Reed claims, however, that he owns the copyright in the tattoo and that the advertisement violates his intellectual property rights. Accordingly, he has filed suit.

This case is interesting for a number of reasons. One, the copyrighting of tattoos and piercings is very much an open issue with no clear resolution. Of even more importance is the play of the first sale doctrine. Under this rule, once an individual buys a copy of a work, she can make any use of it that she desires, other than re-copying it. For instance, if I buy a book, I cannot make a copy of it for my friend, but I am welcome to loan it to my friend, use the book as a coaster, or rip it up and use it for kindling. I don't own the copyright in the material, but I own that copy.

This issue is even more pronounced when it comes to body art. After all, this tattoo takes up most of Wallace's right arm from his elbow to his shoulder. While the first use doctrine does not protect commercial uses, it would be hard for him to appear on a television ad without the tattoo being seen. On the other hand, if the ad centered on the tattoo, perhaps Reed has more of a case. From the standpoint of legal curiosity, though, I am rooting against settlement so that some answers to these questions can emerge.

You can see the complaint and some other documents here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
 

Could Nissan Wash-Out Affect Future PGA Sponsorship Contracts?

Last week's Nissan Open proved to be a disaster, with rain throughout the weekend causing the tournament to be shortened to 36-holes. This means that the winner of the tournament, Adam Scott, does not get an official tournament win and the perks that come with it. But he, and the rest of the players, did receive the full allotment of prize money -- $4.8 million in total -- and Nissan is asking why it had to pay the full amount of prize money for a tournament that was only half-played.

The answer lies in Nissan's contract with the tournament's organizers and the PGA. The contract states that if the event makes it through at least 18-holes, then the sponsor must pay the full amount of prize money. Some sponsors carry insurance in case of shortened events, but Nissan is asking why this is even necessary. John Gill, director of sports marketing for Nissan North America, is hoping to write a clause into the company's next title sponsor contract that would have some form of a pro-rated compensation clause.

For a number of reasons, the PGA is likely to balk at such an arrangement. For one, it could make players less likely to come to tournaments that often have inclement weather. The Nissan Open, held in Los Angeles, rarely has any weather issues, but other tournaments are not so lucky. Players might choose to skip tournaments with a history of poor weather rather than risk a lower pay-out. In addition, the PGA may feel that it has the better bargaining position in seeking title sponsors. While Nissan has been a loyal sponsor of golf, the PGA may feel that it can find a number of other sponsors willing to jump in and take Nissan's place in Los Angeles. Whether this is accurate remains to be seen, but the PGA is not likely to agree to reduced pay-outs without a significant fight.

 

More Funding for Seattle Arenas

Three Washington state lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation that would finance a $205 million expansion of Seattle's Key Arena (basketball home of the Sonics) and provide millions more for area arts programs. The money would come from an extension of several taxes, including taxes on car-rental, hotels and restaurants, that are now used to pay construction debt on the city's new football and baseball stadiums. Instead of the taxes being lowered when the debt is paid off, the revenue would go towards the renovation and local arts programs. The bill is expected to face significant opposition because of the large amounts of public funds that were recently spent to build the two new stadiums.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
 

Article on the Demise of ESPN

This article from Slate discusses something I have been talking about for a while now: how ESPN has declined over the years from the premier sports network to a network full of more specialty shows and talking heads. Nowhere is the change more apparent than on SportsCenter. The show used to be thirty minutes of jam-packed highlights and scores, with an hour-long show on Sunday. Now, the show is routinely 90 minutes, with nary a highlight to be found, except for the awful "Ultimate Highlight." There seem to be more and more commentators, fact/fiction, 5 burning questions, the Budweiser Hot Seat, and on and on. The Slate article describes this as the "MTV-ing" of the network and I could not agree more.

Thanks to Brian at the Sports Economist for the tip.

 

Pittsburgh Man Does Not Have Standing to Sue Steelers

The Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Richardson, 418 US 166 (1974) that being a taxpayer is not enough to bring a lawsuit challenging a government action. Although the taxpayer in that case was arguably injured by having a few cents of his tax money spent on a government program he felt was illegal, the Court held that there was not enough of a "concrete injury" to bring a suit. As one Justice wrote, such complaints are better left to the political process.

Now, a Pittsburgh man has been introduced to this legal standard. Robert C. Warnock had his lawsuit against the Steelers and the NFL dismissed last week because his status as a taxpayer was not deemed sufficient to bring the complaint. Warnock was attempting to bring an antitrust action, claiming that the local governments were forced into an unfair lease that caused them to pay more for the stadium than the benefit that would be received. Warnock claimed that an "unlawful trust" existed between the NFL, the Steelers and other teams in the league that restricted trade and prevented competition.

In dismissing the suit, the judge likened the man to "a spectator in the stands who is unable to challenge a disputed call by the referee because he does not hold the head coach's red challenge flag." As a taxpayer, the man would need one of the local governments to join the action for there to be a justiciable case or controversy. Neither the county or the city elected to do so.

The lawyer for Warnock said that he may appeal the result, based on a ruling in another federal case, where a fan in Cincinnati was granted standing to bring a similar claim. You can read more on the lawsuits in this earlier post.

 

Baseball Arbitration Summary

The baseball arbitration "season" came to a close last week in Tampa, in advance of the beginning of spring training. For those unfamiliar with the arbitration process, I give a brief explanation in this post last year. Only three cases went to trial this year (a new low), with the owners winning two and Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse emerging as the lone players' victor. But don't feel bad for those on the field. The remainder of the 86 players settled prior to hearings, with an average salary increase of 123 percent. The average salary for all 89 players will be $2.8 million per season, which is down from $3.26 million last year, but still represents a hefty sum. The big winners were Lohse ($2.4 million, up 508 percent), Reds outfielder Adam Dunn ($4.6 million, up 934 percent) and Colorado pitcher Jason Jennings ($3.5 million, up 929 percent). You can read more in this LA Times article.

 

The Problems of Being a Ringside Physician:

I don't talk about boxing much, but this (lengthy) article gives a good look at a key part of boxing: the ringside physician. These men and women (mostly men) are a necessary part of the sport but the job is not overly attractive.
    Being a ring doctor is not a ticket to wealth. * * * Payment in Nevada is keyed to fight-night responsibilities and the magnitude of the fight. The lead doctor on a big fight in Nevada gets $750 and the number-two doctor receives $650. Doctors who work in back in the dressing rooms get less.
In addition to the low pay, ringside physicians face a number of potential legal problems because of the violent nature of the sport and the quick judgment calls that must be made. The issue of medical malpractice insurance is dicey for every ringside physician.
    In some jurisdictions, ring doctors work fights as an agent of the state and are covered by the state athletic commission. But in other jurisdictions, the doctors are present on fight night as private physicians and are thus vulnerable. Some doctors are affiliated with hospitals that incorporate ring duties into their insurance policies. But other doctors have no such protection, and more and more individual medical malpractice insurance policies are specifically excluding coverage for sports supervision.
To protect themselves and their rights, a group of ringside physicians has formed the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians (AAPRP) and is seeking a voice in the sport. The full article talks more about the issues facing the group, both legal and economic in nature.

Sunday, February 20, 2005
 

Olympic Bids: Is New York One and Done?

Winning the right to host the Olympic Games is no easy chore. Cities and countries begin upwards of 10 years in advance, and most cities have to bid at least twice before winning the IOC's blessing. New York City, the representative city for the US, however, has stated that it may not bid for the Olympics in 2016 should its bid for the 2012 games come up short.

This is unsettling news for the US Olympic Committee, which reportedly asked for at least a two-bid commitment when it selected New York to be the US city over San Francisco and others. The New York officials say they never made such a commitment, but knowing how the bidding process works, it seems that the USOC's intentions would have been clear.

What is the reason for the possible one and done? Officials from New York claim that there are "a unique series of resources" that may not be replicable. This may have a lot to do with the growing resentment in the city over the proposed West Side stadium, which would cost over $1 billion, or the large amounts of public funds that would have to be applied towards the games. New York officials probably believe that they cannot keep their margin of support long enough to last another 4 years.

It may also be a ploy to get the Games in this go-round. The IOC loves awarding the games to American cities, due to the increased sponsorship dollars and television contracts that result. Could this be enough to overcome the fact that the 2010 Winter Games are on North America (Vancouver)? Right now, Paris (a failed bidder for the 2008 Games) is considered the front-runner. So, if New York does come up short, the USOC may find itself without a candidate for 2016.

 

Insurance Becomes Standard Protective Gear

USC quarterback Matt Leinart decided to return for his senior year of college, despite winning the Heisman Trophy and two national championships. In doing so, however, he knew that he needed to protect himself in case of injury. So, in a move made by more and more athletes, he has purchased insurance for himself in case of injury. The insurance, which pays out from $200,000 to $10 million for a premium price ranging from $10,000 to $1 million, covers players in the case of career-ending injury. The price for college players is lower for that of professionals, since they are not currently earning any salary. In a famous case, Willis McGahee took out a policy to cover him for his final college game, in which he blew out his knee. He never collected because he made it back to play in the NFL, but if the injury had ended his career, he would have collected over $1 million.

The full article has a lot more interesting details. You can read more on insurance in sports in this earlier post.

Saturday, February 19, 2005
 

...but are still accurate nonetheless.

With Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux in attendance, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association met for 6 ½ hours in New York Saturday, but the talks failed to generate a new collective bargaining agreement to save the 2004-05 season.

The latest deal offered to the players reportedly was worse than the league’s ‘final offer’ last Tuesday before NHL commissioner Gary Bettman cancelled the season Wednesday leading some to believe Saturday’s get-together was Bettman’s way of trying to impress upon the players things will only get worse as time goes on without a new deal.

“We are much farther apart than everybody thought we were on Tuesday,” said NHLPA executive member Ted Saskin.

From Mike Brophy of The Hockey News

Talk about making a terrible situation out of a bad situation. It's almost as if the NHL and NHLPA are trying to draft the definitive blueprint on how not to negotiate effectively.

And that leads me to just one question: When does the Arena Football League overtake the National Hockey League in popularity among Americans? That might have been a laughable proposition a couple of years ago, but no longer. The AFL has a national TV contract with a network, NBC, while the NHL doesn't, and its contract with ESPN is in grave jeopardy.

I only wish I had enough money to buy an AFL team; I suspect it would prove to be a pretty wise investment. Just consider the foresight of those who purchased AFL teams back in 1996: Since that time, the average value of AFL teams has skyrocketed from $400,000 to $16 million (i.e., a rather jarring value escalation of 3,900 percent), and expansion franchises now fetch $20 million to be shared among existing owners. That sure sounds like a better investment than buying a team in another league which I will leave nameless.


 

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated...

Is it possible that perhaps the NHL season will not be cancelled? The Hockey News says as much, and articles today in the LA Times and New York Times report an announcement could come today. For continuing updates, see OffWing.

Friday, February 18, 2005
 

More Hockey: Replacement Players and the Stanley Cup?

The cancellation of the hockey season has people talking about two key legal issues. The first is replacement players. Admittedly, I do not even begin to know everything about the myriad of labor laws covering Canada, the US, and their provinces and states. However, based on what I have read, it appears that most every team would be able to hire replacement players. The exceptions could be the Montreal Canadians and Vancouver Canucks, as labor laws in Quebec and British Columbia prevent the hiring of replacement workers. However, many labor lawyers in Vancouver believe that the BC law may not apply to the Canucks because the union at issue is not organized locally, but rather in Ontario. Thus, the prohibition may not apply. In addition, the teams have considered hosting their "home" games in other provinces, which could also allow them to avoid the law. The only other issue for teams seem to be the laws, in both Canada and the United States, which prevents the hiring of foreign-nationals to take the place of striking workers. This could mean that the replacements could be only Canadian and American, respectively.

This leads directly into the next issue: should the league even consider replacements? The NFL had a dismal experience with replacement players in 1987. Few fans came to the replacement games, those that did come booed the players, and many of the replacements were thereafter shunned by the members of the union. Many commentators have predicted an even more violent fan backlash to replacement hockey than to no hockey at all. At least during the lock-out, there is no bad hockey to remind fans of what could be.

There is, however, real hockey going on in North America. The American Hockey League continues to play its schedule, and now a movement has begun to award the Stanley Cup to the winner of the AHL championship. As a reminder, it is only be tradition that Lord Stanley's Cup is awarded to the NHL champion each year. In fact, the Stanley Cup was first awarded in 1893, long before the NHL began play in 1917. The Cup is not the property of the NHL or to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the last team to win it.

According to a legal opinion received by Free Stanley, an Edmonton-based organization, Lord Stanley bequeathed his Cup to trustees, who are to ensure that it is awarded to the team winning a hockey challenge each year. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the current trustees, Brian O'Neill and Ian Morrison, have "absolute power over all matters regarding the Stanley Cup."

So, perhaps the Stanley Cup should be awarded this year. As Anil Adyanthaya writes, "awarding the Cup in 2005 will mean that the game of hockey itself transcends the monetary issues that divide the NHL." That seems like a good idea to me.

 

Does Making Cheerleading a Varsity Sport Count Towards Title IX?

The University of Maryland needed to add two women's sports to bring its athletic department within the requirements of Title IX. In the end, it rejected ice hockey and rowing and added water polo and cheerleading. So now, the Maryland cheerleaders are varsity athletes. Note that this is not the men and women that stand on the sideline during football games -- that is the "spirit squad." Rather, these are competitive cheerleaders -- perhaps you have seen them on ESPN2 -- that perform in competitions around the nation.

Many Title IX advocates fail to see the distinction and claim that Maryland added the two most inexpensive sports, while failing to add the more costly ice hockey and rowing. After all, bathing suits for water polo and cheerleading uniforms are far less expensive than the boats for rowing and hockey equipment. The opponents also argue that the program is "disingenuous," noting that many of the team's required 8-10 competitions have come against high school squads or non-Division I opponents.

It seems that one cannot win on either side of this argument. If you ever tell a cheerleader that cheering is not a sport, you are likely to get a pom-pom upside the head. But now, the advocates for equality in women's athletics tell us that cheerleading, even competitive cheerleading, should not count. And why? Because it does not cost as much as other sports. Because it is not a "traditional" sport. Because there are better alternatives. These seem like bad reasons to fight against making a sport varsity.

Perhaps it has more to do with the common perception of cheerleading: that it is the "girls" getting into dresses and standing by on the sideline while the "boys" actually play the game. It seems to me, though, that one of the best ways to dispel this stereotype is through a move like the one at Maryland. Many may never believe that cheering is a sport, but the myth will certainly not be debunked if the primary advocates of Title IX continue to reinforce it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005
 

Juice Mending: Time to Reconstruct Baseball's Record Books?

Mike Greenwell, the former All-Star outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, is wondering why he shouldn't be awarded the 1988 American League Most Valuable Player award. After all, he did finish second in the balloting to, as he now tells the Fort Myers News Press, "an admitted steroids user" (a.k.a. Jose Canseco). Greenwell insists that he deserves the award over a cheater, and that his failure to receive it cost him millions of dollars in endorsements and contractual compensation. Essentially, he seems to be saying that if he can't get all that money back, then at least send him a trophy with his name on it.

Greenwell's not alone in this type of argument. What do Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, and (in theory) Sammy Sosa all have in common? From 2000-2004, each finished second to an admitted steroids user, Barry Bonds, for the National League MVP award (it happened to Pujols twice). Likewise, Mike Piazza was the runner up to admitted user Ken Caminiti for the 1996 National League MVP award, while Frank Thomas was the runner up to admitted user Jason Giambi for the 2000 American League MVP award.

Moreover, if we are to believe Canseco that Roger Clemens has used steroids in recent years, then maybe Randy Johnson--who was the runner up to Clemens for the 2004 National League Cy Young award--has a beef, as does Mark Mulder, who was the runner up to Clemens for the 2001 American League Cy Young award.

And presumably, all of those runner ups, just like Greenwell, suffered meaningful loss of financial opportunities, as well as public acclaim.

But even worse, what about guys like former Red Sox outfielder (and 1978 American League MVP) Jim Rice and former Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo, who have both been denied entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame in part because their once impressive statistics now seem almost pedestrian when compared to the "bloated" stats of today's stars? And what about guys like Ken Griffery Jr. and Kirk Gibson, whose apparent and respective refusals to use steroids cost them not only home runs, but faster recovery from injuries?

And for a moment, let's take this list of aggrieved parties even further, at least for hypothetical purposes. If we really want to redress the wrongs inflicted to those players who stayed clean, then might we want broaden the concept of performance-enhancing drugs to include recreational drugs? After all, abusing players believed those drugs help them live life and thus, presumably, play better. Along those lines, did the 1986 Boston Red Sox get cheated out of a World Series to a, shall we say, happy-go-lucky New York Mets team? And is Bill Buckner now owed an apology? And what about Doc Ellis' no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in 1970, when he was allegedly on LSD?

It's hard to know how to respond to the injustices inflicted upon Greenwell and so many others, and how far to take their complaints. Then again, it's not without precedent that an athlete can be stripped of an award for use of performance-enhancing drugs. For instance, Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100 meter gold medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.

And there's no question that Mike Greenwell was cheated out of personal recognition and a larger place in baseball history. He was the second best player in the American League in 1988, and the best player has admitted that without using steroids, he wouldn't been able to play in the Big Leagues, let alone excel. Of course, dozens of other players probably have similar narratives, and still dozens of others probably aren't even aware of how much they have been cheated out of acclaim and fortune.

And that is the real irony of the players' long-standing refusal to drug testing: they ultimately created their own class of victims, leaving the true greats, like Jim Rice and Ken Griffey Jr., undoubtedly wondering where it all went wrong.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
 

More Competition for Ticketmaster? Dare I Dream?

Tickets.com, the primary competitor to Ticketmaster's monopoly, has been acquired by MLB Advanced Media, the Internet arm of Major League Baseball that is jointly owned by all thirty teams. This is good news for the company, which has faced significant financial difficulties in the past few years. Although Tickets.com will not interfere with the twelve teams that have agreements with Ticketmaster, I would not be surprised if those teams make the switch to Tickets.com when the current contracts lapse. Perhaps this will give the online ticket seller some leverage to make inroads into other areas, and we can all stop paying $9 service charges and $5 convenience fees.

 

Judge: Ricky Williams Must Pay Back Dolphins

A federal judge has upheld an arbitrator's ruling that Ricky Williams must pay back $8.6 million of his contract to the Miami Dolphins. Wow -- if that order came down against me, I would need some heavy breathing exercises or relaxation stretches to calm down. Look for Ricky in the NFL next year -- on the repayment plan.

 

New York MTA Could Halt Stadium Plans

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has decided that it is not going to deal exclusively with the New York Jets any longer. The agency, which owns the rights to the valuable property on the city's West Side that the Jets and the city has targeted for a new stadium, has begun accepting bids for the land. Whereas the Jets were going to pay $100 million for the land, Madison Square Garden has proposed paying $600 million for the land.
    In a statement, the Jets said: "In the end, a Cablevision gimmick on the eve of the Olympic visit will not replace four years of planning and an agreement to build the world's greatest sports and convention center in New York City." State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat who has led Assembly hearings on the stadium proposal, praised the MTA's decision. "The Jets and Cablevision can now compete fair and square," Brodsky said. "May the best man win."
All proposals will be considered at a March 31 board meeting. Field of Schemes has more.

 

"NY Judge Tosses Out Ice Skating Antitrust Suit"

A New York judge has dismissed a lawsuit that accuses the International Skating Union of monopolistic practices. The World Skating Federation, which was formed to restore "merits-based competition" for figure skating, accuses the ISU of maintaining "a monopoly over the sport of international figure skating." The judge said that the WSF was pushing the boundaries of civil law in bringing the suit.

Hat Tip: Trademark Blog

 

That, as they say, is that . . .

Today, the NHL managed to do something that MLB, the NFL and the NBA have been able to avoid: cancellation of an entire season. Eric at OffWing will no doubt have the best coverage, once he finishes his fight with Comcast over his NHL Central Ice package. The gentlemen at the Sports Economist also have some insights.

To state the obvious, this is bad news for hockey and a bad sign for all professional sports. The economics were so bad in hockey that the owners were willing to cancel an entire season rather than give in to the players' demands. And this was after the players' gave in to the biggest demand: a salary cap. Now, the players will not only lose the money from this season, but will have to live with the salary cap that is so hated. It is hard to see how the players have improved their situation at all. Is this a sign of things to come in other sports? The economics may work now in the Big 3, but if salaries continue to escalate, it will not be long before players in other sports are faced with the same lose-lose situation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
 

The Patriots Go to Washington

Congressman Marty Meehan read a statement on the floor of Congress this morning, congratulating the New England Patriots on their Super Bowl championship. Here is an excerpt:
    Mr. Speaker, I rise in enthusiastic support of H.Res. 86, congratulating our New England Patriots on winning their third Super Bowl in four years.

    The word "dynasty" has become synonymous with the New England Patriots. And deservedly so. Only one other team has accomplished what the Patriots have done - the Dallas Cowboys of the early 1990s. I believe that these Patriots have staked a real claim on the moniker of "America's Team."

    But when the history of this team is written, there is one word that seems most fitting: class.

    Class means many things, especially in the world of sports.

    * * *

    Class refers to players, such Tom Brady and Deion Branch, who would rather credit their teammates than tout their own efforts.

    * * *

    Class means owners who care as much about the team as does the most passionate fan.

    * * *

    And perhaps most importantly, class means never describing oneself as a "dynasty," because dynasties are never proclaimed, but only earned - something a team with class, like the New England Patriots, knows quite well.

    I join my colleagues in saluting the unsurpassed accomplishments of the New England Patriots.
Well said, although whether or not the team is a dynasty is still an open question.

 

UPDATE: Hockey Dad Ordered to Pay $320

The hockey dad that confronted and yelled at one of his son's opponents was ordered to pay $320, which will cover three trips the boy had to make to a psychologist after the confrontation. "A Cumberland County Superior Court jury found Dr. Demetri Antoniou liable for intentionally causing emotional distress to the young player, Jordan Hale, but did not find his actions amounted to assault." The boy's lawyers said that the damages were not high enough to act as a sufficient warning to other parents. Hopefully, parents will be motivated by the desire not to shame their children and will remember that these are just games.

 

New Turn in St. Louis Stadium Lawsuit

When the city of St. Louis decided it wanted to build a new downtown ballpark for the St. Louis Cardinals, a group of citizens decided to act, rather than let public money go towards the project. The group, which became the Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums, collected 30,000 signatures to get a referendum about stadium financing on the ballot. The measure, dubbed Proposition A, requires a vote of the public before money can be allocated on a stadium in the future, and was approved by 70 percent of the voters.

Now, a group supporting the stadium has filed suit, questioning the validity of Proposition A. While the judge in the case has dismissed as defendants two members of the Coalition that were sued in their individual capacity, the suit continues. The proposition does not affect the $45 million in bonds already sold by the county to finance the stadium, but it could affect the payments on those bonds. The Coalition wants the court to order onto the ballot a decision as to whether the $2.7 million in tourism tax money due May 1 as a payment on the bonds should be approved or rejected.

 

Court: 'March Madness' is a Trademark

A federal district court has ruled that 'March Madness' is a trademark owned by the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association and that a defendant infringed the mark and cybersquatted by registering marchmadness.com. The defendant used the site for basketball-related material but had no affiliation with either plaintiff. The NCAA and ISHA are members of the March Madness Athletic Association, which was formed in 200 to pool the respective trademark rights to the "March Madness" name. The term "March Madness" was coined by announcer Brent Musberger in 1982 to describe the NCAA college basketball tournament.

The court found that the MMAA held the rights to the term "March Madness," and rejected the defendant's claim that the term had become generic. The judge also ruled that there was a strong likelihood of confusion and no fair use defense, since the defendant was attempting to use the term commercially in relation to the NCAA basketball tournament.

The 5th Circuit affirmed the ruling.

 

"NASCAR Fan Alleges Infringement of Earnhardt Car Photo"

A fan of NASCAR, who also sells memorabilia, is suing four other distributors of NASCAR memorabilia, claiming they have infringed his trademark on "The Final Ride," a photograph he took of Dale Earnhardt's crumpled car following the 2001 Daytona 500. Earnhardt was killed in the final laps of the race. The four separate but identical complaints, filed in the Middle District of North Carolina, claim that the distributors used the image without permission. You can view the complaint here, if you have Westlaw.

Sunday, February 13, 2005
 
He Hate Me: Can Negative Sports Blogs Go Too Far

With the growth of sports blogs, it should come as no surprise that some distinguish themselves through critically-entertaining commentary of disappointing pro athletes.

For instance, check out Mark Blount is Awful, a blog that chronicles the play of Mark Blount, the starting center of the Boston Celtics who last summer received a 6-year, $42 million contract extension and who has since played poorly and often without apparent effort. The contributors to Mark Blount is Awful are clearly passionate in their cause. In fact, through separate monologues, two writers detail Blount's play after each and every game, and four others provide additional commentary. The blog also includes a section entitled, Mark's ugly pictures, which displays photos of Blount appearing inept on the court (e.g., fumbling a rebound).

Are the writers of Mark Blount is Awful too passionate, though? Here are a few excerpts from Andrew's monologue:
Feb. 4, 2005: 3, 3, 3, 1, 2 . . . No those aren't lottery numbers. They are Mark Blount's rebounding numbers over the past 5 games . . . I can't talk about Mark Blount anymore, he is making me physically ill.

Jan. 30, 2005: At first I thought I turned on the Discovery Channel and was watching a special on ancient African Tribes. I checked my TV. I was wrong, it was [Fox Sports New England], and the man, if you want to call him that, was Mark Blount. Can he read? Can he walk straight? Can he grab a basketball without letting it slip through his hands? Is he retarded? The answer to all but the last question is a resounding NO! . . . I am going to kindly write [Fox Sports New England] and see if they can digitally block out Mark Blount's image on the Celtics games. Just put a big blank space there. Maybe that way, when the ball goes through his hands, it will be like nothing happened, and nobody was there to grab it.

Jan. 15, 2005: Looking at Mark Blount makes you think somebody forced him on the court. He never hustles, never tries for loose balls . . . He is a disgrace to the NBA . . . How can he live with himself?
Humorous hyperbole or intemperate critique? Should there be normative guidelines for sports blogging, or does a professional athlete who badly underperforms deserve any criticism that comes his way?

 

Bash Thy Bash Brother

Be sure to watch 60 Minutes tonight (CBS, 7 P.M. EST), as it will feature an interview between Mike Wallace and Jose Canseco. In the interview, Canseco will spend extensive time detailing how he and Mark McGwire used steroids while playing for the A's, and how he repeatedly injected McGwire with those steroids. Aside from airing his grievances against McGwire and others, Canseco will use the interview to hawk his soon-to-be-released book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big.

Jack Curry of the New York Times has an excellent piece today on Canseco, McGwire, Juiced, and the 60 Minutes interview.

Here are a few choice snippets:

"I'm starting to think that maybe Jose has something wrong with him," said Dave McKay, who coached Canseco and McGwire with the A's. "He'd tell you a story and you'd know he was making up, and he'd know it, too. A couple of months later, he'd tell it again and he believed it. You'd tell him it wasn't true. Maybe he believes this now. Maybe he believes he injected Mark McGwire."

. . .

La Russa emphasized that Canseco and McGwire were not close friends, saying McGwire would not have shared a syringe with someone he never shared lunch with. La Russa said doing something that intimate would be like two players deciding to "have a drink before the game or smoke a joint. Mark didn't have that kind of relationship with the guy."

. . .

Canseco adored attention as a player and still embraces it. McGwire did not enjoy the glare that his achievements brought, and he surely dislikes the scrutiny he is under now. La Russa said those stark personality differences were another reason that McGwire and Canseco never grew chummy. And those traits, one player who desires the spotlight and one player who despises it, are evidenced again.

For more on this story, check out earlier coverage on Sports Law Blog.

Thursday, February 10, 2005
 

And the Witch Hunt Begins in Earnest . . .

According to a report earlier tonight on Boston Dirt Dogs, Jose Canseco's must-anticipated book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big, was expected to claim that Nomar Garciaparra used steroids to gain weight and muscle during the late 1990s. An updated report on Boston Dirt Dogs, however, now states that while Garciaparra will not be among those "named", the book--which will become available on Monday, February 21--will claim that many other prominent players used steroids. And according to CBS News, the book will even claim that then Texas Rangers' Managing Partner George W. Bush must have been aware that players on the Rangers were using steroids in the early 1990s.

Hopefully, fans and media-types will take these iffy allegations with a LARGE grain of salt. Aside from his obvious desire for profits--which often grow with sensationalism--Canseco is hardly a credible source.

And given Canseco's reputation, I was fairly confident that Juiced would be largely ignored. But apparently that's not the case. According to USA Today, the book ranks No. 33 on the best-selling list at Amazon.com, and has fluctuated between No. 28 and No. 39 on the hourly rankings at Barnes & Noble. To give these rankings some meaning, consider that there are millions of books available on Amazon and thus, as noted by Amazon spokeswoman Kristin Mariani, "if you're in the top 100, that's good." Also consider that Juiced wasn't even ranked among the top 1000 books at Barnes & Noble last week, but now, according to Bill Tipper, the editor for Barnes & Noble's best sellers, benefits from a clear "buzz."

It will be interesting to see whether litigation arises from Canseco's book. It would seem that there are going to be quite a few players who will have their professional reputations in question, or will at least perceive that their reputations are under fire.

Update: For an interesting analysis of the likely statistical effect of steroid use among baseball players in the 1990s, check out The Sports Economist.

 

Jason Giambi: I'm Sorry, But I Can't Say What For

In a press conference today, New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, 34, repeatedly apologized--including to his employers, teammates, and fans--for . . . well, he didn't quite say, other than for the "distraction over the last year," which he was sorry for. Presumably, that "distraction over the last year" pertained to the December 2004 revelation that he had admitted using steroids to a grand jury in December 2003, even though he would later vehemently claim the contrary to his employers, teammates, and fans. Perhaps best illustrating this pathology of denial, Giambi would arrive at spring training in February 2004, appearing as if he had lost at least 50 pounds, only to claim that he had "given up fast food" as the explanation. I'm not sure if he had just seen a preview for Super Size Me, but he honestly thought that explanation would work. It didn't.

Going back to today's press conference, it was intersting that, because it's an on-going legal matter, Giambi refrained from mentioning the word "steroids."

But he's still sorry. And hopefully his apology is also directed to the fast food industry, whose products clearly weren't making him so big.

 

Throw the Book at Them

During Tuesday's parade in Boston to celebrate the New England Patriots' Super Bowl victory, five juveniles, along with 32 adults, were arrested for disorderly conduct. Apparently, those juveniles threw snowballs and bottles at one another. Yesterday, they were offered a rather innovative deal from Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley: read Michael Patrick MacDonald's All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and deliver a 2,500-word report on its meaning, and the charges will be dropped. All Souls details the struggles of growing up in South Boston (a.k.a. "Southie"), Boston's working-class, Irish Catholic enclave.

According to Conley, ''I want them to know that their behavior -- the disrespect, the rowdiness, the foolishness -- leads to other problems in life. When you read a book like All Souls, you understand there are many choices in life, and poor choices can lead to a life of misery. They should appreciate the Patriots for their success, but they shouldn't act like fools when they come into the city."

I think Conley should be applauded for offering an instructive, rather than a punitive penalty in this instance: Assuming these five kids actually take their assignment seriously, reading a telling book and writing about it appears more sensible than having them endure a more draconian punishment (e.g., being shipped off to a juvenile delinquent center, like depicted in the film Sleepers) which might cause them--and ultimately society--more harm than good.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
 

Transsexual Golfers Allowed to Play in British Open

Reversing long-standing policy, the Ladies Golf Union of England has decided to allow transsexual golfers to play in this year's women's British Open. The move will enable Danish-born Mianne Bagger, 37, to participate. Bagger was born a man in 1966, but had a sex-change operation in 1995, and is now a woman.

Bagger won't be playing in any LPGA tournaments in the U.S., however, as the LPGA prohibits transsexuals (or, more technically, anyone "not born a woman") from playing in those tournaments.

Is the LPGA right to ban transsexual golfers, or should they be allowed to play?

 

NHL Finally sets "Drop Dead" Date for Season: End of This Weekend

Eric McErlain over at Offwing has all the details. In short, if the NHL and NHLPA don't agree over this weekend on what would be a 28-game season, then say adios (or, more likely, au revoir) to hockey this year. Although the two sides have apparently made meaningful progress in recent weeks, they are said to remain ways away in bridging the gap.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
 

LeMond Wins Millions in Contract Dispute

A jury has awarded three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond $3.46 million in his contract dispute with a bicycle accessories maker. LeMond's contract with PTI Holdings called for a ten-year deal, but the company decided to drop LeMond's name from its helmets, seat covers, locks and other items after deciding his celebrity status had faded. The suit, filed in 2003, was for breach of contract.

 

Fox Keeps Miller Ads Out of Super Bowl

Fox obviously values its sponsorship dollars. The network declined to run an ad by Miller that was critical of Anheuser-Busch, the company that bought the most advertising time during the Super Bowl. Said Fox executive Jon Nesvig:
    "While we appreciate Miller's desire to advertise with us and would willingly accept other ads for Miller products, the decision was made to reject these specific ads based on the degree of spending Anheuser-Busch has achieved in support of Fox and the Super Bowl."
I am curious as to whether A-B had this in its contract with Fox, because usually exclusivity, or protection of this nature, costs an advertiser a premium. On the other hand, perhaps Fox knew better than to bit the hand that feeds it.

Monday, February 07, 2005
 

A Classic Struggle in the 2005 Business Blogging Awards

Phosita is upset that it trails the Sports Law Blog 32% to 37% in the voting, so it has declared war on the "jocks" (as it terms us). Little do they know how little athletic talent we actually possess. Although I believe that Mike (pictured here, far right) was once an excellent soccer player. Please cast your vote, so that the Sports Law Blog can begin a "dynasty" of its own.

 

Dynasty (n): a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time (Merriam-Webster)

Does this really describe the New England Patriots? The talk of "dynasty" by the sports media began before the game and is in full force now. I remain unconvinced, though-- UCLA in the 60s and 70s, Celtics in the 60s, Islanders in the 80s, Yankees in 30s, 40s, 50s -- those are dynasties. Should the word attach for 3 championships in 4 years? Perhaps the rules are different in the NFL. But even the Cowboys of the early 90s made it to the conference championship games in the years when they did not win the Super Bowl. The Patriots missed the play-offs entirely in the fourth year. Is that maintaining a position of power?

Or maybe the word just means something different in sports. Perhaps we need a Sports Dictionary, where words take on new meanings. "Dynasty" = a team that wins multiple championships, even if non-consecutively, in a compressed time frame. Does that fit?

What are some other words that have a different meaning in sports? I would love to hear ideas.

 

More on Sports Parents:

Over on Overlawyered, another story of an irate sports parent leading to litigation. Out-of-control parents are certainly a detriment to youth sports, but I hope that this is not a sign of things to come. Because it will not be long before the leagues themselves are targeted, which would not be good for the parents or the athletes.

Sunday, February 06, 2005
 

The Super Bowl as a National Holiday?

An idea I am sure many readers can get behind.
    If the Super Bowl were a national holiday, there wouldn't be any question about just what is being celebrated. Football. Which is already the national sport. The new holiday would come complete with rituals, ceremonies and food. On Thanksgiving, Americans in the millions eat things they rarely eat any other time of year and probably don't like that much, anyway--roast turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with marshmallows. But on the day of the Super Bowl, Americans eat what they most like to eat and much more of it, gluttony being permissible on a holiday.
Be sure to write your congressional representative.

 

Paying College Athletes: Why Not Bring the Money Above the Table?

Skip at the Sports Economist comments on the Logan Young case and proposes a solution to the underhanded bribes that have become commonplace: pay the athletes. He points to some excellent evidence about how paying college athletes was once a common practice, before the NCAA stepped up its enforcement procedures. This is a solution that I have thought and written about and so I thought I would add my two cents.

I can think of many good arguments for paying players. For one, playing football and basketball at these "big" schools is a full-time job, and in doing this job, players are bringing in huge sums of money. The counter argument to this is that players already get a full scholarship, but even students on full rides (i.e., for academic reasons) are allowed to get part-time jobs while in school. Also, the payments happen anyway, so why not bring them above the table? I don't like this argument as much because it seems to have no bounds. Political bribes may be more common than many would like, but they should not be made legal.

So why not pay college athletes? The argument I have raised against the proposal is that it is just not feasible under Title IX. The additional money given to football and basketball players would have to be matched in female sports. Since most college athletic programs run in the red, this would mean cutting more male sports and male funding. Now, I agree that football and basketball should get less money (i.e., they don't need locker room palaces), but the reality is that those are the money sports that fund all others and so their funding will not be cut. The money will come by cutting male swim teams, wrestling teams, etc.

Some may see this more as a commentary on Title IX, or of the excess of major college football and basketball, and in fact, it is both. But since paying college athletes does not seem to be a workable solution in the near future, regulators should turn towards other ways of ensuring fairness. I am not a fan of the Logan Young suit, and think that it is a waste of judicial resources, but perhaps it is the best tool currently available. The job of those involved in "sports intellectualism" is to try and devise a better tool, one that reflects both reality and our hope for a better sports system.

 

Murdoch and NFL to Launch Another Cable Sports Network?

Paul Tagliabue's "State of the League" address included the following statement:
    "[W]e are giving very serious consideration to being part of the launch of another major sports network on cable and satellite television. That's a complicated thing, but we're looking at that very seriously. That's a strategic thing, which anticipates the future of television technology and the future interests of where people are going to be in terms of digital television technology."
Afterwards, a league source indicated "that Tagliabue was referring to statements by Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., the parent company of Fox, about the possibility of launching a major cable/satellite sports network that would challenge ESPN."

I am sure ESPN is thrilled with this news, especially after it cancelled Playmakers in response to threats from the NFL. Overall, though, I think this would be good news. Although the regional Fox Sports channels give ESPN some competition, there is no other national cable sports channel. It would be nice if there was another network to show professional and collegiate sports, as well as a competitor for SportsCenter, a show that (in my opinion) has dropped off considerably in quality in the past five years. The viability of any new network would be a concern, but with the guarantee of the NFL and the backing of Murdoch, it would almost certainly be a success.

UPDATE: There are some great comments to read on this post (below). And Phil at the Sports Economist has more.

 

Another Baseball Spectator Lawsuit:

A Philadelphia-area dentist attended a Phillies game at old Veterans Stadium in 2001. He chose seats close to the field, presumably because he wanted to be close to the action. During the game, a foul ball was hit in his direction. Rather than duck to avoid being hit by the ball, he attempted to catch it. Unfortunately for him, he missed, and the ball struck him, affecting his vision. Now he is suing the team, claiming that it did not do enough to protect the spectators at the stadium.

This is quite a remarkable case. It does not even feature the sympathy of the woman who was struck at Fenway, ten minutes into the first time she had ever seen baseball. First, the stadium featured a number of warnings, including announcements made by the PA announcer, a video cartoon after the first inning, and printed warnings on the back of the tickets and in the concourses. In addition, the man was trying to catch the ball. But rather than take personal responsibility, he is suing to try and make someone else pay. He will lose but at the expense of how many resources?

Hat Tip: TJ Graham

 

Curbing NFL Celebration Dances:

NFL celebration dances have spiraled out of control in the past few decades, with the number of celebrations both increasing (We may be down 38, but I caught a 3-yard pass!) and players constantly crossing lines to be original (the sharpie, the cell phone, the fake moon). What should be done about these celebrations? This is not an easy answer, because the NFL knows that it needs stars and publicity to make money: two things tied up in celebration dances. But, at the same time, the league should strive to maintain its integrity. Handing out penalties for celebration dances longer than a quick spike or fist-pump would go a long way towards restoring some sportsmanship to the game. Somehow other sports manage to get by without elaborate dances, so I think the NFL could as well.

Friday, February 04, 2005
 

Sports Law Blog Exclusive: Proposal by Professor Joseph Rosen to Resolve the NHL Lockout

Joe Rosen, a corporate, sports and entertainment attorney at Goulston & Storrs and an adjunct professor of sports law at Boston College Law School, has the following suggestion to resolve the NHL lockout:

"A luxury tax, like the one the union has proposed, along with the cut in salaries, but there would be additional non-financial penalties for teams that spend over the prescribed limit. Two things that come to mind are the loss of draft picks and the inability to keep restricted free agents "restricted" any longer.

For example, let's say the cut-off was $42 million (as the league proposes). If a team spent between $42 and $45 million, it would lose a late round draft pick. The more and more a team spends, the higher a draft pick that team loses. Teams that spend over a high set amount could lose multiple picks, or, possibly, lose the right to keep one of their restricted free agents "restricted" any longer.

The details would obviously have to be etched out some more, but I believe this could work and set the framework for the rest of the negotiations. The league's main concern is that, under the union's proposal, teams would be free to exceed the luxury tax threshold. They would just have to pay $, which some big-spending teams would certainly elect to do.

I think my suggestion would solve this problem. I can't believe teams would be willing to spend much more than the threshold if they were going to lose draft picks and, possibly, players.

I also think the union would go for this since (i) they would be avoiding a straight salary cap and (ii) some of their restricted free agents might actually become unrestricted under this scenario."


Joe would welcome any comments or feedback on this idea, either on this blog, or you can contact him directly at jrosen@goulstonstorrs.com or (617) 877-3837. In my opinion, this appears to be an attractive solution, since it would deter most teams from spending above a certain threshold--and thus largely accomplish the owners' goals--but it wouldn't prove to be the "hard-cap" that is incompatible with the players' belief-system. What do you think?

 

Over on Overlawyered

A non-profit has sued the GAO because it does not like the results of a study it did on Title IX. The study found increases in the numbers of both men's and women's intercollegiate teams, which runs counter to the belief of groups claiming that Title IX causes decreases in the number of men's sports. So one group, the College Sports Council, has decided to file suit. Exactly what remedy they expect is unclear.

Also, an appellate court has ruled that the lawsuit between Michael Jordan and his ex-lover should be heard by a jury. Jordan claims the woman is trying to extort $5 million from him; the woman claims the money was a "hush payment" to keep her quiet after she became pregnant. The trial court judge dismissed the claim for being extortionist and against public policy, but the appellate court disagreed.

 

The Truth Is Out There...

Mike's posts (here and here) about Ken Powers and the excellent work done by Bruce Allen represents yet another example of how in the modern world, the truth will eventually catch up to you. I wrote a column on this last fall in the context of the Wally Backman firing and there have been numerous other examples. The sources of truth come in a number of different forms.

The first, which has been widely documented since the election, is the increase in informal journalism, especially through blogs. Bloggers helped break the Dan Rather/CBS-forged memo story; they played a big role in the electoral defeat of Tom Daschle; and now a blogger has broken this story of plagiarism. In the past, relying only on the self-perpetuating main stream media ("MSM"), these stories would have probably never arisen, and society as a whole would be less-informed. Frankly, the Internet has made it possible for anyone to be a journalist, thereby increasing a thousand-fold the number of individuals investigating the truth and looking for stories. With more eyes, the chances are greater that forgeries will be uncovered and plagiarism will be discovered.

Second, members of the MSM and the informal media alike benefit from the wealth of information available in seconds over the Internet. As I pointed out in the Backman piece, criminal records, news stories describing past indiscretions and files believed to have been lost forever are now archived and fully-searchable by anyone with a computer. It is becoming much harder for individuals, especially those in the public eye, to escape their past and to use lies to cover up the truth. In addition, it may not have been possible, and it certainly would not have been easy, to catch Powers's apparent plagiarism if the works were only available in print. After all, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette has a limited circulation. But today, with all of the works available on the Internet, individuals like Bruce Allen can quickly make comparisons and out those that take credit for the work of others.

There are dangers associated with this new technological development, including a loss of privacy and the proliferation of "false stories" by a mass of would-be journalists all looking for a "scoop," but the benefits would seem to result in an overall plus for society. Information is no longer the sole purview of the MSM and the truth, no matter how buried, really is "out there."

 

Update #2: The Top 10 Things I Think I Plagiarize from Peter King (and now others, too)

In an unsurprising development, Ken Powers was fired last night by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, in part for plagiarizing Peter King of Sports Illustrated. But now we learn a new part: since the story first broke two days ago, the Telegram & Gazette has discovered "at least a half dozen other cases" of plagiarism by Powers.

In fact, consider a newly-discovered example of Powers' plagiarism, as revealed by the person who originally broke the story, Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch: An NFL.com column from November 2, 2004 versus a Powers' column, published in the November 7, 2004 edition of the Telegram & Gazette:


NFL.com
: Last week, it was "21 & Done," as a sign at Heinz Field read when the Steelers broke the unprecedented 21-game regular-season-and-playoff consecutive victory streak of the New England Patriots.

Ken Powers: Last week, it was "21 and Done," as a sign at Heinz Field read when the Steelers broke the Patriots' unprecedented 21-game regular-season and playoff winning streak.


NFL.com: The "Flock" touches down in "Roethlis-burgh," as they're calling it after stellar Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Ken Powers: Pittsburgh was abuzz last week about the "Flock," as the Eagles are called, touching down in "Roethlis-burgh," as the town is being called to pay tribute to starring Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.


NFL.com:
Big Ben has captured Steel City hearts by not exactly coming from nowhere -- he was the team's first-round draft choice this year -- but by not only starting the team's past five games, but winning them. If Pittsburgh wins, he will tie former Steeler Mike Kruczek (1976) for the most consecutive victories by an NFL rookie QB since 1970.

Ken Powers: Big Ben has captured Steel City hearts by not exactly coming from nowhere -- he was the team's first-round draft choice (11th overall) this year and starting and winning the team's last five games. With a victory today, he can tie former Steeler Mike Kruczek for the most consecutive wins by an NFL rookie QB since 1970. Kruczek went 6-0 in 1976.


Despite evidence now showing repeated instances of plagiarism, Powers insists that his termination is unjustified, especially considering his "spotless record" (note: I am not sure what he means by "spotless" -- they must have changed Webster's Dictionary on me when I wasn't looking). In fact, here are his remarks as told to WBZ-TV in Boston: "I am disappointed that a 20-year spotless record doesn't mean anything. The termination is a terrible injustice to me."

Sounds like someone is preparing for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Good luck with that!

For previous coverage of this story, check out two earlier posts (Feb. 3) and (Feb. 2).

P.S.: Congrats to Bruce Allen for getting mention in the New York Times for breaking this story. Bruce was the one who took the time to compare the texts. It's nice to see an on-line publication beat out the print media, and then arguably the most prestigious outlet of the print media praising that on-line publication.

 

Does It Makes More Sense To Pay Athletes Millions?

In an article on Tech Central Station, Professor Stephen Bainbridge (of UCLA) takes a look at Pay Without Performance, a new book discussing the problem of executive compensation. He notes that if people have a problem with the size of executive compensation, but not with the high salaries paid to professional athletes, that the two must be able to be distinguished in some way. Bainbridge notes the distinction made by the authors of the book, that while athletes bargain at arm's-length for their compensation, managers essentially set their own compensation.

I think this distinction makes sense, but it does not mean that there are not problems with the high salaries paid to professional athletes. While the market seems to tolerate the high amounts of executive compensation (after all, shareholders and companies still remain profitable), the NHL lock-out may be proving that the salaries of professional athletes are approaching (or have exceeded) the boundaries that the market will tolerate. Some owners will lose less money this season by not playing any games, which is a clear sign of economic trouble. Barring a miracle, it appears that the NHL season will be lost and I wonder if this labor war, perhaps the worst in the history of the Big 4 sports, will be repeated in the other sports. It seems clear that hockey needs a salary cap (despite some arguments to the contrary), and unless the players are willing to give in to that demand, hockey does not appear to be economically viable. Perhaps, too, there should be a "salary cap" of sorts on executive compensation, but at least for now, the market seems willing to tolerate the salaries paid to the leaders of corporate America.

Thursday, February 03, 2005
 

Take-Two: Take that, Electronic Arts!

Last month, we discussed how videogame publisher Electronic Arts has agreed to pay ESPN $850 million for a 15-year licensing agreement that will make the publisher the sole licensee of the ESPN brand in all sports videogames. The agreement will take effect in 2006, and will last until 2021.

ESPN's current licensee for baseball videogames is Take-Two, and it publishes the ESPN MLB 2K series, which is available for the Playstation 2 and Xbox. Take-Two's main competitor in the baseball videogame market is Electronic Arts, which publishes the MVP Baseball series (and which will, presumably, somehow incorporate the ESPN name in its series' name next year).

According to IGN, Take-Two has decided to publish its upcoming baseball game as "MLB 2K5", rather than as "ESPN MLB 2K5". Although the game--which will be available next month--will still contain ESPN images (e.g., overlays and cut scenes) along with the voices of ESPN announcers Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, it appears that Take-Two is already trying to diminish the ESPN product brand--which now offers substantially more value to Electronic Arts-- by removing the ESPN name.

 

Title IX: I am sure this is what Congress had in mind

Title IX has forced the men and women of Portsmouth High School to deal with a new problem: a change in locker rooms. The high school, in response to a Title IX investigation that cited inequities between the boys' and girls' locker rooms, has boys and girls use their respective locker rooms in the fall, but has the two genders swap facilities for the spring term. Now, because of a law designed to improve the status of female athletics, the girls of Portsmouth are contending with a communal shower, a lack of mirrors and some unused urinals. In addition, as numerous female students have pointed out, the boys locker room doesn't smell that great. But hey, it's bigger, so there are no problems with Title IX.

The arrangement is only temporary -- the school is building a new athletic facility with equal-sized locker rooms -- but I seriously doubt this is what Congress had in mind when it passed Title IX thirty years ago.

 

Update: Alabama Booster Found Guilty

Alabama booster Logan Young was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering in a Memphis federal district court. Young was found to have conspired with Memphis-area high school coach Lynn Lang to ensure that a star player attended the University of Alabama. The jury will reconvene today to decide punishment, which could include 15 years in jail and almost a million dollars in fines.

The original post has more on the charges Young faced.

 

Update: The 10 Things I Think I Plagiarize from Peter King

The reporter that appears to have copied a large portion of one of his columns from Sports Illustrated's Peter King has been sent home from Jacksonville, where he was covering the Super Bowl. You can read Mike's original post on this story here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over (the lawsuit, that is)

Yogi Berra is not a fan of Sex and the City, or at least, of the show using his name in advertisements without his permission. Ads for re-runs of the popular, but provocative, show feature a picture of star Kim Cattrall and reads: "Yogasm: a) a type of yo-yo trick b) sex with Yogi Berra c) what Samantha has with a guy from yoga class." The ad has appeared on buses, billboards and in magazines nationwide and Berra is suing because of it.

The suit against Turner Broadcasting (TBS) claims that the ad caused Berra substantial humiliation and damage to his reputation, especially considering his religious nature and status as a father and grandfather. It also claims that TBS used his name without his permission, in violation of the right of publicity.

Berra is asking for $10 million. He shouldn't get that much but it seems pretty clear that TBS is in the wrong here. They used Berra's name without his permission and in an advertisement that he finds objectionable. I would expect an out-of-court settlement.

Hat Tip: Walter Olson at Overlawyered.

 

The 10 Things I Think I Plagiarize from Peter King

As reported by Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch, Patriots' beat writer Ken Powers of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette--the highest circulated daily in central Massachusetts--either thinks and writes remarkably like Peter King of SI.com, or "borrowed" most of Peter King's January 24th column for use in his own January 30th column. Powers' column has since been removed the Telegram & Gazette's website, but Bruce was able to track it down and compare the texts.

Here are some rather damming excerpts:

Peter King:
The Patriots were in their Philadelphia hotel rooms -- kickoff wasn't until 4 p.m. ET -- when the first one was uttered. ESPN football analyst Tom Jackson looked straight into the camera and said the New England players hated coach Bill Belichick. Because Jackson is such a respected voice in football, and because ESPN is such a media power, the statement made the rounds among the Patriots by the time everyone got to the stadium that day. Whatever has been said in the intervening time about the New England players just shrugging their shoulders over Jackson's statement is a bunch of bunk. Many in the organization were stunned, and Belichick was really surprised. You have to remember that, at that time, Belichick was embattled after cutting Milloy. Whispers about a rerun of Belichick's Cleveland days were circulating around the media.
Ken Powers: The Patriots were in their Philadelphia hotel rooms - kickoff wasn't until 4 p.m. - when ESPN football analyst Tom Jackson looked straight into the TV camera and said the New England players hated coach Bill Belichick. Because Jackson is such a respected voice in football, and because ESPN is such a media power, the statement made the rounds among the Patriots by the time everyone arrived at the stadium that day. Whatever has been said since that day about Patriots players just shrugging their shoulders over Jackson's statement is a bunch of bull. Many in the organization were surprised, and Belichick was stunned. At that time, Belichick was under fire for cutting Milloy. Whispers about a rerun of Belichick's Cleveland days were circulating through the media.

Peter King: McNabb had a bad throwing thumb at the time of the 2003 meeting with the Pats, which was part of the reason he was stinking up the joint. All he's done since is have his best regular season ever, and take this star-crossed team to its first Super Bowl since the Dick Vermeil days.

Ken Powers: What those vocal Philly fans didn't know then was that McNabb had a bad throwing thumb, a large part of the reason he was stinking up the joint. All he's done since is have his best regular season ever, and take this star-crossed team to its first Super Bowl since the Dick Vermeil days.

Peter King: The Patriots will try to pound Corey Dillon. McNabb will move Brian Westbrook everywhere and try to get him to make plays in the open field. But the New England defense is as disciplined as a unit can be. Philly's defense is second in that category. I think it's going to be a great game, without many mistakes. The only bad thing is we have the silly two-week gap before the game.

Ken Powers: The Patriots will try to pound Corey Dillon. McNabb will move Brian Westbrook everywhere and try to get him to make plays in the open field. But the New England defense is as disciplined as a unit can be. Philly's defense is second in that category. It all seems to add up to being the perfect recipe for a great game without many mistakes. Don't you wish they were pulling on the shoulder pads and buckling up the chinstraps today instead of next Sunday?

I don't know what to say. In law school, I was taught to presume a person's innocence until proven guilty. But the evidence here seems beyond overwhelming. However, it is bizarre that Powers would so blatantly steal from such a widely-read column that is available on the Internet. Is it possible that he merely cut/paste it, thinking that he would use it as some kind of inspiration for his own piece, and then inadvertently sent it to his editor? No, I didn't come up the alibis for O.J. Simpson or Scott Peterson, but I do hope, for Powers' sake, that it is plausible (if extraordinarily unlikely) that he has some type of understandable excuse. I mean, how could he be so irresponsible and idiotic, and think he would get away with it?


 

Tax Break for the Really, Really Rich

In his 4-year, $52 million contract with the Florida Marlins, Carlos Delgado received a rather generous provision: Should he be traded to a team in a locality that features a state and/or local income tax, the club acquiring him must make up any difference in those taxes. In practice, this provision could prove quite lucrative. For instance, if Delgado is traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he would be reimbursed by the team for falling in the highest state income tax bracket (9.3 percent + 1 percent surcharge on income in excess of $1 million).

 

More on the Aramark Suit

Ted at Overlawyered has an excellent update on the Aramark beer vendor lawsuit I have talked about before (here and here), including some information on evidence that the judge excluded. The quoted New Jersey Law Journal article can be found here. Aramark is appealing the case.

Update: The post previously reprinted an assertion that the judge in this case excluded evidence that the fan went to a club after attending the game. Ted has informed me that it actually appears that the club was a defendant to the suit that the jury let off the hook. Thus, it is likely that the jury knew he had gone to the establishment.