Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
 
It's Good to be Manny Ramirez: His Boston Penthouse is for Sale

If you have $6.9 million to spare, you can buy Manny Ramirez's Ritz Towers' penthouse in Boston. It is 4,500 squre feet, with six bathrooms and four bedrooms, and it has unobstructed views of the Public Garden, The Boston Common, The Charles River, Boston's Back Bay, and the Waterfront. Be sure to check out the virtual tour. I'm not sure if Ramirez is moving to another place in Boston, or if he is simply preparing for a possible off-season trade (Angels? Mets?), but it's a little bit nicer than what most of my Boston lawyer friends seem to have.

Carol Beggy and Mark Shanahan of the Boston Globe have more details on the Ramirez listing. Unfortunately, some of us may not qualify as "pre-qualified buyers," and only they will be allowed to see the property in-person. Without knowing what it financially takes to be considered "qualified," my hunch is that I'm not on the list!

 
Case School of Law's Symposium on Sports and Eligibility Now Available for Streaming

Earlier this month, Case School of Law's Center for Law, Technology and the Arts hosted a symposium entitled Sports and Eligibility: Who is Eligible to Play? Panelists included Joe Rosen, Alan Milstein, Chris Callanan, and me (for a complete list, click here). It was a great event, and I thank both symposium chair Peter Carfagna--the Distinguished Visiting Practitioner at Case Law and Senior Counsel at Calfee, Halter & Griswold--and Craig Allen Nard--Director of the Center for Law, Technology & the Arts and Tom J.E. and Bette Lou Walker Professor--for their invitation to participate.

A video of the entire symposium can now be streamed on-line at this link (you are given the choice to watch the symposium through Windows Media Player or Real Player). A future issue of the Case Western Reserve Law Review will provide a transcript of our remarks.

Although I very much enjoyed being a panelist, and I'm delighted to be published in the Case Western Reserve Law Review, the trip's highlight was clearly sitting in a floor seat at the Cavs-Grizzlies game on Friday, November 11. Joe Rosen and I were grateful recipients of Peter Carfagna's Cavs tickets. That was the first time I had ever seen Lebron James in person -- and after watching him play and dominate, I can say with confidence that the new NBA age floor appears even more regrettable, unfair, and possibly illegal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
 
Michael Irvin - Will his latest issue result in any action?

As you undoubtedly all know by now, former Dallas Cowboys WR and current ESPN analyst Michael Irvin was arrested on Sunday and was charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia after police searched his vehicle during a traffic stop. This is not the first drug-related offense for Irvin, who has gone to great efforts to try to clean up his image after a number of drug-related events in his recent past (including a no-contest plea to felony cocaine possession in 1996).

Irvin says, convincingly in my opinion, that the drug paraphenelia was not his, but belonged to a friend who he is trying to "clean up." However, given his checkered past, his credibility has been questioned.

The ramifications of this offense are unclear at the moment. Legally, he is only going to have to pay a fine, which, for someone of his financial means, is a non-issue. However, will this affect his ESPN career or his Hall of Fame credentials?

I would assume (hope) that ESPN inserted a very broad morals clause in Irvin's contract such that even a minor drug infraction such as this would allow ESPN to terminate its contract with Irvin. However, so far, ESPN seems to be standing by Irvin. Although I did not watch last night, I was inforrmed that Irvin did appear on Monday Night Countdown. I am interested to hear whether he addressed this issue at all.

With respect to the Hall of Fame, Irvin is a semi-finalist for this year's class (he was a finalist last year but was not chosen). Will this latest offense cause him to go no further than the semis?

 
Sen. Arlen Specter: NFL and Eagles May Have Violated Antitrust Laws in Suspending Terrell Owens

Amy Worden and Larry Eichel of the Philadelphia Inquirer examine Senator Arlen Specter's remarks yesterday that the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee may soon investigate whether the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles have committed an illegal restraint of trade by prohibiting Owens from playing and banning other teams from speaking with him. (Worden & Eichel, "Sparks from Specter in the T.O. Case," Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 29, 2005). This is not an idle threat, as Senator Specter is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he is also a diehard Eagles fan. So when he calls the Eagles' actions "vindicative and inappropriate," Eagles ownership and management likely pay attention.

Have the NFL and the Eagles violated antitrust laws? On one hand, the Eagles followed the their collectively-bargained right to suspend a player for "conduct detrimental to the team." And as we know, collectively-bargained language is accorded broad deference, and, for the most part, insulation from antitrust laws. That was the thrust of arbitrator Richard Bloch's decision last week to upheld the Eagles' right to suspend Owens and preclude him from talking with other teams.

On the other hand, how do we actually define the phrase "conduct detrimental to the team"? What are its limits? How specific must the conduct be? Is the phrase too vague or too conclusory for purposes of insulating it from antitrust scrutiny? Has Owens lack of specific misconduct failed to meet an objective standard of "conduct detrimental to the team"? If we don't define it, might teams have deleterious incentives to misuse it or threaten to misuse it?

Worden and Eichel interview three law professors for the story, including me. Here are our comments:
"As much as I hate to disagree with the esteemed senator, I don't see an antitrust claim here," said Matthew J. Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University. "We're in the labor arena, not antitrust."

"To have an antitrust violation, you have a contract or conspiracy in restraint of trade," said Robert McCormick, a law professor at Michigan State University. "The Eagles would have to collude with the 31 other teams to make sure that no one would hire Terrell Owens. And we're not there yet."

Michael McCann, a sports-law expert at Mississippi College School of Law, said the ambiguity of the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement - in not specifying any detailed meaning of conduct "detrimental to the team" - might allow antitrust laws to apply.

 
The "A" Curve: University High School and the NCAA

Do you remember those days in high school when you wished that you didn't have to deal with the whole school scene? When you wished that you didn't have to get up early every morning so that you wouldn't be late for homeroom? When you wished that you didn't have to deal with nightly homework, quizzes, midterms, exams, lab projects, teachers, class participation, other students . . . everything?

For most of us, those dreams were never realized. After-all, we wanted to go to college, so we knew that we had to work hard, at least most of the time.

But as the New York Times reports, such a place exists where all of those dreams come true, every day of the year, for every student, and you can still even go to college. It may sound like the Field of Dreams, but it is actually University High School. And instead of being in Iowa, it is in Miami. And instead of being in a cornfield (or even a stand-alone building), University High School consists of two small rooms on the third floor of an office building, with three desks, and three employees.

Life seems pretty good at University High School, as no classes are held and exams are open-book and untimed. Students also receive packets of assignments that contain the answers in the back. Not surprisingly, students tend to do very well at University High School. Even better, high school diplomas can be earned in just four to six weeks, provided you can shell out $399 (and that's a flat rate for the diploma -- no matter how many courses you take).

Granted, University High School isn't accredited. And granted, its founder served 10 months in federal prison for mail fraud in connection with a mail-order college diploma scheme. And granted, its current owner is wanted on a bench warrant. But setting aside such minutiae for a moment, consider why many college football fans should be very grateful for University High: it has proven to be a refuge for premiere high school football players who cannot otherwise do well academically. And what do you know, NCAA rules treat academics at schools like University High as equivalent to those at schools like Phillips Andover, St. John's Prep, or St. Andrew's, and thus colleges can provide athletic scholarships based on the GPAs earned at University High.

This works well for those premiere athletes: they take each course that they had failed at other high school schools, and then--remarkably--they tend to do much better at University High in those same topics. For instance, Lorenzo Ferguson, a second-year defensive back at Auburn, left one high school in Miami for University High, and after one month had somehow raised his GPA from 2.0 (at his old school) to 2.6 (including his old and new schools -- he must have racked up some As!). Ferguson isn't alone. The New York Times identifies 14 recent graduates of University High who signed with 11 Division I football programs, including Auburn, Florida, Florida State, South Florida, Tennessee and Temple.

As you can read in the excellent piece by Pete Thamel and Duff Wilson, a number of University High alumns are now complaining that they are unable to do well in college, since they didn't learn too much in high school, thus implying that perhaps the NCAA should reconsider its policies. The NCAA claims to have taken the matter under advisement.

"If you build it, he will come." I think we can safely report: he has come, he has passed, and he is now making a lot of money for some college athletic program somewhere.

Monday, November 28, 2005
 
Is NASCAR a sport?

Last weekend, at the invitation of one of my clients, I went to the Miami-Homestead Speedway to take in the final NASCAR race of the season. Now, I have done a lot of work for this client, who is heavily involved in auto racing, but I am not exactly a NASCAR fan. In fact, in the past I have been extremely skeptical of NASCAR, often arguing with friends and colleagues that it is not really a "sport."

Well, after the race, I am still not a NASCAR "fan," but my opinion of whether it is a sport has definitely changed.

I have scoured the web for a definition of "sport" and the following is the best one I found (it comes from the Government of British Columbia's Ministry of Economic Development web page of all places):

"Sport is a physical activity involving large muscle groups, requiring strategic methods, physical training and mental preparation and whose outcome is determined, within a rules framework, by skill, not chance. Sport occurs in an organized, structured and competitive environment where a winner is declared."

Using this definition, NASCAR is undoubtedly a sport. Large muscle groups are certainly used and strategy is a bigger part of racing than you might think (the decision to pit or stay on the track can often be the difference between finishing first or 15th). Obviously, physical training and mental preparation are a huge part of auto racing, the outcome is determined within a rules framework (see, for example, the yellow caution flag which helped Ryan Newman beat Greg Biffle in the Busch race last weekend), and I don't think anyone can argue that NASCAR drivers aren't skilled at what they do.

Regardless of the definition (and I am very interested to see what others people come up with), I think it is very tough to make out the case that NASCAR is not a sport. Now, bowling on the other hand . . .

By the way, even though I still am not a NASCAR fan, I was overly impressed by the marketing aspect. Where else do you have fans shelling out $30 for a T-shirt that has Home Depot, Lowe's or DuPont written all over it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005
 
The Guest Bloggers are Coming

We recently mentioned that Sports Law Blog will feature more guest bloggers. Over the next two months, you will be reading commentary from other professors and attorneys with backgrounds in sports. Two of them even played minor league baseball and were drafted (unlike, say, a certain governor from New Mexico). We will still be posting, but we want to add new voices to the discussion.

Among those who will be blogging (in alphabetical order):

Christopher Callanan, Esq.
Shareholder in the Boston office of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy. Extensive experience in sports law, especially in licensing and endorsement deals. Also was a member of the trial team for a former NFL owner in a multimillion dollar antitrust suit against the NFL.

Timothy Epstein, Esq.
Associate at SmithAmundsen in Chicago. Practices sports law and author of a recent law review article in the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal.

David Frank, Esq.
News Editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and Co-Host of Sports Court on Sporting News Radio 1510 AM The Zone Boston. Formerly an assistant district attorney in the gang unit in the Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney's Office.

Scott Gilefsky, Esq.
Senior Tax Manager of Ernest Young in Boston and Co-Host of Sports Court on Sporting News Radio 1510 AM The Zone Boston. Scott also teaches state and local taxation at Suffolk University's Sawyer School of Management. Formerly a guest lecturer on taxation at Northeastern University.

Chad McEvoy, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor of Sports Management at Illinois State University. Expertise includes analysis of revenue production in collegiate and professional sports and fund raising in intercollegiate athletics.

Alan C. Milstein, Esq.
Partner at Sherman, Silverstein, Kohl, Podolsky & Rose. Counsel for Maurice Clarett in Clarett v. NFL. A nationally-recognized litigator in the fields of bioethics, sports law, food and drug law, products liability, and insurance law.

John Parsons, M.S., ATC.
Assistant Professor of Sports Health Care at the Arizona School of Health Sciences. A licensed athletic trainer, his expertise includes the impact of information and computer technology on sports medicine.

John Powers, Esq.
Associate at the Henderson Law Firm in Phoenix. Played professional baseball in the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, and Texas Rangers organizations.

Ryan M. Rodenberg, Esq.
Associate General Counsel of Octagon Marketing & Athletic Representation (McLean, Virginia office). Author of an age-eligibility article in the Sports Law Journal concerning women's professional tennis.

Joe Rosen, Esq.
Managing Member of Orpheus Sports & Entertainment Consulting Company LLC in Boston. Agent to a number of baseball players, including Ryan Shaver, a highly-touted pitching prospect in the San Francisco Giants organization. Adjunct sports law professor at Boston College Law School.


Andre L. Smith, Esq.
Assistant Professor of Law at the Florida International University College of Law, where he teaches sports law and tax law. Previously was the Deputy Chief Operating Officer of the NAACP National Voter Fund, and Research Director (African American Outreach) for the Democratic National Committee.

Jeffrey Standen, Esq.
Professor of Law at Willamette University College of Law, where he teaches teaches Criminal Procedure, Corporate and White Collar Crime, Remedies, Evidence, and Economic Analysis of Law. He previously served as a Deputy General Counsel to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Faculty coordinator for Future of Sports Law Syompsium hosted by the Willamette Law Review (March 2006).

Scott Townsend, Esq.
Associate at Young and Brooks in Houston. Commentator on Houston sports on his blog, H-Town Sports.

Travis Tygart, Esq.
Senior Managing Director, General Counsel of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

Jennifer Wieland, Esq.
Associate at Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin in Kansas City, and previously an associate in the Costa Mesa office of Latham & Watkins. While a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, Jenni was--amazingly--Executive Editor of both the Virginia Law Review and the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal. Jeff Wieland, a teacher, Eagles fan, and devoted husband and father, will be co-blogging.

Jeffrey A. Williams, Esq.
Associate at Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in New York City, where he works primarily on mergers, acquisitions and other aspects of corporate governance. Before joining the firm, he wrote often at Columbia Law School, producing one student note as well as the seeds of his article Flagrant Foul: Racism in 'The Ron Artest Fight,' 13 UCLA Ent. L. Rev 55 (2005) and a third piece which will appear in a future edition of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. In addition to sports as a theatre for these topics, his other work likewise examines the critical interaction of traits like race, gender and sexuality in law and culture.

Each week, we will feature one or two guest bloggers. It should be exciting. Joe Rosen leads off.

--Michael McCann and Greg Skidmore

Friday, November 25, 2005
 
Draft Dodger? Gov. Bill Richardson Admits to Not Being a Former MLB Draft Pick

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a probable candidate for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination, acknowledges that was never drafted by the Kansas City A's in 1966. It has been included in his campaign and biographical literature since he successfully ran for Congress in 1982. The Albuquerque Journal decided to check out the claim, and discovered that he never was drafted.

Richardson, a right-handed pitcher who played at Tufts University, claims that he believed that he was drafted after playing in the Cape Cod League, where a team program indicated that the A's had drafted him. However, information for that team program was provided by either the player--Richardson--or his college coach. Richardson also claims that his name appeared on a "draft list of some kind," and he noted the names of several scouts who told him that he "would or could" be drafted, but all of those scouts are no longer alive.

It is interesting how men sometimes feel compelled to embellish their sports triumphs, as if we need to establish past athletic prowess in order to be "complete." In a very different setting, we can remember George O'Leary lying about playing college football, and how that forced him to resign from the Notre Dame head coaching job. More recently, consider the plight of Reggie Fowler, a prospective buyer of the Minnesota Vikings, who lied about playing in the Little League World Series and also playing briefly for the Cincinnati Bengals.

All of that said, I want my students to know that after the Boston Celtics drafted me in the first round out of Georgetown University in 1998, I opted not to sign, because I wanted to go to law school that much. Granted, that draft occurred in NBA Live '99, but nonetheless . . .

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
 
Bob Lobel Settles Libel Lawsuit with Darby Conley

The Boston Globe reports that Boston CBS4-TV Sportscaster Bob Lobel has settled his libel lawsuit against Darby Conley and Conley's syndicator--the New Bedord Standard Times. The lawsuit arose following Conley's May 13 2005 "Get Fuzzy" cartoon. The cartoon portrayed Lobel as an on-air drunk. Lobel is arguably the most prominent sports media celebrity in New England. As we discussed in May, celebrities encounter particular difficulty in proving libel, a factor that may have motivated Lobel to settle.

Settlement terms were not disclosed. Instead, the parties issued the following joint-statement (and compare the bolded text with the dialogue in the cartoon above: hypocrisy anyone?):

The parties have settled the matter to their mutual satisfaction. The defendants did not intend to suggest that Bob Lobel has ever been intoxicated while on the air, and apologize to him for any harm caused him by the publication of the 'Get Fuzzy' cartoon. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

In addition, Bob Unger, Editor of the New Bedford Standard Times, issued an apology in his newspaper:

I want Mr. Lobel to know that we are sorry.

We didn't edit comic strips very carefully before (they come fully arranged on a page for us and all we have to do is add the advice strips that run alongside them and ship the page electronically to our Fairhaven printing plant), but I can tell you we pay closer attention to them now.

And while I agree that comic strip creators, along with political cartoonists, should have a good deal of freedom to criticize our elected officials and public figures in general, I believe that Mr. Conley overstepped the lines of what's considered acceptable comment by a longshot.

Only Mr. Conley knows whether or not the strip was intended as a personal attack or was simply a bad joke, but I believe it was sophomoric and mean-spirited, and United Feature shouldn't have let it get past its editors -- and The Standard-Times shouldn't have published it.

Readers will notice that we stopped running "Get Fuzzy" two weeks ago. The cancellation, I hope, makes a big point in a small way: The Standard-Times is not in favor of needlessly causing any individual, famous or not, public embarrassment -- in whatever form.

Newspapers have great power to help or to harm, and in this case we hurt someone for no reason.

Mr. Lobel, I'm sorry and we apologize.
A pleasant enough apology by the New Bedford Standard Times, but it would be better if Conley issued an apology himself, rather than having his lawyers draft a statement that is patently belied by his own cartoonish actions.

Monday, November 21, 2005
 
Call to Media to Memorialize the Negro League

William Li has a wonderful post on his blog regarding the Negro League and the Hall of Fame. Namely, Will wonders whether the vote to induct more Negro League players into the Hall of Fame in February 2006, coupled with the fact that most witnesses to Negro League games are getting older, means the media--and print media in particular--has an obligation to:

a) bring awareness of the players who may be inducted; and

b) gather accounts and stories of the Negro Leagues, before the firsthand accounts can no longer be found.

Will would like to issue a call to sportswriters to profile players and to ask for firsthand accounts in their newspaper columns, so that in tandem with the vote in February, we can promote awareness of the Negro League game and gather stories and anecdotes from people who were actually there. He invites feedback, so be sure to check out his extensive commentary and respond with any ideas or reflections.

Personally, I find it astonishing that explicit, legal segregation existed just 50 years ago--a decade after World War II. But maybe we can view that fact as a positive: race relations have come a long way in just 50 years, and while there remain implicit forms of segregation (particularly in regards to housing and schooling), perhaps it is only a matter of time before they too go away. And projects like Will's will help remind those of us who weren't around 50 years ago of why we need to eradicate racism, once and for all.

Note: The photograph above is of Josh Gibson hitting a home run in 1942 (from the African American Registry).

Sunday, November 20, 2005
 
David Frank and Scott Gilefsky's Sports Court on Sporting News Radio

For those interested in excellent sports law discussion on the radio, Sports Court, a weekly show hosted by Boston attorneys David Frank and Scott Gilefsky of 1510 The Zone Sporting News Radio Boston, has a terrific program scheduled for tonight from 7 PM to 9 PM Eastern Standard Time.

Attorney Paul DeMarco of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley in Cincinnati will be interviewed at 7:30 PM. DeMarco represents Kelci Stringer, Korey Stringer's widow in her wrongful death suit against the Vikings, the NFL, and others. While the Vikings just scored a victory at the Minnesota Supreme Court level (Justice Alan Page, a former Viking All-Pro recused himself), Kelci Stringer has settled with a team physician and has a suit pending against the NFL and equipment maker Riddell.


Sports Court can be heard live at this link from 7 PM to 9 PM tonight
. It should be another great show.

Saturday, November 19, 2005
 
The Sporting News' Top 50 NBA Players

Stan McNeal, managing editor of The Sporting News, ranks the top 50 NBA players. I see several oddities on his list (Steve Nash is higher than Kevin Garnett???), but it's interesting that 5 of the top 10 players are Americans who ascended directly from high school to the NBA, and yet only 8 percent of NBA players are Americans who ascended directly from high school to the NBA. I'm sure top college programs would have loved to have had the Lebron James and Tracy McGradys of the world, even for just one year -- think of all of the money they could have made off of them. But with the new NBA age floor, D1 schools can now "hire" those types of players--for free--for a year. Along those lines, I find it incredibly amusing how the NCAA contends that by preventing college basketball players from benefiting from their labor, it "protects them from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises." That may be the most ironic comment ever.

Anyway, here is the top 10 of The Sporting News list:

1. Tim Duncan
2. Shaquille O'neal
3. Steve Nash
4. Kevin Garnett
5. Amare Stoudemire
6. Lebron James
7. Dewayne Wade
8. Kobe Bryant
9. Tracy Mcgrady
10. Dirk Nowitzki

Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
Comparing Harry Potter Fans and Sports Fans

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire opens tomorrow in theaters. Upon hearing that, many of you may have had my reaction: Who cares?

I really do not understand the social infatuation with the Harry Potter books and films. It's one thing for children to be attracted to the storylines in these films--since the films are about children--but I find it a little strange when adults are so captivated by fantasy worlds full of magic wands and pre-adolescent-heroes.

Along those lines, I remember really liking the film The Never Ending Story when I was about 7 years old. But then again, I was about 7 years old.

So how does any of this relate to sports? Well, without any empirical evidence, I suspect that a number of adult Harry Potter fans are the very same persons who find sports to be frivolous, and they are the very same persons who regard adult sports fans as juvenile and sophomoric, even unsophisticated.

But really, is it less mature to seriously follow the plight of an actual team, which plays actual, organized sporting events--featuring real persons doing real things--or to seriously follow the plight of fantasy characters who are very young and have magical powers?

Hmm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
New York City Council Passes Stadium Safety Law

There is a reason why David Letterman once joked that the phrase "Yankee Stadium -- where everyday is helmet day" would make a fitting slogan for the New York Yankees. It's also why Roger Angel of The New Yorker remarked that when Yankees fans threw bottles and debris at Boston Red Sox players during Game 6 of last year's American League Championship Series, it made him "sit back and wish for winter."

And it's why the New York City Council has just passed a new law that imposes jail time and up to $25,000 in fines for throwing debris onto the field. The law impacts stadiums in New York City, which includes Yankees Stadium and Madison Square Garden. City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who authored the law, says he was most animated by the danger posed to Red Sox players during Game 6 of last year's ALCS. He said he that had to duck debris during the game, and that "it was a potentially dangerous situation." In fact, after that game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he almost pulled his players off the field.

This law seems like a good idea. Fans who throw things at players on the field are not fans that we want in the stadium. They can hurt players, umpires, coaches, and, of course, other fans. Their presence may also raise ticket prices: teams need to higher additional security guards and invest in other stadium-safety measures in order to neutralize rowdy fans, and presumably some of the costs of those investments are reflected in the ticket price. In other words, safe fans essentially subsidize rowdy fans.

Moreover, previous laws do not appear to sufficiently deter fans from throwing debris onto the field--if those laws were sufficient, then we wouldn't see debris thrown onto the field. Also, while Yankee Stadium might be especially dangerous, I imagine city councils in other cities might now endorse tougher penalties.

Related Coverage:
* Rushing the Court (Field) Tragedy: Student Dies in Minnesota
* Violent Sports Fans and Bystanders: How Might the Law and Economics of Ticket Prices Influence Team Liability
* Rushing the Court(house)
* Injured Phillies Fans Strikes out Again

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
 
New MLB Steroids Policy: Fleeting Victory?

Under pressure from Congress, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players' Association have agreed in principle to a new steroids testing policy: players will be suspended for 50 games after one positive test, 100 games for a second offense, and banned for life if they test positive a third time, with the player having the right to apply for reinstatement after two years and an arbitrator being able to review the reinstatement decision.

The agreement also covers amphetamines, which had previously not been covered by MLB testing. As a matter of background, use of amphetamines often procures such effects as wakefulness, alertness, a decreased sense of fatigue, mood elevation, increased self confidence, and a decreased appetite. Popular amphetamines include dextroamphetamine, benzedrine, and Ritalin. Under this new policy, players will be assessed a mandatory additional test after one positive test, a 25-game suspension after two positive tests, an 80-game suspension after three positive tests, and the Commissioner's discretion to impose whatever penalty he deems fit after four positive tests (with an arbitrator being able to review).

Testing for both steroids and amphetamines appears legitimate. A player will be tested during spring training physicals and at least once during the regular season, with additional random testing. Previously, each player was tested once from the start of spring training through the end of the regular season, with additional random testing.

In this year of 2005--the Year of Extraordinary Governmental Incompetence--perhaps we can take solace from this news: our elected officials have actually done something right. Threats by Senators John McCain and Jim Bunning appear to have worked. Along those lines, this new policy appears to provide remarkable deterrence to would-be users of steroids.

Of course, the real problem will occur when the "next generation" performance-enhancing drug is invented and this agreement doesn't cover it. For that reason (and putting my Martha Stewart hat on), don't be surprised if the stock market reacts to this news by seeing a surge in prices for inventors/developers of performance-enhancing substances. In other words, the race has officially begun for which company can develop the best new drug to evade this new policy.

Note: Picture above is from the Home Run Guys -- an online store dedicated to the steroids scandal -- you might want to take a look at their website, as they have some rather ingenious and amusing products.

Related Coverage: Congress Ready to Crackdown on Steroids? (9/28/2005)

Monday, November 14, 2005
 
Growth of Law Professor Blogs: A New Age Dawning?

Daniel J. Solove, a law professor at George Washington University School of Law and contributor to Concurring Opinion, is compiling a census of tenured or tenure-track law professors with blogs. In his latest census update, he finds that there are 202 law professors with blogs--an increase in over 50% from his last census back in June.

The stunning growth of law professor blogs invites a number of questions for those "in the academy." To date, blog postings appear to provide only minimal or no "professional advancement" value to law professors, particularly those on the tenure-track. Indeed, I have not heard of a tenure-track law professor obtaining credit for his/her postings. And yet given that there are now so many law professors with blogs, and that many of those blogs are updated daily and often with highly-substantive commentary, perhaps there will come a point when law professor blogs will be viewed as assets by law schools. As a tenure-track law professor who blogs a lot, I certainly endorse that idea!

Perhaps some background on how law professors make tenure might be helpful (and by "law professors" I am referring only to tenured or tenure-track ones). Law professors are largely judged by their scholarship, meaning publication of scholarly works, which usually entail law review articles. In fact, law schools are ranked by U.S. News and World Reports in part on how well their faculty publish (as a function of faculty prestige). Publication of law review articles has both a qualitative component (the ranking or esteem of the particular law review or law journal in which an article is placed; the depth and theory of the article's analysis) and a quantitative component (continuous production by a law professor is valued).

Moreover, the relative "value" of such scholarship appears to be growing in relation to other ways in which law professors are evaluated by their employers and the broader legal academy. That phenomenon partly explains why new tenure-track law professors tend to have increasingly exceptional academic qualifications and only limited or modest practical experience -- writing and scholarship, rather than practical experience, are now paramount. Additionally, since less than 5% of entry-level candidates on the tenure-track market (the "meat market") receive an offer, all accredited law schools can be extraordinarily selective in who they hire, and they can often get exactly who they want, which usually means a graduate of one of the especially "prestigious" law schools, who finished in the top 5% or 10% of his/her class, and who has already published at least 2 law review articles, among other credentials (which increasingly include Ph.Ds). Whether that is a good system for hiring is obviously a separate consideration.

Even with the growth of law professor blogs, "blogging" will probably never replace law review articles for purposes of tenure-decisions. At some point, however, as more law professors utilize blogs to engage in serious commentary, perhaps there will be a narrowing of the prestige gap between widely-read posts and seldom-read law review articles. Particularly in this age of the 24-hour news cycle, blogs appear to be incredibly useful tools to instantly analyze legal developments, and to do so without external filtering and publication delay (which can be a good or bad thing). Granted, the breath and depth of analysis in law review articles cannot be replicated or even approximated on a blog, yet blogs are incredibly more user-friendly than articles, and likely attract far broader audiences.

But even if blog postings do not become assets for tenure-track law professors, they are still incredibly-enjoyable ways for those professors to engage in substantive discussion with diverse populations. And that has to count for something!

Related--and Excellent--Commentary:

 
David Ortiz Robbed of 2005 AL MVP



There's The Man

The Best Red Sox Player of Our Generation

And The American League's Real Most Valuable Player

Sorry, but is the person below really an MVP?



I didn't think so either.

Friday, November 11, 2005
 
Case Law School Sports Law Symposium

The Case Law School Sports Law symposium on age limits in pro sports, which I discuss below and will be partaking in, begins at 9 AM Eastern Time this morning and will be webcast at this link. It should be a great event. Joe Rosen, Alan Milstein, and I will be speaking from 9:30 AM to 10:45 AM. Hope you get a chance to watch.

Thursday, November 10, 2005
 
Race and Hiring for College Football Head Coaching Positions: Lawsuit Forthcoming?

Mark Alesia of the Indianapolis Star has an excellent piece today on race and hiring trends for NCAA Division IA and IAA football head coaching positions. (BCA Gives IU, Irish High Marks, Indianapolis Star, 11/10/2005). The Black Coaches Association -- a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to foster the growth and development of ethnic minorities at all levels of sports -- recently studied this topic, and there is now speculation that a black candidate denied such a head coaching position could bring a lawsuit against a particular school (but not the NCAA) alleging racial discrimination.

Here are some key excerpts from Alesia's article:
There are three black coaches among 119 schools in Division I-A. That number has decreased in the three years since the Indianapolis-based BCA announced its intention to develop the report cards.

[Black Coaches Association] executive director Floyd Keith threatened legal action if diversity among all head coaches in college football doesn't improve.

"This (upcoming) search year is going to be very significant in the decision as to where that goes," Keith said. "In the history of social change, there has always been some element of legal accountability that has had to be a part of the process. Hopefully, that doesn't have to happen."

Keith said any legal action would be against a university, not the NCAA, which has no control over whom schools hire. The BCA has chosen to work with the NCAA. Wednesday's news conference was conducted at NCAA headquarters.

"You'd have to take an individual search, an individual process, and there would have to be an individual case that would warrant that," Keith said. "An affirmative action policy would have to be involved (and disregarded by the school)."
The actual study from the Black Coaches Association is available here (it is a PDF file). The study's principal author is Dr. C. Keith Harrison, a professor at Arizona State University.

I hope to post more on this topic next week after I get back from my visit at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, as it is an extremely interesting issue, both in terms of social policy and, more practically, litigation procedure in a case involving allegations of racial discrimination.

For additional background information, check out Alesia's story from October regarding a new socio-demographic study on athletic directors: the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida recently studied Division I athletic directors in 2003-04 and found that just 4.6 percent were minorities and 7.3 percent were women (note: historically black schools were excluded from the Central Florida study).

 
Sports and Eligibility: Who is Eligible to Play?

I am excited to be speaking at Case School of Law tomorrow. The Center for Law, Technology and the Arts is hosting a symposium entitled "Sports and Eligibility: Who is Eligible to Play?" It should be a great event, and the speakers' schedule is detailed below. Peter Carfagna, the Distinguished Visiting Practitioner at Case Western Law and Senior Counsel at Calfee, Halter & Griswold, is the symposium chair. We recently discussed Peter's extraordinary career in sports law.

The symposium will be webcast starting at 9:00 AM Eastern Time on Friday. If you want to watch it, click this webcast link Friday morning as it will be activated at that time (you will be given the choice to watch the symposium through Windows Media Player or Real Player).

The schedule for tomorrow (Friday) is as follows -- I hope you get a chance to watch:

9:00 a.m.-9:15 a.m. Welcome

Craig Allen Nard, Esq., Director of the Center for Law, Technology & the Arts and Tom J.E. and Bette Lou Walker Professor

9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Introduction

Peter A. Carfagna, Esq., Distinguished Visiting Practitioner, Case School of Law, and Senior Counsel, Calfee, Halter & Griswold
9:30 a.m.-10:45 a.m. Panel 1: Legality of Age Restrictions in the NBA and the NFL

Moderator:

Joe Rosen, Esq., Brown & Rosen LLC, Managing Member of Orpheus Sports & Entertainment Consulting Company LLC

Panelists:

Michael McCann, Esq., Assistant Professor of Law, Mississippi College School of Law

Alan Milstein, Esq., Sherman Silverstein Kohl Rose & Podolsky

11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Panel 2: Individual Athletes' Eligibility: Who Can't Play and Why?

Moderator:

Lisa K. Levine, Esq., Corporate Counsel, The Scott Fetzer Company

Panelists:

Eve Wright, Esq., Senior Director of Legal Affairs, Ladies Professional Golf Association, LPGA International

Christopher A. Callanan, Esq., Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy Professional Corporation

1:15 p.m.- 2:15 p.m. Luncheon Keynote Address

“When Can the Athlete Turn Pro: Preparation of the Pre-Professional Athlete”
Loren Seagrave, Founder and Chief Performance Officer, Velocity Sports Performance

“Training Pre-professional Athletes at ‘Performance Institutes’”
Kevin O’Donnell, Performance Consultant and Co-founder, Speed Dynamics

2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m. Panel 3: “The Business of Minor League Baseball: Amateur Eligibility Rules”

Moderator:

Peter Carfagna, Distinguished Visiting Practitioner, Case School of Law and Senior Counsel, Calfee, Halter & Griswold

Panelists:

John Farrell, Director, Player Development, Cleveland Indians

Mike Hazen, Assistant Director, Player Development, Cleveland Indians

Hope you can watch the webcast on Friday morning.

Administrative Note: Since I will be traveling, I will have limited and infrequent access to e-mail/Internet over the next few days, so I may not get back to reader e-mails until next week, particularly since my students' e-mails are obviously my first priority (but Greg and I always read and genuinely appreciate your e-mails, so keep them coming).


Tuesday, November 08, 2005
 
It's Morning in Cambridge

I'd be remiss not to a post a new story in the Harvard Law School Record, of which my good friend and former classmate Roger Pao is Editor-in-Chief. The Record recently conducted a survey of Harvard Law School students and asked them to "identify and rank what you believe to be the ten best American law schools." No specific law schools were mentioned, and all students contacted were asked to respond via e-mail. Participants were assured of anonymity.

The results? Harvard Law School is number one!

I imagine this might be akin to asking a particular U.S. Senator's staff to "identify and rank the ten best U.S. Senators," and then seeing them rank their boss #1. Nevertheless, it seems to suggest that students up there are happy, which may not have always been the case. And I think Greg would agree with me on this, as we were both students there recently -- the school has made great strides under Dean Elena Kagan to become a friendlier, more welcoming place (in contrary to popular myth about Harvard Law School, as depicted in such films as The Paper Chase, Legally Blonde, or--my favorite--Soul Man with James Earl Jones as the intimidating professor -- it's really not the ultra-competitive, vicious environment depicted in those films, and it's probably not like that at any American law school anymore; it's certainly not like that at Mississippi College School of Law, where I teach).

But I wonder if the HLS students will still feel so happy during January, when they are walking to class in 0 degree temperature, with gusts of wind from the nearby Charles River hitting them in the face??!! It's a lot of fun, enjoy!

P.S.: my favorite scene from Soul Man is when Professor Banks (James Earl Jones) cold-calls 1L Mark Watson (C. Thomas Howell) and asks him, "What is the precedent?" and Watson replies, "The President, sir, is Ronald Reagan."

Related Coverage: New Law School Rankings (11/1/2005).

 
Twins Look to Escape Stadium Lease

The fight in Minnesota over the Twins and a stadium continues.
    The Minnesota Twins sued their Metrodome landlord Tuesday, asking a judge to rule that the team is under no long-term obligation to play baseball in the stadium.

    Twins attorney Roger Magnuson said the lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court shouldn't be viewed as a first step in an attempt to move the team. For more than a decade, the team has been pursuing public money toward a new ballpark without success.

    "That's not the purpose of the filing,'' Magnuson said. "Obviously, the hard reality is we have no obligation to play in the Metrodome next year.''

    "It's not a threat at all,'' he added.
("Twins look to get out of Metrodome deal," Star Tribune, 10/18/2005). Hmm...if this is not a threat, then what exactly is it? Assuming the Twins are rational (a big assumption, I know), they are not going to spend money on pointless litigation that will accomplish no goal. It seems clear that the team simply wants more leverage in the forever-ongoing negotiations with city and state officials. And since the team has long-since lost the PR battle, why not file a lawsuit?

According to the article, the most recent lease agreement expired in 2003 and talks have stalled as the team seeks public money for a new stadium. There have been threats to move the Twins for ten years.

Hat tip to reader Jason Wolf, who resides somewhere much warmer than Minnesota.

Monday, November 07, 2005
 
College Athletics? Or the Devil's Game?

I agree with a great deal of what is written on this blog, but I had to take a moment to comment on Mike's Friday post, "Racism Among College Football Coaches" (11/4). I agree that the comments were inappropriate. But it is not fair to impugn all of college athletics based on them.

First, while not an excuse, both comments were made by coaches who are long-time members of AARP. DeBerry is 67; Joe Pa is nearly 80. They grew up, played their careers and started coaching in a different world than that in which we live today. This does not excuse the comments, but it is helpful to put them in some perspective.

It is also a bit much to suggest that athletes may skip college to avoid comments like this. In fact, a different post on Friday ("The Power of Zen," 11/4), talks about an NBA coach who made similarly racial insensitive remarks. So perhaps players will now consider skipping the NBA -- after all, unlike a college-bound athlete, they cannot choose on which team they will play. Who wants to take a chance on playing for someone that is racially insensitive? But of course they will not do that, in college or the pros. If a high school athlete doesn't like the comments, he will not play at Air Force or Penn State. But there are a lot of other choices and anyone who makes the decision to skip college to avoid a possible slight needs a better career counselor.

Finally, the claim that some parents may want their children to skip college because they are concerned about athletes breaking the law and suffering no consequence simply cannot be supported. It would take me all day to list the professional athletes that have broken the law and suffered no consequence. A high percentage of arrested NBA players went to college because the overwhelming majority of all NBA players went to college. Saying that 90% of the players are responsible for 95% of the arrests (these are not exact numbers) does not boggle the mind. In fact, it is similar to claiming a correlation between skipping law school and not being convicted of legal malpractice. After all, the overwhelming majority of lawyers that commit malpractice attended an accredited law school (versus reading for the Bar, which is still allowed in several states). It is plausible to claim that someone is no more likely to be arrested or commit malpractice if he does not attend college/law school, but I have seen no evidence of a causal claim (no college/law school = no arrest/malpractice).

 
Sports Law Blog Turns 2

As the Sports Law Blog celebrates its second birthday, we have begun reviewing the past and the future of this project. Overall, we could not be happier with how it has gone and with the growth of both this blog and blogs in general. Of course, Mike and I are always looking to improve the site and we hope to institute a number of changes in the coming months.

One change will be an expansion beyond simply "sports law" stories. This blog is read not only by sports law-types, but also sports fans with an interest in the law and lawyers with an interest in sports. Mike and I are both lawyers and sports fans. Thus, we will begin branching out in some of our posts to stories that are just about sports or about other legal topics. To be sure, the primary focus will remain on the sports-law intersection, but diversity is the spice of life. Blogs such as The Sports Economist have done this quite well.

We also hope to increase the number of guest-bloggers. We have a few lined up for the end of this year, but be sure to contact us if you are interested. Other potential changes include a site re-design and (hopefully) an increase in the sports law resources available on the site.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting.

--Greg and Mike

Saturday, November 05, 2005
 
Sunday's Sports Court on Sporting News Radio

For those interested in excellent sports law discussion on the radio, Sports Court, a weekly show hosted by attorneys David Frank and Scott Gilefsky of 1510 The Zone Sporting News Radio Boston, has a terrific program scheduled for Sunday tonight (7 PM to 9 PM Eastern Standard Time).

The guests are especially good this week (with all due respect to myself and others who have previously appeared on the show):


* WBA heavy-weight boxing champion John Ruiz during the 7 o'clock hour. He will discuss the civil lawsuit he filed in federal court this week against James Toney in the wake of Toney testing positive for steroids after their fight this past spring. The suit seeks $10 million because Toney tested positive for the steroid Nandrolone after beating Ruiz for the WBA title April 30 at Madison Square Garden. Even though he got his title back, Ruiz believes his marketability and stature as a fighter were damaged by losing. It appears that this is a first of its kind lawsuit.

* Bob Ryan, columnist for the Boston Globe during the 8 o'clock hour. He will discuss the Theo Epstein/Larry Lucchino saga. Ryan asked some very difficult questions of both Epstein and Red Sox owner John Henry during Epstein's farewell press conference, and he has been very outspoken on the topic.

Sports Court can be heard live at this link from 7 PM to 9 PM on Sunday night
. It should be another great show. I know I'll be listening.

 
Is Fighting Part of a Hockey Player's Employment?

Rugged, physical contact has always been an integral part of professional hockey, especially when it is in the form of checking. A flattening check on the boards is what makes the game exciting, particularly when a player can combine it with scoring prowess (see Cam Neely, the prototypical NHL power forward who starred for the Boston Bruins from 1986 to 1996).

When rugged, physical contact entails fighting, however, the debate then changes--especially when viewing the legal rights of an NHL player and the legal obligations of an NHL team. Namely, can fighting comprise part of one's employment for an NHL team?

On one hand, fighting is against the rules, so perhaps it should not be considered part of one's employment. How can one be "employed" to partake in something disallowed? That would seem to negate the contract's very foundation.

On the other hand, some players are paid by their NHL employers to pick fights and win fights (and thus break these rules), and they do so in order to protect star players (with the idea essentially one of deterrence: if a player on the other team delivers a cheap shot to your star player, then your team's "enforcer" will likely retaliate). In other words, some players--often called "goons"--would not be employed but for their willingess to fight; others would earn less compensation without that willingness.

In an unpublished opinion, the Virginia Court of Appeals recently addressed this topic while assessing workers compensation rights. Ty Jones, who played in 14 NHL games during separate (and brief) stints in 1999 and 2004, was playing for the Norfolk Admirals in the American Hockey League in 2002 and his coach instructed him to instigate a fight with a player on the other team. Jones was hurt in the fight, suffering a serious shoulder injury that required surgery (with 6 screws being inserted into his shoulder). Jones would take 7 months to recover.

Jones applied for workers compensation while he was hurt. Workers comp typically entails full disability and medical benefits, which in this case comprised $670 a week for 28 weeks ($18,760). The Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission awarded it, reasoning that "fighting is an integral part of the game of hockey" and that the Admirals employed Jones in part to play the role as an "enforcer." The Admiral unsuccessfully appealed, arguing that Jones voluntarily fought and that fighting was not a part of his employment.

Sports Law Blog friend Ryan Rodenberg--associate general counsel of Octagon--notes several interesting implications of this decision:
Could the holding be extended to other sports?

What if Chuck Daly told Bill Laimbeer to commit a hard foul against Scottie Pippin in a playoff game against the Bulls in the late 1980's, and Laimbeer got hurt?

What if a Philadelphia Eagles player got hurt while trying to collect on a purported "bounty" offered by Coach Buddy Ryan during Ryan's short stint at the helm of the Eagles?

Although in the amateur sports context (and outside the scope of any worker's comp laws), there was the recent incident earlier this year when Temple basketball coach John Cheney instructed seldom-used player Nehemiah Ingram, who is 6'8" and 250 lbs., to "send a message" to St. Joseph's player John Bryant...and promptly broke Bryant's arm during an Atlantic 10 game.

It is important to note that this case does not set precedent, since it is "unpublished." As such, the most intriguing aspect is probably that a judge opined that fighting is an "integral part" of hockey.
Those are excellent questions, and they pertain to the salience of both negligence and vicarious liability in this context: if a coach instructs a player to hurt another player, the team and the coach would appear to have breached a duty of care to the victimized player (and thus both could be sued as negligent actors); alternatively, if a team (through its coaching staff) is aware or should have been appear that a fight was going to break-out, then vicarious liability may trigger, with the idea that fighting can be legally considered part of the player's employment and the team was in the best position to monitor the player (i.e., it could have benched him if he was a risk to injure other players).

Related Coverage: Were the Texas Rangers Negligent in Failing to Control Kenny Rogers? (10/11/2005)

Friday, November 04, 2005
 
Racism Among College Football Coaches

Next time you hear someone say that racism no longer exists in America, just direct them to these benighted comments made by two prominent college football coaches during this past week (and thanks to Offwing for their discussion):
"[T]he black athlete has made a big difference. They have changed the whole tempo of the game. Black athletes have just done a great job as athletes and as people in turning the game around." Joe Paterno, Penn State Head Football Coach, 11/4/2005
Then there is this beauty:
"[Texas Christian University] had a lot more Afro-American players than we did and they ran a lot faster than we did. Afro-American kids can run very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me that they run extremely well." Fisher DeBerry, Air Force Head Football Coach, 10/28/2005 (after loss to Texas Christian University)
You would hope that these comments were made in 1955 instead of 2005, but they weren't. And you would hope that they were made by socially-irrelevant persons instead of high-profile, supposedly father-figure types for parents to send their 18-year old sons to learn from, but they weren't.

These comments illuminate the broader notion that the college game is anything but the romanticized image often portrayed in film and by those who have financial stakes in seeing players not enter pro leagues. There is racism at the highest of levels. There is crime without deterrence. There is a glaring absence of positive social norms.

In other words, 18-year olds who seek the NBA or NFL may not be doing so merely for monetary reasons. Maybe their parents don't want them to play for coaches who talk about "the black athlete." And maybe their parents don't want them to watch juniors and seniors on the team break the law and suffer no consequence. In other words, maybe it's not just about young men getting rich. In fact, as we saw back in July, there appears to be a correlation between skipping college and not getting in trouble with the law.

And maybe we shouldn't find that conclusion surprising after-all.

 
The Power of Zen . . . to be Narrow-Minded?

Will Li alerts me to an interesting and recent remark by Lakers head coach and "Zen Master" Phil Jackson:
I think it's important that the players take their end of it, get out of the prison garb and the thuggery aspect of basketball that has come along with hip-hop music in the last seven or eight years. (Scoop Jackson, "Sacred Ignorance," ESPN, 11/3/2005).
So which NBA players wear "prison garb"? And how, specifically and empirically (i.e, not by popular yet unsubstantiated generalizations), does the "thuggery aspect of basketball" (however that is defined) actually correlate with "hip-hop music"?

And is this really the same "enlightened" Phil Jackson often described as deeply-philosophical and well-reasoned? Take a look at this glowing description from The Religion of Phil Jackson:
His approach emphasizes awareness, compassion and selfless team play to achieve victory. Jackson believes that the essence of teamwork is interconnectedness and selflessness in action. One of the most important characteristics of a leader, he concedes, is to listen without making judgments. In order to create a true team and build an acceptable level of trust, one must have intimacy and an open forum where every member can fully express his thoughts and feelings.
When viewed in conjunction with Jackson's remarks above, I guess this "open forum where every member can fully express his thoughts and feelings" exists so long as those thoughts and feelings don't pertain to hip-hop or other things that Phil Jackson doesn't like.

So Phil Jackson really is open-minded--in the sense that, if he agrees with what you say and do, then you should be able to say and do those things. Gotta love that kind of open-mindedness!

Thursday, November 03, 2005
 
Mississippi College School of Law: New Website

I have been meaning to post this for some time: as many of you know, I teach at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. We have a brand new website. I hope you take a look, and learn more about our school, which also recently opened a dynamic, start-of-the art facility (with high-tech classrooms and an extraordinarily-nice student center -- it is really first class). We'll be celebrating our new campus with a ribbon cutting and building dedication on Thursday, December 1. Excellent times here in Jackson.

Now, if we could just get rid of the NBA's new age floor, I would be truly content . . .

 
Theo Epstein Offered Lucrative Gambling Position in Costa Rica

It didn't take long for an "unemployed" Theo Epstein to attract interest on the job market. As we discussed on Monday, Epstein essentially quit as Red Sox general manager this week, after declining a 3-year contract extension worth $1.5 million a year. According to the Boston Herald, the Costa Rican-based Nine Online Sports Betting has offered Epstein a position that would pay him $2 million a year. (Scott Van Vorhis, "Gambling Site Makes Offer to Theo," Boston Herald, Nov. 3, 2005). In the position, Epstein would set odds for Major League games.

But the package includes more than mere mucho dinero. Indeed, Epstein would receive rather plush housing accommodations: a 6,000-square foot mansion in the mountains of Costa Rica, along with a "small army of maids and other help," as well as an assortment of on-site athletic facilities, including a soccer field and a tennis court.

At least based on the compensation, it seems hard to imagine a better setting for a single, 31-year old guy like Epstein--particularly given his recent high-stress, all-consuming, yet incredibly successful tenure as Red Sox GM. He really could walk away into the sunset, head held-high, having accomplished more than most will in their entire lives.

But is this merely a publicity stunt for Nine Online? Probably, particularly given that 1) Epstein has already been in contact with another MLB team about becoming its general manager (and if I were a gambler, I'd put my money on him becoming GM of the Washington Nationals by the end of next week) and 2) Epstein has expressed interest in eventually pursuing politics, and I think it is safe to assume that being a gambling jefé in Costa Rica probably wouldn't be great resume fodder for an aspiring U.S. Senator.

But who knows. $2 million a year + king-like treatment + a tropical paradise all to merely set odds for baseball games? That doesn't sound like such a bad gig, does it?

Update: Wes raises a great question in the comments:
This is an interesting proposition to say the least. However, given the stance MLB takes toward gambling, legal or otherwise, I find it hard to believe that he would be allowed to actaully set odds for an offshore gambling site for two years and then return to MLB in any capacity, especially as the general manager of a team. I wonder, if Epstein were to take this job, and then attempt a comeback to MLB in the future, would his return be met with heavy opposition from the powers that be? Wouldn't it be somewhat hypocritical to ban from the game those who place bets on the lines, and then allow participation by those who actually set them?
Terrific point. So maybe this isn't such a great opportunity for Epstein, unless he wants to walk away from the game for good. I know Larry Lucchino was tough to work for, but was he that tough?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 
Early Evening Audio/Video Links

New England Cable News has video links to Theo Epstein's farewell press conference from today (a must watch, especially once he starts answering questions), as well as to Red Sox owner John Henry's poignant remarks. For fan reaction (and even press conference play-by-play), check out this thread on Sons of Sam Horn. Interestingly, although not surprisingly, Larry Lucchino was not at Epstein's press conference.

Also, and thanks to University of Pennsylvania Law School student Rebecca Lacher, here is the working link to yesterday's BBC discussion on the NBA Dress Code and race. The discussion featured Greg, me, Colleen Hammond, and Sean Gonsalvez. The program is called "World Have Your Say," and our discussion occurs from minutes 38:27 to 47:54. The debate is very lively.

 
A-Rod Gate? Yankees Warn Alex Rodriguez Against Partaking in Illegal Gambling Activities

In addition to slapping opposing players' arms and struggling in the playoffs, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez apparently has an affinity for illegal gambling. According to the New York Daily News, Rodriguez is frequenting illegal city poker clubs, where it is thought that those who bet on baseball may also frequent. (Jim Rich et. al, "Play-Rod's Bets Called," N.Y. Daily News, 11/2/2005). Rodriguez, who is the highest paid athlete in the world (10-year, $252 million contract), is apparently not breaking the law by gambling at these operations, as under New York law, only the actual operators face liability.

The nefarious behavior is especially abhorrent to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who is one of the strictest owners in pro sports. However, the Daily News quotes an unnamed Yankees executive who states that Rodriguez has not violated his contract's morals clause. Most moral clauses feature the following type of language (and thanks to Frascogna Courtney LLC in Jackson, Mississippi for this info):
The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club's training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship
I suspect if it is proved that Rodriguez is playing poker with those who also bet on baseball, the Yankees could more closely investigate the possibility of terminating his astronomical contract, or at least threatening to do so. Regularly mingling with those who bet on baseball may not "conform to high standards of personal conduct." It is also possible that Major League Baseball would intervene at that point, and threaten suspension. After the Pete Rose betting scandal, the MLB would seem to have little tolerance for those who associate with baseball bettors.

Regardless, A-Rod's gambling activities cast a poor light on a player seemingly obsessed with his image. One would think that A-Rod could get his gambling "fix" in his own clubhouse, as many players like to play cards. Or he could have poker games in his own home. But instead, he chooses to frequent illegal gambling operations, and associate with serious, hardened gamblers. Maybe he shouldn't have skipped college after-all!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005
 
New Law School Rankings

Professor Brian Leiter of the University of Texas School of Law has just released his annual law school rankings. He uses slightly different criteria than U.S. News and World Reports. Namely, he looks at only three facts: LSAT score, GPA, and class size. For that reason, I think his methodology is better, since he bases his rankings only on tangible data (rather than more subjective, less empirical qualities, like "assessment score by lawyers/judges," which is part of U.S. News and World Reports):

Here is the Top 10 List:

Rank

School

75th
Percentile
LSAT

75th
Percentile
GPA

Class Size

1

Harvard University

175

3.94

550

2

Yale University

175

3.96

200

3

Columbia University

173

3.83

400

4

New York University

172

3.85

400

5

Stanford University

172

3.94

150

6

University of Virginia

171

3.82

350

7

University of Pennsylvania

171

3.81

250

8

University of Chicago

171

3.78

200

9

Georgetown University

170

3.80

450

10

Northwestern University

170

3.78

200



Update: Jeff in the Comments section raises a good question about Professor Leiter's methodology: "Do the Leiter rankings value large class size over small class size? I've always thought of small class size as a strength. Harvard and Yale have the same LSAT, Yale has a higher GPA, and Yale has smaller class size. Why is it #2?"

I had a similar reaction to Jeff when I read the rankings. But Professor Leiter responds with a very good explanation:
Class size (rounded to the nearest 50) served as a tie breaker: the larger school with the same LSAT credentials was ranked higher.

For Harvard to boast a 75th percentile LSAT of 175, just like Yale, requires Harvard to recruit nearly three times as many students as Yale with those credentials. That speaks both to Harvard’s attractiveness, and to the existence at Harvard of an enormous pool of highly credentialed students, a fact, needless to say, that prospective employers register.
I hadn't thought of class size that way, but it makes a lot of sense. If Harvard Law School and Yale Law School students are essentially of "equal quality" (which Leiter's numbers suggest), then Harvard Law School appears "stronger" by featuring a class 3 times larger than that of Yale Law School. Moreover, there are a lot more Harvard Law grads than Yale Law grads, and if the two groups are indeed equal, then a Harvard Law degree would seem to have greater professional value just by virtue of enjoying more alumns in "prestigious" positions, as well as enhanced fundraising opportunities.

At least that is how I read it. Of course, Carl also makes a great point in the Comments section: where one attends law school is merely a proxy for a lot of things; it is no by means definitive about anything--which is sort of like using age as a proxy for when one should be able to enter a pro sports league: sometimes proxies aren't always true.