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Monday, October 09, 2006
Introduction and Sports Law as an Academic Discipline

First, my thanks to Michael for his overly kind introduction and to the Sports Law bloggers for inviting me to do a guest stint this week. I remain fascinated by blogging as a creative outlet for ideas and writing (whether or not one wants to call it legal scholarship).

I do not “do” sports law (to the extent there is such a thing). I do not teach the course at FIU (that honor falls to my friend, colleague, and former guest on this site, Andre Smith). I once described sports law as an academic discipline involving a range of other areas of law—antitrust, labor and employment, business organizations, and contracts, as well as psychology, social psychology, and group dynamics in some of Michael’s fascinating work—applied to a particular, unique subject. But since I had no interest in or knowledge of those other areas, I never gravitated towards sports law as a teaching or scholarly discipline.

But I am a sports fan. My c.v. identifies my important personal interests to include the Chicago Cubs and Northwestern Wildcats (detect a common theme there?). My favorite phone message ever came from a federal judge who invited me for a clerkship interview by saying “I see you’re a Chicago Cubs fan. I’m a Milwaukee Brewers fan myself, but let’s talk anyway.” And I certainly am not alone in the sports-mad society of the United States.

Starting from the sociological and anthropological importance of sport in American society, I have managed to find a way to link sport to the areas of law that I do write about.

One area is free speech. I have recently examined the First Amendment rights of fans to engage in what I call “cheering speech” at games (which includes cheering, banner-waving, political protest, and all manner of heckling). I even got to present a paper on the subject at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (wearing a Cubs jersey and hat, of course). Michael discussed this issue a couple of weeks ago in a post about Boston University’s new no-profanity policy at hockey games, a policy I suggest would and should (at a public school, anyway) be unconstitutional. The underlying point is that, given the importance of sports and sporting events in American society, it must follow that speech at and about sports has some degree of importance and is deserving of constitutional protection.

The other area is the judicial process, looking at how sport can illustrate how decisions are made and disputes resolved in the context of a competition. Judges in the American judicial system frequently are likened to “umpires,” most recently by Chief Justice John Roberts in his 2005 Senate confirmation hearings. We should examine the analogy to see how accurate it is. Some have called this the “law of sports”—the law that governs the games we play. That law can tell us things about the law of society.

So, those are some of the things I hope to talk about in the coming week, along with any new stories and issues that arise during this week. And I hope to hear some ideas and comments that might help me in future projects.


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