Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Happy 2000th Anniversary, Sports Law Blog!

Rick's post on Thursday represented a milestone of sorts for this blog: It is our 2000th published post! Four and a half years and 2000 posts ago, Greg wrote:
Since there is no such thing as 'Sports Law,' this blog will be dedicated to the law and the role it plays in the sports industry. I hope to have it up and running soon.
In the time since, the blog has grown from one contributor to five, helped its authors land numerous interviews, speaking opportunities, and even (presumably paying) gigs with mainstream media outlets. We've welcomed over 790,000 visitors, beat out the faculty at the University of Chicago law school, and attracted some nice accolades.

In the spirit of the times, I thought I'd revisit the first words that appeared on the blog (and invite my co-contributors to share their thoughts in later posts or comments): "there is no such thing as 'Sports Law'." Still true?

Wake Forest's Timothy Davis has written a classic article called, "What is Sports Law?" In that piece he describes three answers to the question posed in his title. The first is the "traditional" view embodied in Greg's first post -- that there is no separate body of law called "Sports Law," but that what we teach in the class that goes by that name is just a little bit of contracts, torts, antitrust, etc., as applied to the sports industry.

Even if that view is right, I'm not sure that undercuts the case for including Sports Law in the law school curriculum. There is a move afoot at some top law schools to introduce interdisciplinary courses that study different branches of law "horizontally" rather than "vertically". For instance, the University of Colorado has offered a course called "Wal-Mart". The idea is that studying a particular firm (large enough to be called its own industry) from different legal perspectives might add something that reading about the same firm in 12 different, isolated classes might miss. Teachers of Sports Law have been teaching in this interdisciplinary way for years (as well as helping refresh some core bar subjects in a fun and interesting way).

Professor Davis also describes "moderate" and "separate field" views of Sports Law -- that it may not be but is on the way to becoming a separate field, or is already there, based on the emergence of specialized laws to regulate sports (or laws, like Title IX, that apply most prominently in sports cases).

I would add a fourth view, which is my own, called the "institutional" view. Sports law may be worth studying for two reasons. First, there are now separate legal institutions -- particularly on the international side -- for addressing legal issues arising from sports. Studying those institutions separately may make sense.

But more significantly, sports law may be worth studying because of the way sports cases seem to gum up otherwise (mildly) effective legal institutions. Too many "sports law" cases (and the differences between them) seem to turn on whether the judge, underneath that black robe, is wearing the jersey of the plaintiff or defendant team. In that sense -- where we encounter decisions in which the law seems to have been left at home and fandom reigns supreme -- studying Sports Law sometimes resembles legal realism on steroids (as I noted in a comment to Jeff Standen's post here).

This is not to say that marketing yourself as a "Sports Law" person -- whether applying for a job at a university athletic department, law firm, or law school -- makes sense. Probably the opposite. But I think its fair to say that Sports Law offers enough meat to justify its place at the table.

Thanks to all our readers for their support over the years! (And to Greg and Mike for building this blog from the ground up).


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