Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Do Pro Athletes Commit Crimes at Unusually High Rates?
Lawrence Delevingne of The Business Insider explores athletes and crime in a recent piece. He interviews Geoff, Duke Law Prof Lisa Kern Griffin, and me. Here's an excerpt:
But pro athletes aren't actually more likely to commit crimes that the average citizen. It just seems that way because of all the attention their cases get.For the rest, click here.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Buzz Bissinger Op-Ed in today's New York Times on NBA's Eligiblity Restriction: From Supporter to Opponent
Pulitzer prize winner H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger (author of the famed Friday Night Lights and LeBron James' co-author of Shooting Stars) pens an outstanding op-ed in today's New York Times on the NBA's eligibility rule, which Bissinger admits he thought was a good idea back in 2005 but now believes was a terrible idea. I'm honored that Bissinger would cite a couple of my studies in his piece (which is on page A25 of today's paper). Here are a couple of excerpts:
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So I was pleased that, as part of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, rules were established requiring American players to be at least a year removed from high school and a minimum of 19 to be eligible for the N.B.A. draft. This meant that young superstars would generally go to college, at least for one year. Beyond simply advancing their skills, I thought, it might turn them on to the value of an education, maybe enough to stay in school longer.Now, with another N.B.A. regular season beginning today, the issue still rages, with ramifications that go directly to the heart of whether any professional sports league has actual concern for its athletes beyond a smokescreen of clever spin. And in looking back at Stern’s decision, I am now convinced that we got punked.
. . .
Stern raised the age in large part because N.B.A. owners and general managers resented the amount of time it took to train players straight out of high school. He did it because owners did not like the possibility of players becoming free agents, able to join any other team in the league, in their early 20s. My guess is that he also did it to appease the National Collegiate Athletic Association; you could hear the whining that the N.B.A.’s version of cradle-robbing was denying the college game great players who could sell out arenas.There are disaster stories of players entering the draft from high school and failing spectacularly. But as tragic as the stories are, they are an exception. A study by Michael McCann, a professor at Vermont Law School who is an expert on sports and legal issues, pointed out that of the 21 high school players who declared for the draft from 1975 to 2001, four became superstars — Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal and Tracy McGrady — and only four never made it to the N.B.A. This trend held with the high school draft classes of 2002 through 2005, the year the ban was put in place: of the 26 players drafted, 20 were still playing through last season and three have become superstars: Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and James.
The frequent argument that players drafted straight from high school are more prone to quickly get into trouble because of their age has also proved wrong. According to a study by McCann in 2005 of the most recent 84 arrests of pro players, more than half the arrestees had spent four years on a university campus but only 4.8 percent never went to college (even though players without any college experience made up 8.3 percent of the league population).
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There's much more in the op-ed, a definite read if you're interested in eligibility rules for professional sports, particularly the NBA. And like many of you, I'm psyched about the NBA season starting tonight!
Update: ESPN's Henry Abbott reacts to Bissinger's story and also refers to some good ideas offered by Dean Smith. Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis also has a great piece reacting to Bissinger, and the same is true of Eamonn Brennan of Yahoo! Sports.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Sports Law Blog's Joe Rosen Signs Red Sox Reliever Hideki Okajima as Client
Congratulations to agent/attorney Joe Rosen, who has guest blogged here on a number of occasions (including in 2005 when he asked "Is NASCAR a Sport?"), on signing as a client Boston Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima. This news has been reported in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, among other media outlets.
Joe is the President of the Baseball and Media Divisions of the Boston-based Orpheus Sports & Entertainment, which he co-founded with fellow agent/attorney Chris Brown. Both graduated from Boston College Law School in 1998 and both have taught sports and entertainment law courses at BC Law since. I have worked with both of them on a variety projects, including co-authoring a law review article on age eligibility rules in the NBA and NFL, and I'm thrilled to see the growth of their firm, which represents a number of prominent players and top prospects, as well as prominent media personalities, including WEEI's Jon Meterparel, who is the play-by-play voice of Boston College football games.
Back to the Okajima signing, the Boston Herald has details on some of the motivations for Okajima to move from one agent to Joe:
Red Sox left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima hired a new agent near the end of the season as a result of a rather large misunderstanding he had with his previous one, according to his new agent, Boston-based Joe Rosen.
Congrats again to Joe.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
University of Montana football coach Bobby Hauck is getting raked over the coals because he (and the members of the team) are refusing to speak with reporters from The Kamin, the student newspaper, after the paper published a story (the facts of which have not been contested or criticized) about an on-campus assault allegedly involving two players. Hauck has publicly humiliated student reporters when they have tried to ask football-related questions at his weekly press conference ("Oh, now you want something from me?").
Hauck is certainly not the first college coach to go off on a 20-year-old student reporter in a way he most-assuredly never would do with a member of the professional (especially national) press, who he needs to publicize his team. (See, famously, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's "I'm a man, I'm 40" rant).
Here's what I find interesting and somewhat disappointing. No one from the professional media (the Missoula paper or local TV outlets) seems to have come to The Kamin's defense, namely by refusing to cover the team unless Hauck (if not the players) stopped boycotting student reporters. Contrast this with the stance of mainstream news outlets such as The Times as to the White House feud with Fox News; several have talked of not attending WH press events if Fox is excluded. For all the criticism of Hauck, this never seems to have come up.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Sports Law Discussion today at Harvard Law School
Sorry for the late notice, but if you're in the Cambridge Massachusetts area today and are free between 3:15 and 4:30, Boston Celtics Assistant Executive Director of Basketball Operations & Associate Counsel Mike Zarren and I will be co-lecturing on age eligibility restrictions in the NBA and NFL, and also on American Needle v. NFL, at Harvard Law School. We are guest lecturing Professor Peter Carfagna's sports law class. If you are interested in attending as a guest, please contact Ashwin Krishnan, Professor Carfagna's teaching assistant and the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sports Implications of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
Shaun Assel of ESPN Magazine has an interesting article on the sports implications of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which goes into effect Nov. 21, and which explicitly bars employers from using genetic results in hiring and workplace decisions. The piece, which discusses a topic that might make for a great student law review/journal note, is available on ESPN Insider, so I can only post a small portion it. Here's a short excerpt, which features an interview with Sports Law Blog's Alan Milstein, a national expert on bioethics and the law and who represented Eddy Curry when he played for the Chicago Bulls and when the Bulls demanded that Curry take a DNA test:
* * *The new law may have the most relevance to current employees, says Alan Milstein, a New Jersey lawyer with experience in both sports and biotechnology.
Milstein represented NBA forward Eddy Curry in a celebrated 2005 case in which the Chicago Bulls refused to extend Curry's contract unless he took a genetic test. (The team was trying to determine if he had a rare mutation that increased his chance of suffering a fatal heart attack while exerting himself.) Curry signed with the Knicks without ever having to surrender a sample. Millstein says that the new act is designed to prevent a similar situation from arising again.
"It goes hand-in-hand with all the laws that say your medical history is your own and no one can have access to it," he says.
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For the rest of the piece, click here. For a terrific historical overview of these issues, check out Alan Milstein's Out of the Park: A History of Sports and the Human Condition. For other Sports Law Blog posts on DNA testing, click here. For a law review article that I wrote on DNA testing and the Eddy Curry situation, see The Reckless Pursuit of Dominion: A Situational Analysis of the NBA and Diminishing Player Autonomy 8 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law 819 (2006).
Monday, October 19, 2009
New Sports Law Scholarship
Recently published scholarship includes:
Phyllis Coleman, Note to athletes, NFL, and NBA: dog fighting is a crime, not a sport, 3 JOURNAL OF ANIMAL LAW AND ETHICS 85 (2009)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Chris Bosh wins rights to domain
Alert reader Devin Black sends along this story about Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors, who successfully sued to recover use of the domain chrisbosh.com from a cyber-squatter named Luis Zavala, who also held domain names of more than 800 other celebrities.
Interestingly, rather than statutory damages (Bosh was entitled to $ 12,000, which he doubted Zavala could pay), Bosh asked the court to make Zavala relinquish control of the other 800 celebrity names he had been using (I presume Bosh will simply relinquish those names and not try to sell them off). That's an interesting remedy. But I wonder if the court actually could grant this. After all, Bosh is not injured because Zavala owned britneyspears.com.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Baseball's Antitrust Exemption Highlighted in a New TV Campaign
TheHill.com reports that baseball's historic antitrust exemption has been highlighted as part of a new advertising campaign criticizing the health insurance industry. No doubt hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the baseball playoffs, the group Americans United for Change has launched the TV commercial below, noting that the baseball and health insurance industries are the only two enjoying an exemption from federal antitrust law. In the process, the ad depicts the effect of the baseball antitrust exemption as being relatively benign, a characterization I suspect many here would take issue with.
Gillispie v. U. of Kentucky Lawsuit Settled
ESPN.com is reporting that former University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie has settled his lawsuit against the University for $2.9 million. As I have previously discussed, Gillispie sued the University for breach of contract, among other claims, following his dismissal in March of this year. The settlement agreement also resolves the countersuit that the University later filed against Gillispie in Kentucky state court.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Oliver v. NCAA Ends in Settlement
Earlier this year, an Ohio state court ruled in favor of Oklahoma State University star pitcher Andrew Oliver in his lawsuit against the NCAA. Oliver had been suspended by OSU after news emerged that, years earlier, he had met with Minnesota Twins representatives with his attorneys while contemplating whether to retain his amateur status and attend college or turn pro after high school. Oliver maintained the rule which prohibited that meeting interfered with his attorney-client relationship and was against public policy (For more background see Alan Milstein's post and posts by others, including one on the NCAA Compliance Blog, one by Dan Fitzgerald on Connecticut Sports Law, and those with competing viewpoints from Rick Karcher and Tassos Kaburakis).
The NCAA intended to appeal the decision, but the appeal won't happen as the NCAA and Oliver worked out an
Monday, October 12, 2009
Baseballs in the stands: End of the tradition?
In light of the controversy over Ryan Howard's home run ball, as well as past controversies over other record-setting and significant balls, I wonder if we are heading towards a change in how baseballs hit into the stands (at least fair balls) are treated.
It seems to me that MLB and individual teams control this. Fans keeping baseballs is a matter of tradition and historical practice, practice that is not followed in most other sports--football, basketball, tennis. The question of how a ball should be treated under state property rules depends on the teams--the owners of the stadiums--not simply declaring that all balls remaining within the stadium (or remaining within the stadium and in fair territory) remain the property of MLB and must be returned.
Such a move would not be popular, of course, as it flies in the face of the intrinsic joy of fans catching home run balls. But I wonder if teams might find it better than getting into disputes when players want important balls, not to mention having fans committing simple battery in an attempt to catch a ball.
I am not a property scholar, so I invite those more in the know to weigh in.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Weekend Reading: Kooky Ideas About Steroids
I've uploaded my new essay on steroids in professional sports, Blue Sky Steroids, from a symposium on Sports & Criminal Law published by Northwestern Law School's Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology. You can download the essay free of charge here. Here's the abstract:
Performance-enhancing substance use has attracted considerable political and media attention. However, relatively little analysis of the reasons for regulating substance use in professional sports exists. Most of the ostensible reasons for regulating performance-enhancing substance use are belied by leagues’ inadequate commitment to the justifications in other contexts. Further, most of the methods of proposed regulation would be ineffective and unworkable. In place of the standard test-and-punish regime advocated by doping authorities, this Essay argues that performance-enhancing substance policy should be modeled after federal and state securities regulation. Instead of punishing use, regulators should require disclosure of all substances used, and punish only omissions and fraud of a material nature. The goals of a regulation regime would be better achieved without unintended negative consequences through a market approach based on minimum disclosure requirements.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Two thoughts on Howard's home run ball
Three thoughts on the story Mark discusses about Ryan Howard's home run ball. Because I find this story really sad.
First, this seems like a bad trade for Ms. Valdivia and her family. If the Barry Bonds home run ball fiasco taught us anything, it is that "historic" home run balls do not have nearly as much value as many fans assume. Her attorney is described as a "memorabilia enthusiast," so he probably knows something about value that I don't. But the ball is unique only because of the "fastest-to" mark that is a largely meaningless, made-up record. If Ryan Howard goes to the Hall of Fame (and I believe he will, at his current pace), will an autograph really be worth less than his 200th home run?
Second, Ms. Valdivia, her family, and her lawyer are hereby estopped from ever again complaining about greedy professional athletes who only care about money and not the game. And so is everyone else who believes the family was in the right here. Howard wanted the ball for his personal satisfaction, because it represented an accomplishment that, in the long run, is meaningful to him. He offered something of value in return. And the girl's family sued because, in crassest terms, they wanted more money (or more value).
Third, I wonder what she did with the autographed ball the Phillies originally gave her in exchange. Did she keep it? That would give her quite a windfall, to which she is not entitled. Of course, if the Phillies had asked for it back in settling a rescission claim, we would be hearing all sorts of shouts about the greedy team/player taking back what they had given this innocent fan.
12-Year-Old Gets Home Run Ball Back from Phillies
Any student taking basic contract law learns that one makes agreements with minors at their peril, as the minor has the right to disaffirm the contract since it is presumed that the person lacks the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of his/her actions. The Philadelphia Phillies were reminded of this old rule this week, as they decided to return Ryan Howard's 200th career home run ball to the 12-year old girl who caught it two and a half months ago. Click here for more.
Jennifer Valdivia wanted to keep the ball. However, Howard wanted the ball because it represented a record: He was the fastest player to achieve the milestone in league history. According to press reports, after catching the ball, Jennifer was escorted alone to the Phillies clubhouse, where they "talked her" into exchanging it for an autographed baseball. She did, but realizing afterwards that the home run ball could be valuable (and certainly more historic), she sought rescission of the agreement. Ultimately, she sued and the team returned the call that very day the lawsuit was filed. I, like others, probably wonder why the team officials escorted her alone. Had a parent or guardian been with her, the trade would be like valid and Howard would get his ball.
Although the "infancy rules" are filled with exceptions under rules, they still have validity, as can be seen in this case. [A great in-class example for the professors in the group -- if anyone has a link to the complaint, it would be interesting reading]
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Why I hate the wildcard in baseball (a biennial reprise)
There is much celebrating this morning (at least outside of Michigan) of last night's amazing one-game playoff game between the Tigers and Minnesota Twins for the AL Central Division title, a 12-inning featuring three comebacks, which the Twins finally won 6-5. So let me play the curmudgeon here.
Two years ago, journalist Robert Weintraub wrote about the 1993 pennant race between the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants and said "The drama of late-season baseball has been transferred from occasional but memorable all-or-nothing contests between great teams, to annual lower-stakes games between the good-to-mediocre." He blamed the wild-card system, adopted in 1995, because any do-or-die, win-or-go-home contests to win a division or wild card occur only among lesser teams, not among the top teams. I wrote in whole-hearted agreement, using the 2007 season as a perfect example.
Well, this year bears my argument out once again. Yes, last night was a great game and it was an exciting race. But it was between two teams that finished the 162-game schedule with 86 wins--fifth-most in the league entering last night's game. None of the top teams in the American League (the 103-win Yankees, 97-win Angels, or 95-win Red Sox) had any pressure at the end of the season--all were play-off bound, just as the top teams will be every year. The only other division "race" was in the National League West, where, entering Saturday's game, the Dodgers (93 wins--most in the NL) lead the Rockies (92 wins, tied at the time for second-most prior to Saturday) by a game and were playing each other, ostensibly for the division title. But the Rockies already had the wild card won and were play-off bound, since they had the second-best record in the whole league, so they had no pressure and no real incentive to catch the Dodgers and win the division.
Two years ago, I criticized the incentive structure this creates:
A wild-card system values having lot of teams in the play-off hunt and more times with post-season hopes later in the season, with a lot of win-or-else games. But it achieves that at the expense of having the best teams playing those win-or-else games. This is sound as a business decision--more fans in more cities will come out or watch in that final weekend, knowing their teams still are alive.
But as a baseball decision, it stinks that there is no chance to showcase the best teams in these high-stakes games, at least as part of a regular season that is long enough (162 games over six months) to create a meaningful competition. So while that was a great game last night, wouldn't it be nice to have a game like that played between two great teams?
Thanks for listening. Odds are, I will be back with a similar post in 2011.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Ted Williams' Frozen Head Used as Batting Practice?
Disturbing story this week from Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News about what's allegedly been going on with the frozen head of Ted Williams, who upon dying in 2002 of cardiac arrest had his head, but not rest of his body, frozen in hopes that one day science will be able to bring him back to life. Vinton's story is excerpted below.
In fairness to Alcor, the company vehemently denies Johnson's allegations, which have no doubt generated a great deal of interest in Johnson's soon-to-be-released book.
Assuming, however, that Johnson is telling the truth, Alcor and its staff might be in some trouble. Although commentators have written that cyronics--the preservation of legally dead humans or pets at very low temperatures (about -200 degrees Fahrenheit)--is largely unregulated, it's a crime in Arizona to intentionally mutilate a corpse. Then again, and not to be glib, I'm not sure if a frozen head, particularly when detached from the body, counts as a corpse. Tort law may also provide a remedy through intentional infliction of emotional distress, which has been used for recovery of wrongful treatment of corpses.
It's unclear if Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players' Association will weigh on the topic, though presumably they have some stake in preserving the dignity of Williams and his body.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School Sypomsium
Marquette Law Professor Paul Anderson passes along information about the National Sports Law Institute's annual conference this year -- it looks to be a great event:
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On Friday, October 23, 2009, the National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School will host a conference on The Evolution of Sports Law and Business from the 20th to the 21st Century at the Alumni Memorial Union on the Marquette campus.
The conference will include panels focusing on Olympic/international, professional, college, and high school sports, as well as a “catch-all” panel that will focus on gender equity, tort law, and sports officiating. Panelists will discuss significant legal and business developments in the sports industry from founding of the NSLI in 1989 to the present, with a look ahead to our 25th anniversary. Speakers include John S. Black, General Counsel, National Federation of State High School Associations; Mary K. Braza, Partner, Chair, Sports Industry Team, and Member, Management Committee, Foley & Lardner LLP; Elsa Kircher Cole, Vice President of Legal Affairs/General Counsel, National Collegiate Athletic Association; Martin J. Greenberg, Managing Partner, Greenberg & Hoeschen, LLC, and Member, Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District; Gary Johansen, Associate General Cou nsel, NGB Governance and Athlete Affairs, United States Olympic Committee; Jim McKeown, Partner, Chair, Antitrust Practice Group, Foley & Lardner LLP; and Irwin P. Raij, Partner, Regulatory Industries Department, Vice Chair, Sports Industry Team, and Member, Government and Public Policy and Real Estate Practices Teams, Foley & Lardner.
The conference is from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm on Friday, October 23rd. Complete details of the conference, including conference panels and participants, registration costs and forms, the official conference hotel, and conference sponsors, are available on the web at http:/ /law.marquette.edu/jw/2009conf.
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Legal Issues in the Americn Olympic Movement Symposium at University of Baltimore School of Law
Professor Dionne Koller passes along info about what looks to be a terrific symposium on Thursday, Oct. 29th at the University of Baltimore School of Law:
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What should America's Olympic goals be? How should we – and can we – accommodate diversity in the Olympic movement? How does the United States Olympic Committee resolve athlete disputes and deal with allegations of illegal doping?
Join the University of Baltimore's Center for Sport and the Law for its inaugural amateur sports symposium on Thursday, October 29. From Doping to Diversity: Legal Issues in the American Olympic Movement will explore a wide range of topics including those above. Panelists for the day-long event include: Bob Bowman, head coach and CEO of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club; Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency; and Deedee Corradini, president of U.S. Women's Ski Jumping and former mayor of Salt Lake City. A morning keynote address will be delivered by Doug Logan, current CEO of USA Track & Field and former commissioner, president and CEO of Major League Soccer.
For information about the day's events, please visit the agenda page (at right). This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested by October 23, 2009. To register online, visit the online registration page. For more information or if you prefer to register by phone, please call 410.837.4468.
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Friday, October 02, 2009
Stealing signs and breaking the law
Dave Hoffman at Concurring Opinions offers some thoughts about players stealing signs and what it tells us about the rule of law. The video of the latest controversy, involving Joe Mauer of the Twins, is below.
I mostly agree with Dave's comments. I would add that there is, and always has been, a "frontier justice" element in baseball that umpires (the formal law) have largely been powerless to regulate.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Big Win for NHL as Judge Rejects Balsillie Bid for Coyotes
Opening Night for the NHL's new season just became a more festive occasion as bankruptcy judge Redfield Baum rejected Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie $242 million bid for the Phoenix Coyotes, concluding that it would interfere with the league's relocation rights and procedures. As many know, Balsillie sought to move the ailing team to Hamilton, Ontario, causing consternation to both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres and to the league itself. "In the final analysis, the court cannot find or conclude that the interests of the NHL can be adequately protected if the Coyotes are moved to Hamilton without first having a final decision regarding the claimed rights of the NHL and the claims of the debtors and (Balsillie)," he ruled.
There was no love lost between the league and Balsillie, as the NHL Board of Governor rejected his application for ownership by a 26-0 vote in July. Click here for more. But what was particularly sweet was the fact that the judge dismissed the bid "with prejudice" so that Balsillie cannot rebid. He is out of the running for the team and accepted the result in a public statement.
However, it was not a complete victory for the NHL. Judge Baum rejected the NHL's bid of $140 million because it failed to satisfy two important unsecured creditors, owner Jerry Moyes and former head coach Wayne Gretzky.
I have not read the 28-page opinion as of yet, but based on the media reports, this is a victory for league governance. To have a candidate take control of a team by judicial fiat, despite the strong feelings of the league and its owners, would greatly weaken the traditional control sports leagues have over admissions, relocations and sales of franchises.
I suspect that the league will attempt to find a new bidder (or maybe get Jerry Reinsdorf to make another bid) or will have to bid a higher amount to take control of the team during its period of uncertainty. The NHL could well live with both of these alternatives.