Sports Law Blog
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Legal implications of the proposed ban on belly putters
the potential legal fallout of the US Golf Association banning belly putters and whether affected athletes, like Keegan Bradley, and putter manufacturers can sue. My take: any attempt to use the law to beat the ban would probably fail.
Here's an excerpt:
But McCann quickly adds that it's an unpersuasive argument. The USGA and the R&A would argue that they have decisive rule-making authority. They would also contend that it's reasonable for them to alter the rules, and the PGA Tour would argue that it's reasonable to abide by those rules.
"Courts give leagues a tremendous amount of latitude in rules of play" he says. "It's one thing to say there is a new restriction on free agency and that it's not collectively bargained, or there is a salary cap change; it's another to change the rules of play. Courts are pretty deferential, and I think any type of lawsuit would be unlikely to prevail."
McCann pointed out, however, that in the early 1990s, a group of golfers led by Bob Gilder joined Ping and won a favorable settlement from the USGA and the PGA Tour after Ping Eye 2 irons were banned. That club's square grooves had been ruled to have a performance-enhancing effect, but the players rebutted that argument by citing data that showed golfers using the club earned less than those who did not use it. The case ended in a settlement that allowed the club but required different grooves in future models.
That precedent may seem to favor a player inclined to sue, but McCann cautions that the player would have to show statistics that indicated that belly putters were not providing an unfair advantage.
To read the rest, click here.