Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Penn Sports Law Symposium: "Sports in 2025"

On Friday, February 19th, the 3rd Annual Penn Law Sports Symposium will be held in Philadelphia. The keynote speaker is noted NBA player agent Leon Rose and there will be introductory remarks offered by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated.

The day will then be broken down into three panels:

Panel 1: The Anticipated Growth in International Markets and Publicly Funded Stadiums

1. Moderator: Ken Jacobsen (Practice Professor of Law at Temple University Beasley School of Law; Lecturer in Sports Law and Co-Owner of sports businesses/franchises)
2. Andrew Brandt (NFL Business Analyst at ESPN; Columnist for Sports Illustrated and; Director of the Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova University; Former Vice President of the Green Bay Packers)
3. Andrew Altman (2012 London Olympics Planning)
4. Randy Campbell (Executive Director and Head of Sports Facility Finance at Morgan Stanley)
5. Irwin Raij (Co-Chair of Foley & Lardner’s Sports Industry Team)

Panel 2: The Evolving Role and Legal Position of Daily Fantasy Sports
1. Moderator: Daniel Roberts (Writer at Fortune Magazine/Yahoo)
2. Marc Edelman (Baruch Law Professor; Expert in Sports and Gaming law)
3. Darren Heitner (Forbes; Lawyer, Writer, and Professor)
4. Alan Milstein (Lead plaintiff attorney in DFS class action; Partner at Sherman Silverstein)
5. Daniel Wallach (Nationally-recognized Sports and Gaming law attorney)

Panel 3: The Future of Amateurism and NCAA Compliance
1. Moderator: Karen Weaver, Associate Clinical Professor and Interim Program Director, Sports Management, Drexel University
2. Jim Corcoran (Heisman Trust)
3. Oliver Luck (Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at NCAA; Former Director of Athletics at West Virginia University)
4. Warren Zola (Boston College Carroll School of Management Professor; Expert in Sports Law)
5. Dan Werly (Bleacher Report, Managing Editor of The White Bronco)

You'll note that there are four Sports Law Blog contributors who will be participating, Edelman, Milstein, Wallach and Zola, along with several friends of the SLB including Brandt, Heitner, and Werly. If you're interested in attending, here's a link to the conference website.

Saturday, February 13, 2016
Triumph and Tragedy: A Lesson in Equipoise

The story of Jenrry Mejia, the first major league baseball player to receive a lifetime ban for taking Performance Enhancing Drugs, reads like a movie script. Mejia was just 17 when he was drafted out of a life of poverty in the Dominican Republic. He had never even thrown a baseball before the age of 15. As a boy, rather than pursue education, he worked full time shining shoes for $8 a day. He and his family were thrilled to receive the $16,500 signing bonus so he could start his career playing for the Dominican Summer League Mets in 2007.

Mejia made his major league debut in 2010, becoming one of the youngest players ever to make an opening day roster. By 2014, he had become the Mets closer and looked to be on the way to making the kind of money that dreams were made of back in the Dominican Republic. He was fun to watch, particularly when he would do his strikeout dance moving backward off the mound to end an inning.

Perhaps because he was rushed into the physically destructive role of throwing a baseball at top speed, Mejia continued to be plagued by injuries to his throwing arm. Twice he had been suspended after testing positive for steroids, obviously taken not to hit home runs but to get himself back on the mound. Then this past week, he tested positive for PEDs once again and, along with Pete Rose, became one of only two players banned from baseball for life.

The drug detected in Mejia was Boldenone Undecylenate, also known ironically as “Equipoise.” It is manufactured for use by veterinarians for the treatment of horses and cattle and is not approved for humans anywhere in the world. It works by promoting erythropoietin (EPO), the body’s hormone essential to the production of red blood cells. The more red blood cells, the higher oxygen carrying capacity, the longer one can work out, the sooner one can rehabilitate, or so the story goes.

The side effects of the drug are relatively minor: hair loss, acne, oily skin, increased hunger, though a rare few may suffer from liver or kidney problems. A major drawback of the drug is that its use can be detected by a simple urine test for as long as 18 months after injection.Why then would a major league player risk his career by taking Equipoise, particularly a prior offender who knows he is subject to random urine tests? Where would he learn of such a drug? How would he get it? One can only speculate that someone like Mejia, who knows firsthand what life is like in utter poverty, would do anything to get his body back in tune. Perhaps, like its name, the drug presented what Mejia thought was his only hope of counterbalancing the life he had left behind. What does he do now at the tender age of 27?

This piece is not about making excuses for Mejia’s poor choices. But his story is a tragedy that reveals much about the sometimes exploitive industry we know as professional sports. Surely, a system that prioritizes proper physical conditioning, medical treatment, and education for those like Mejia plucked out of a poor barrio as a kid is a better alternative than the arbitrary penal system in place today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Navigating the Legal Risks of Daily Fantasy Sports: Full, Published Article Now Available

It is my pleasure to announce that Illinois Law Review has published the final version of my article "Navigating the Legal Risks of Daily Fantasy Sports."  Coinciding with formal publication, I have also made available on SSRN Sections V and VI of the article, which advise companies on strategies to hedge their legal risk when operating "daily fantasy sports" contests.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016
A Dream Better Deferred

Sports and Bioethics have converged once again. In August, a half million tourists, journalists and athletes from literally all over the world are scheduled to travel to Brazil for the Summer Games. The problem is Brazil is Ground Zero for the Zika Outbreak, which the World Health Organization has called “a public health emergency.”

The Zika virus gets its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda where a certain species of mosquito thrives. One can contract the virus not only by being bit by the Aedes mosquitos but through sexual contact and perhaps through saliva and sweat.

What makes the virus so insidious is that most people who contract it may not even know they are infected because the symptoms are so slight. But for those who are pregnant, the virus may cause their babies to be born with abnormally small heads and serious vision problems. They and their parents will face a lifetime of struggle and heartache.

Many, including me, believe it is irresponsible to hold the Olympics under these circumstances.

While tourists can choose whether to accept the risks of exposure and call off the visit, the athletes and sports journalists really have little choice in the matter. Hope Solo, sure to be the goaltender for the U.S. women’s Soccer team, is troubled by having to decide between a lifelong dream and her health. “If I had to make the choice today,” she said recently, “I wouldn’t go.” Pointedly, she added, “No athlete . . should be faced with this dilemma. Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professionals don’t.”

And to think that those exposed, with little awareness of what they are carrying, would then travel back to virtually every country on earth is a nightmare scenario. Can you imagine holding the Olympics in Guinea two years ago during the Ebola Outbreak?

Those who will suffer from the decision to hold the Olympics in August will be the as yet unborn. And if even one child can be spared a life of disability by waiting a year for the games to begin, the costs of the delay will be well worth it.

The Olympics are designed to be a showcase of human potential. But it should demonstrate our reasoning skills and compassion not just our physical prowess.

Friday, February 05, 2016
More intentional fouls

Following on my earlier post, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver now says he will have the league's Competition Committee explore ways to restrict the practice, explicitly recognizing it as an aesthetic concern. But any rule has to consider all responses and downstream consequences. For example, the first corrective was that off-the-ball fouls in the last two minutes of the game result in the fouled team shooting one free throw and keeping the ball; coaches have responded by having players jump on the bad shooter's back on a free throw attempt, which is considered a loose ball and not subject to that rule. Proposals have included limiting the number of times a team can do it, given the shooting team the option of getting the ball out of bounds (my preference), or giving the fouled team an extra free throw, to be taken by any player (a version of something suggested by a commenter to my earlier post).

Something to watch this off-season, especially to the extent the making of sports rules can tell us something about the making of laws.