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Sports Law Scoreboard

An Inside Look Into The Legal and Business Side of Sports

Erin Andrews Settles

Posted in Privacy Issues, Sports Business and the Law

As predicted in my blog of March 14, Erin Andrews has settled her lawsuit. She is and was the reporter spied on in a hotel. The terms of the settlement were not released – a very frequent pattern when there is a large to overly-large verdict ($55 mllion) and bad facts and law for the losing party. Appeal, and negotiate.

Women’s Soccer and Equal Pay

Posted in Labor & Employment, Sports Business and the Law

Women soccer players have complained that they are not paid the same as their counterparts on the U.S. Men’s National Team. How would this play in the courts? California passed amendments to Labor Code section 1197.5 through the California Fair Pay Act, which mandates equal pay for substantially equivalent work. It passed without controversy and with the approval of the California Chamber of Commerce.  Yesenia Gallegos and I gave a webinar on the act recently.

What does it mean? Is a chemical engineer’s work substantially equivalent to that of an electrical engineer?  Women tennis players have argued successfully that their show is as good as (or better than) that of the men. Is the women’s soccer game substantially equivalent? Perhaps the courts will decide.

Separate and Now Equal: Complaints Against Women Basketball Coaches

Posted in Sports Business and the Law

Three women’s basketball coaches are under investigation for alleged mistreatment of their players, the coaches at Duke, Nebraska and Loyola of Chicago. Each is considered a great coach, but they have had an inordinate number of transfers. Other programs have allegations of racial prejudice and over-involvement in personal lives. Big-time pressures and big-time worries come to big-time women’s sports. Keep in mind that the boundaries on intentional infliction of emotional distress vary from state to state, but sooner or later, a lawsuit is more likely than not.

Not too soon to invoke Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.. “

The One and Only Jackie Robinson

Posted in Sports History

Looking forward to Ken Burns’ 4 hour salute that premieres tonight. A few previews worth noting:

  1. He was a UCLA Bruin. The Dodgers wanted a college man for its first African-American player.
  2. There was no law against having Black players. There was not anything in the baseball rules. It was a “Gentleman’s Agreement” that was ruining our national game.
  3. There were no anti-discrimination laws in those days. If you were born Black or Jewish, you lived with this as an everyday reality. The NAACP fought on a daily basis to get rid of discrimination. It was so awful that when there was a lynching, they would hang a banner outside their New York headquarters proclaiming “A man was lynched yesterday.”
  4. Beware blogs, tweets, Facebook posts or any other social media entries that talk about the “good old days.” The courts existed to help some but not all.

Does Thon Maker Make the NBA?

Posted in Sports Business and the Law

Take a look at his highlight reel. Looks good. Great backstory (from war-torn Sudan). And wants to play pro ball. He is 19 and is at one of those finishing schools back east. Essentially a 5th year of high school. The NBA says you have to be 19 and graduate high school to be in the draft.

It was Dickens who said “the law is a ass, a idiot.” (sic) I think the rule of reason should apply here. If you are the commish, why make him go to China for a year? In this case it serves no educational or commercial purpose.


US Women’s National Soccer Team Files Equal Pay Suit

Posted in Sports Business and the Law

Thomas R. Basta, Associate in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, NJ office, published recently on our Employment Discrimination Report, “USWNT: Complaints of Being Kicked to the Curb by US Soccer.”

An excerpt from the post:

“There are really two issues to the suit filed by lead plaintiffs Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd (she of the World Cup hat trick), Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn, which are applicable to any workplace.  First, are they similar situated to Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, & Co. on the Men’s team?  And second, if the answer is yes, do the profit centers of each particular team mandate that they be paid in accordance with them?  Attorneys for the USWNT offer an emphatic yes to both questions, arguing that the team has been more profitable than the Men’s team for years.”

Continue to follow our Sports Law Scoreboard and Employment Discrimination Report for more on this case.

Back to Basics: D’Angelo Russell, Tape Recording and Privacy

Posted in Privacy Issues

D’Angelo Russell is the talk of the town because he tape recorded his Lakers teammate, Nick Young, gossiping about Young’s love life away from his fiancé, Iggy Azalea. In California, you cannot tape record someone without their permission. I think that doubly so, given that the conversation was in a locker room, where there is an unwritten rule that what starts there stays there. Violation can be a misdemeanor with a fine.

Theoretically, Young could sue for invasion of privacy, but former Clippers owner Donald Sterling tried that to no avail. Then again, as pointed out in the L.A. Times, the trust lost is priceless.

P.S. – Given that Mr. Young is a pro athlete, who knows what is truth and what is braggin’ here.

The Power of a Good Apology, or How to Revive a Career

Posted in Sports Business and the Law

Easter season is as good a time as any to realize that we all are mortal and have feet of clay. Whether it is an athlete hitting his/her mate or an inadvertent comment (see Coach K, who I am sure meant well) the smartest, albeit not easiest thing to do is to apologize.

A gracious, not begrudging one. From the heart and not the pocketbook. Take a look at the comments of my colleague Mike Paul, who has dealt with any number of intractable problems made simpler by a simple apology. The only time I got clobbered on a jury trial (which was reversed by the judge) was a wrongful death case, where I did not explicitly say that my client was sorry for the loss by the plaintiff. A little empathy goes a long way in life, sports and law.

Postscript: Hulk Hogan and the Judicial Practice

Posted in Sports Business and the Law

We previously blogged on the Hulk Hogan case and on Friday the Florida jury gave a $115 million answer. It is easy to say that the peasants with their pitchforks are having what-for with “the media.” It’s not the first time that a jury ran away with a bad situation.

I am reminded of the great quote from Justice Cardozo, “Hard cases make bad law.”  I predict that this ridiculous figure will not stand, but what will be interesting will be the figure an appellate court thinks is adequate recompense….if the verdict stands at all.

Moneyball and Sports Business

Posted in Sports Business and the Law

Yes, it takes place off the field as well. Here are best practices for sports figures and sports lawyers:

  1. What matters most? In litigation, that means winning or a successful settlement. In corporate, that means doing a successful deal. I recently “negotiated” the terms of my son’s wedding. That meant doing right and giving, not getting. The long term relationship was paramount. It was not a “fight I want to win.” Likewise if you are an athlete playing in your home town, maybe you do not want to wring out every last dollar from the deal, only to play thousands of miles away in a cold, strange city.
  2. Ignore what does not matter. I have won cases where the judge ruled against me on every motion. That meant that when I won the trial, there was nothing for the other side to appeal.
  3. What does quantitative analysis look like under your circumstances? I am friends with a wonderful analyst who explained to me why an offer for a sports team was better than the one actually taken by the seller. In other words, think outside the box.
  4. Encourage your colleagues to think in new ways. Anyone can send the fourth set of interrogatories. Maybe a matter settles when the two contestants meet over a drink instead.
  5. Look at your analytics. Take time with your counsel to review old matters and deals. What worked? What should we do differently this time?  In other words, define what it is to win and find new ways to do so.