Tarnished Twenty - The FindLaw Sports Law Blog - features sports law news and info about sports figures in trouble with the law


By most accounts, ESPN's '30 for 30' documentary series has been a hit with fans, providing a deeper perspective into some of the most important recent sports stories from the past three decades. One such entry, It's Time, featured the tale of Chucky Mullins, an Ole Miss football player who was paralyzed in a 1989 game against Vanderbilt and passed away two years later.

The only problem was that another Mullins documentary, Undefeated, already existed. And now the maker of that film is suing the network for copyright infringement. The lawsuit claims ESPN agreed to license footage from Undefeated, but then used it without paying and altered some of the images.

The long saga of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott versus the National Football League reached the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals this week, where Elliott was granted a stay of his suspension. After a U.S. District Court in New York ruled in the NFL's favor, the NFL Players Association appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit, and won Elliott at least a brief reprieve -- he will play this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

So what does this mean for Elliot and his case going forward?

On October 24, 2016, Jason Coy fell about 60 feet from a stairwell on the north side of Mile High Stadium after a Broncos game. The 36-year-old suffered several blunt force injuries to his head, skull, neck, and torso, and was pronounced dead early morning the next day.

Last week, Coy's widow and his five children filed a premises liability lawsuit against the Metropolitan Football Stadium District and the stadium's management company, claiming Mile High "contained a defective, unsafe, non-obvious and dangerous condition in a fire escape corridor and staircase on which [Coy] fell to his death."

Sports doping is a funny thing. First, some leagues or competitions seem to take doping more seriously than others, and punishments and other enforcement mechanisms can vary as well. Second, the list of banned substances can vary depending on the sport and the country, and in some cases there is little reason behind why some substances are banned and others are not. Third, some substances, perfectly legal under a nation's drug laws, may be banned, leaving athletes wondering which may garner a doping charge.

And then there's the matter of punishment: from the league or competition, from an anti-doping agency, and from law enforcement. But the British government, at least, put the kibosh on criminalizing doping in sports. The UK's minister of sport, Tracey Crouch, announced last week that those found violating the nation's anti-doping regulations would not face jail time.

Former San Francisco Forty-Niner QB Colin Kaepernick filed a grievance and demand for arbitration against the NFL and all 32 member teams, alleging "NFL team owners, NFL employees, and team employees, have entered into and enforced, implied and/or express agreements to specifically deprive Claimant Colin Kaepernick from employment in the NFL," in violation of the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The free has been out of football since the end of the 2016, during which he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest instances of police brutality specifically, and racial inequality in the United States generally. His grievance claims those protest led to the NFL and team owners to blackball him from the league.

No, this is not a new Naked Gun movie, nor is it the plot to the newest refresh of Dragnet, Police Squad, Hot Fuzz, Super Troopers, or Team America. NYPD officer extraordinaire, James Frascatore, has likely been living in a personal hell since, arguably, making the biggest mistake of his career: tackling and cuffing international tennis star James Blake.

However, now that Frascatore has hopefully been thoroughly made to regret his actions, he is filing a defamation lawsuit against the celebrity tennis star he tackled, the publisher of Blake's latest book, the city of New York, the NYPD, and others. The cop's lawsuit claims that the statements each made regarding the incident caused him reputational harm, and even led to members of the public making threats of violence against him and his family.

As most college sports fans tell themselves, student-athletes choose a school based on the quality of education, coaching, and overall program an institution has to offer, with some consideration to proximity to home and stylishness of uniforms. And while that may be true for some, or even most college athletes, astute observers of the college game have known there have been different forces driving recruiting for some time.

Some of those dark arts were laid bare this week, when the FBI announced the arrests of ten people, including four college basketball coaches, a sports apparel executive, and multiple financial advisers.

On April 19, 2017, Aaron Hernandez was found hanging by his bed sheets in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. The former Florida Gator and New England Patriot had been serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez's asked that his brain be studied for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and doctors at the Boston University CTE Center confirmed Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of four) brain injuries, allegedly "the most severe case of [CTE] medically seen" in a person at his age.

Hernandez's fiancee Shayanna Jenkins is now suing the Patriots and the NFL on behalf of the couple's four-year-old daughter, Avielle Janelle Hernandez, seeking $20 million in damages for loss of parental consortium.

Charles Oakley, New York Knickerbockers legend, was kicked out of a Knicks game last February, after which James Dolan, current Knicks owner and executive chairman of Madison Square Garden, speculated that Oakley may have a problem with alcohol and anger management issues.

Those assertions, and the forcible removal of Oakley from MSG that night, were a step too far for the power forward, who sued Dolan and MSG for defamation, libel, slander, assault, battery, and false imprisonment.

One response to the ongoing arguments about concussions and head injuries in football has been: "They're adults; football is a contact sport; they knew the risk; and they played anyway." This can be persuasive if the third element is true. In a legal sense as well, an assumption of risk implies another assumption: that the person taking the risk knew of the danger and voluntarily exposed themselves to it.

But what if someone wasn't aware of the danger involved? What if players were misled about the science behind concussions and their prevalence in football? Or if a single player was denied the truth about his medical condition? That's the basis of one former player's lawsuit against Notre Dame.