Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

September 2017 Archives

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.