Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Recently in Other Sports Category

2017: The Year in Sports Law

It was a busy year, on and off the field. While players and coaches were vying for championships, lawyers and judges were working overtime behind the scenes, sorting out some enormous legal issues in the sports world.

Here are the major sports law stories from 2017:

The allegations against former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar have been horrifying. Just going by what has been revealed through court documents, Nassar's sexual abuse of athletes and other children in his care, some as young as six years old, continued for at least 20 years and could have involved over 200 victims.

Now, the institutions that employed Nassar for decades are trying to distance themselves from his actions. But a new lawsuit, filed by Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, claims Michigan State and the U.S. Olympic team bought victims' silence with settlements, including a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements.

Doping allegations have plagued Russian athletes for years. Prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the World Anti-Doping Agency concluded that Russia's Anti-Doping Agency, its Ministry of Sport, and Federal Security Service operated a "state-directed" doping system and Russian athletes were banned from the competition. Part of the evidence used for that ruling came from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

More allegations appear to have doomed Russia's participation in the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The International Olympic Committee has banned Russian athletes from participating in the Games, and also forbid government officials from attending.

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.

It's safe to say that the tide of public perception of sports gambling has turned in the last ten or twenty years. With the rise of fantasy sports and March Madness, the image of placing bets on sporting events has changed from seedy mob-affiliated bookies to Karen from accounting throwing a few bucks into an office pool. And states, perhaps eyeing the money to be made from legalized sports betting, have begun pushing back on the federal restrictions on gambling.

California is just the latest, with Assembly Constitutional Amendment 18, a proposed bill that would change the state's constitution, paving the way for legalized sports gambling in the Golden State.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a lawsuit, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up the Fan Duel and Draft Kings merger to see: the FTC has alleged that the merger violates the Clayton Act due to concerns that it will create a monopoly for daily fantasy sports.

The lawsuit, filed last month by the FTC, seeks to resolve the concern created by the merger by stopping it. Namely, since Fan Duel and Draft Kings are the main providers of paid fantasy sports gaming nationwide, when it comes to these contests or games, consumers don't really have any other choices. By merging together, consumers will have even less choice, and this will allow the sole company resulting from the merger to not have to be concerned about competition in the free market.

When it comes to signing one of those summer sports camp injury waivers, many parents often worry that they are signing away all their rights to sue if something goes wrong. Fortunately, this is not entirely the case.

Courts routinely refuse to uphold waivers in all sorts of situations. Although waivers do get upheld and enforced, even the best liability waiver is not going to work every time. Parents that are concerned about their children being injured due to just playing the sport will likely be disappointed to find out that most sports related injuries where there was adequate supervision do not lead to legal liability.

Injuries are a reality of playing sports. But, as much as possible, clubs, coaches, and schools are responsible for minimizing injury risks, especially to younger athletes. And coaches especially have to be properly trained in order to avoid risky training drills and spot risks as they arise.

That training allegedly did not happen in Spackenkill, New York, where a high school softball player sustained serious brain injuries after being hit in the head with a metal bat during a drill. Four years later, a jury awarded her and her father $1.1 million for her injuries.

Good news for those that love buying signed collectibles: As of January 1, 2017, dealers in the state of California that sell signed collectibles are now required to provide a certificate of authenticity for any signed collectible worth over $5. While the law doesn't apply to private individuals conducting sales, there are still several concerns about the new law for consumers.

Whether it is a piece of fine art, a Jeremy Bulloch signed Star Wars action figure, some ultra-rare Christopher Rush signed Magic: the Gathering cards, or a signed Darryl Strawberry rookie card, if it's worth more than $5, a collectibles dealer risks serious legal consequences by not providing the legally required and rather specific certificate of authenticity. While California consumers may benefit from decreased fraud in the signed collectibles market, the law will likely impact many dealers' ability to even sell signed items moving forward.

A federal lawsuit against the Davis School District in Utah sought to overturn a school policy that prevented a female student from wrestling on her school's team, and succeeded in doing just that, and more. In addition to being allowed to join her school's team, the teen will receive a monetary award, and the district will be paying the attorney's and legal fees. 

Kathleen Janis was denied the right to wrestle on her middle school team, as the district's policy required middle school girls that wanted to wrestle to do so with the high school team. For Janis to do so, she would have to miss part of her school day, and would be put into a more advanced group than she was prepared for. However, after filing a federal lawsuit, she was successful in securing a court ordered preliminary injunction allowing her to participate on the 9th grade team while the case was pending.