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


Depending on which television stats you cherry pick, the National Football League is either dying or it's immortal. But there's little doubt the NFL has been locked in a public relations battle the past few years. From a wave of domestic violence and assaults, to concussion and painkiller class action lawsuits, and now the (mis)handling of player protests, the league -- regardless of burgeoning income -- has been working overtime to burnish its image.

So it's likely with open arms that the NFL welcomed a report from USA Today showing a significant decline in player arrests since 2014. So, are the numbers really that good? And, if so, why?

According to a Kentucky sixth-grader's lawsuit, a rule that limits the movement of boys (but not girls) basketball players between class-delineated teams violates equal protection laws and Title IX. Under the so-called "play up, stay up" rule, male students who play for a higher grade team can never play for a lower grade team, but female players can play up or down without any restrictions.

"Specifically," the lawsuit claims, "this rule unfairly subjects male basketball players to a harsh restriction on the number of grade levels at which they may play, but expressly exempts female basketball players from the restriction," thus resulting in "gender-based discrimination against middle school male student-athletes."

When NFL legend Junior Seau fatally shot himself in the chest in 2012, his death had all the markings of other brain injury-related suicides by ex-football players, most notably that of Dave Duerson earlier the same year. Duerson had written down a request that his brain be examined for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries that can cause behavioral problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking, and, late in life, dementia. Though Seau didn't make the same request as Duerson, his family submitted his brain tissue to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, who determined his brain showed definitive signs of CTE.

Seau's family opted out of the massive concussion class action lawsuit against the NFL (and the massive settlement), choosing instead to file a separate wrongful death claim against the league. The family and the NFL settled that suit last week, for an undisclosed amount.

One would think that if a parent were to file a federal lawsuit over a child failing to make a school sports team, they would at least try to get them varsity status. After all, Rudy Giuliani's son sued Duke University for a spot on their varsity golf team. But it's actually the absence from a JV squad that had a St. Louis mother up in legal arms last week.

The woman filing the suit is not named, as her son is referred to only as John Doe in a legal filing claiming the child's absence on a high school junior varsity soccer team amounts to age discrimination. The school allegedly had a policy against placing juniors who fail to make the varsity team on JV, reserving those spots for developing freshmen and sophomores. The mother's request for a temporary restraining order allowing her son to play on the JV team, however, was denied.

Like the NFL, the NBA has pretty strict rules when it comes to player uniforms. Shorts can't be too baggy, shirts must stay tucked in, no tights allowed (compression sleeves are OK), and if you're going to wear a headband, it must be a league-issued headband and not inside out or upside down. And NBA players, due to the nature of those uniforms, have some of the most prominently displayed tattoos in sports.

So it's no surprise that, at some point, all those written regulations and all that ink would come into conflict. And it's probably no shock that JR Smith is at the center of that conflict. According to Smith, the league has warned him to cover up a brand new tattoo sporting the Supreme streetwear logo, lest he be fined. Can they really do that?

Are Schools Liable for High School Football Injuries?

The school year is in full swing, and so are high school sports. Athletes love to play, and students love to watch. Often, the more contact, the better! But what happens when a student-athlete is injured? Is the school liable, specifically in the case of high school football?

In the East Bay of Northern California, on the same Friday night, two football players from two different schools in two different games both ended up with major nerve trauma and were flown to same hospital. Though high school football injuries are uncommon, they certainly aren't rare. Can parents sue for their children's injuries? The answer is, it depends.

Just as former NFL players had done with their league, dozens of professional wrestlers had filed lawsuits claiming World Wrestling Entertainment knew of the risks of repeated head injuries and concussions and failed to warn them. But six of those lawsuits didn't follow the script, according to a federal judge in WWE's home state of Connecticut.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant tossed a series of suits over the top rope for failing to "comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure" or even "set forth the factual basis of their claims or defenses clearly and concisely in separately numbered paragraphs."

Modern stationary cycles have come a long way since the exercise bike you left in the basement for years after that one Christmas until you unloaded it on that sap at the garage sale. Nowadays at-home bikes can give you that spin class vibe, or replicate stages of the Tour de France. And with web-enabled software, you can track your fitness and compete with other riders without leaving your exercise room, taking you far beyond the two pedals, one wheel, and handlebars setups of the 70s.

With all that new tech, there are bound to be a few intellectual property disagreements, and the mother of all exercise cycle lawsuits may finally have arrived. Peloton, maker of the first at-home exercise bike that allowed riders to compete in real-time and over historical benchmarks, is suing Flywheel Sports, for allegedly stealing its software and graphic interface.

It's the week of resurrected legal claims against the NFL. Just days after the Ninth Circuit revived a lawsuit claiming the league was complicit in players' long-term health effects and addiction to painkillers, the Second Circuit rekindled a different lawsuit claiming the NFL and Associated Press failed to pay royalties to several photographers for the use of photos they took at and during games.

The photographers allege the NFL has made "widespread use" of their work, all without payment, claiming "the NFL has committed thousands of individual acts of copyright infringement."

"It's as if one spouse walks in the door and says to his or her spouse, 'I'm leaving you. I've found someone who loves me more. And oh, by the way, I'll still be living with you while we build our dream house together.'"

That was Raiders CEO Amy Trask, responding to news that the City of Oakland will be filing an antitrust lawsuit against Raiders ownership and the National Football League, claiming that the league and other team owners colluded to move the franchise to Las Vegas. The city claims it's more like "I've found someone whom I love more," after eleventh hour attempts to keep the team in Oakland were rebuffed. And, according to Oakland Coliseum authorities, the lawsuit could mean that love-seeking ex-spouse getting kicked out of the home much sooner than expected.