Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

June 2009 Archives

Supreme Court to Hear NFL Antitrust Case

The Supreme Court is taking an appeal from a manufacturer that used to make NFL headwear, that is, until it was left standing in the cold after Reebok scored an exclusive deal with the NFL in 2001. American Needle, the former maker, has since claimed in court that the exclusive licensing agreement violates antitrust laws. Now, the NFL antitrust case has come to the nation's highest court, and the case has significant implications for everyone from sports leagues to consumers alike.

As described by a federal appeals court opinion in the case, American Needle's argument basically was that because each of the individual NFL teams separately owned their team logos and trademarks, their collective agreement to authorize a corporate entity known as "NFL Properties" to award the exclusive headwear license to Reebok was, in fact, a conspiracy to restrict other vendors' ability to obtain licenses for the teams' intellectual property.

The NFL defendants (the teams, and the corporate entities) successfully argued that they are immune from the antitrust laws at issue because the defendants function as a "single entity" when licensing the NFL teams' intellectual property. If the league was viewed by courts as 32 distinct business entities (the teams), antitrust implications would certainly be in play.

The Joe Jurevicius v. Cleveland Browns Staph Lawsuit: Should Other Teams Worry?

More woe for the Cleveland Browns? It could be coming from a courthouse this time. Former wideout Joe Jurevicius is suing the Browns and the Cleveland Clinic alleging that the team "misrepresented the cleanliness of its training facility", and that he contracted a staph infection in his knee. According to Jurevicius, he should have been warned that therapy equipment wasn't always sanitized at the team's training facility.

OK, before anyone discounts Jurevicius's claims as the stuff of a jilted former teammate (he was released by the Browns in March), let's take a look at some cold, hard, unsanitized numbers. According to the Canadian Press story, between 2006 and 2008, there were 33 "MRSA staph infections" across the NFL between 2006 and 2008. That's 32 teams in the league, so, running on pure (and pretty rough) logic alone, that should be about 1 per team on average with all else being equal? Well, the Browns have had six players stricken with staph infection in "recent years", including Kellen Winslow, who raised serious concerns about staph (and caught heat from the team for it) last fall.

Weird Betting at a Wimbledon Already on Alert for Match-Fixing

Already on "high alert" over suspicions of possible match-fixing, Wimbledon officials got a scare in the form of a report from one betting company. An AP story reported on how the bookmaker, Betfair, said "the company received more than six times as many wagers as usual for Jurgen Melzer's first-round match against Wayne Odesnik on Tuesday."

Nevertheless, it turns out that the company suspects no wrongdoing in this particular case. Instead, the company is pointing the finger at TV commentators, who may have caused the odd betting by reporting that Odesnik was injured (he lost the match in straight sets).

Wimbledon officials could be breathing a sigh of relief at the innocent explanation. A recent report by The Independent had indicated that a number of players (up to 12) were on a "watch list" for officials to scrutinize during Wimbledon match play, due to their "past involvement in matches where suspicious betting happened and match-fixing was suspected." It isn't clear who the players on the watch list may be, but the bottom line is that worries about match-fixing in tennis are certainly not uncommon.

Roger Goodell No Fan of Stallworth Sentence? Indefinitely Suspends WR

It looks like it may be possible to add NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to the list of those who felt wide receiver Donte Stallworth got off just a touch easy with a 30-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter. Goodell may be taking it upon himself to make up somewhat for the lack of jail time, as the AP reports that the league Commissioner has suspended Stallworth indefinitely.

The AP quoted portions of a letter from Goodell to the Cleveland Browns wideout:

"The conduct reflected in your guilty plea resulted in the tragic loss of life and was inexcusable," Goodell wrote. "While the criminal justice system has determined the legal consequences of this incident, it is my responsibility as NFL commissioner to determine appropriate league discipline for your actions, which have caused irreparable harm to the victim and his family, your club, your fellow players and the NFL."

Sammy Sosa Joins Juicing Club? Congressional Testimony Left Wiggle Room

A report from the New York Times indicates that MLB star Sammy Sosa (who hasn't played in the league since '07) could be joining the inglorious list of those directly involved in baseball's steroids scandal. Yes, the NYT indicates that, according to anonymous sources, the slugger tested for an unidentified performance-enhancing drug in 2003 back when he was playing for the Chicago Cubs. That news alone which could severely impact his Hall of Fame-induction chances, at least if Mark McGwire's example is any indication.

The piece points out the possibility of legal consequences for Sosa based on the testimony he gave before Congress back in 2005, saying he'd "never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs." However, an AP story correctly points out the wiggle room Sosa may have left himself when he testified, "To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs" and "I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean." Sosa could have taken something legally in the Dominican Republic and then come on over to the U.S., plus he said "I am clean", which may well have been true at the time he testified (2 years after the allegedly positive test).

Donte Stallworth Gets 30 Days in Plea Deal: Comparison to Vick Case

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter today for hitting and killing a pedestrian (read more background here) and headed off to jail to serve the 30 day sentence he received as part of the bargain. He also will be serving two years of house arrest, and eight years of probation. Noteably, the AP story reports that Stallworth "also reached a confidential financial settlement to avoid a potential lawsuit from the family" of the victim, 59-year-old Mario Reyes.

It's probably safe to say that accepting a 30 day plea deal, as opposed to facing a potential maximum of 15 years in prison, may have been a no-brainer for Stallworth. Indeed, the sentence may raise questions of fairness, at the very least in how it compares to sentences handed out to other defendants in similar positions.

Karen Sypher, Accused in Pitino Extortion Case, Set Up?

Following up on the somewhat bizarre story of the alleged extortion attempt made on Rick Pitino, Louisville men's basketball coach, the AP now reports that the purported wrongdoer is claiming she was "set up from the very beginning."

The whole matter had started as vague allegations against 49-year-old Karen Cunagin Sypher, the estranged wife of Pitino's equipment manager, but later hardened into charges against her (though still somewhat vague charges). Well, the whole thing might be getting even more mixed up by her claims of a set up.

Autographed Michael Jordan Jersey Swiped from Tony Parker: An Inside Job?

It seems you can't trust anyone these days... NBA star Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs certainly might have found that out the hard way after an autographed Michael Jordan jersey got stolen from out of a gym that was under construction at his home.

The suspect in the case of the missing MJ jersey? No, not Eva, come on. Turns out it might have been an inside job, like, way, way inside. According to the AP, detectives working the case found a listing for the very same Jersey on Craigslist (can any more crimes get tied in some way to Craigslist?) that had been put up by one Christopher James Carolan.

Turns out Carolan worked for the security company hired to protect the Parker home, and, if that's not enough, he also had an outstanding warrant for burglary in a separate case. Just a quick reminder that employer background checks are usually a pretty good idea, and one might think they'd be particularly handy for a security company. A story in the San Antonio Express News doesn't really clarify a whole lot about how Carolan got hired, but for what it's worth, he's been hired at more than one security company. A representative of one of the companies explained they might not know if a criminal case gets filed against an employee after they are hired.

At any rate, although it's not clear from the stories whether His Airness's jersey was recovered, but hopefully it will get back to Parker's gym soon.

Michael Vick Bankruptcy Judge Wants New Plan by July

Now that former NFL star Michael Vick has been released from prison, and is under home confinement, the time may have come for him to get his financial affairs in order. A key part of this would conceivably be getting his ongoing bankruptcy case taken care of, and getting back on the field probably wouldn't hurt either. One might not happen without the other though, as the AP reports that a judge has set a deadline of July 2 for Vick to come up with a new plan.

Apparently the previous plan wasn't up to snuff, which might not be too surprising as it apparently would have let Vick keep some of his vehicles and a couple of "expensive homes". The plan reportedly was also problematic since it counted on Vick returning to the NFL. However, as previously suggested, his return faces a number of hurdles, the first being NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision on whether Vick should even be given a chance or not, followed by whether any team will take a shot at signing Michael Vick and his potential accompanying baggage.

Andrew Gallo, the man charged with the drunk-driving murder of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others back in April, pleaded not guilty to the counts in court today. The AP story recalled police suggestions that Gallo was at about three times the legal limit at the time of the accident, which occurred after Adenhart pitched in a game the same night.

Gallo's attorney indicated that he'd be trying to get the venue for the trial changed out of Orange County because he believes his client can't get a fair trial there. Of course, considering the amount of nation-wide media attention this case has garnered, the likelihood of success on such a motion may be somewhat questionable. Still, his attorney added that he and his client both had received various death threats, although at the same time he seemed to indicate they weren't "true threat[s]", and he hadn't notified the DA about them.

The DA, not surprisingly, disagreed with any suggestion the trial should be moved elsewhere, suggesting Gallo would face the same bias or prejudice in Orange County as he would anywhere else in the country if a change of venue were ordered.

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Congressman Says NBA Age Limit "Vestige of Slavery", Wants it Abolished

If Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen gets his way, the NBA's player age limit rule will be a thing of the past. The New York Times reports that Cohen has written a letter to the NBA asking and the players union asking them to rescind their rule barring anyone under the age of 19 from playing in the league.

There wasn't much holding back, as far as rhetoric is concerned, per the NYT article:

"'It's a vestige of slavery,' Cohen said Wednesday in a phone interview, noting that most of the players affected by the rule are African-American. 'Not like the slavery of 150 years ago, but it's a restraint on a person's freedoms and liberties.'"

Well, he did dial it back a little bit there at the end. But setting aside heated language and claims of racism, some do argue that "trapping" kids in college for a year and having them play for free (while the NCAA rakes in cash from their performance and the NBA has a farm system), smacks of unfairness. Needless to say, it was probably even worse for Cohen to find out that NBA Commissioner David Stern wants to extend the age limit up to 20....

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NFL Won't Punish Marshall for Disorderly Conduct Arrest

Brandon Marshall and Denver Broncos fans have reason to celebrate, and they just might have Marshall's fiance, Michi Leshase Nogami-Campbell, to thank for it. According to the AP, the NFL has indicated that no discipline will be laid down on Marshall despite his March disorderly conduct arrest for a fight he had with Nogami-Campbell.

The case didn't get very far after Marshall and Nogami-Campbell "refused to testify against each other" and police quickly dropped the charges. Still, the NFL could have levied punishment of its own accord, but Commissioner Roger Goodell apparently decided to give Marshall the benefit of the doubt.

The fact that charges were dropped in the first place is interesting in light the AP's following description of the incident: