A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: sports law

Purifying Sports: An All-Star Panel

By Anthony Iliakostas

I have a strong interest in sports law.  In fact, I have a video blog called “Law and Batting Order” solely devoted to discussing legal issues in sports. So when I found out that there would be an anti-doping panel discussion featuring sports lawyers, big name athletes and sports business professionals, it was a no-brainer. I was in.

On Wednesday, September 4, I headed over to the Grand Central Hyatt Hotel for the event, sponsored by SKINS PureSport, a not-for-profit organization devoted to raising awareness of the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s). The event was open to the public, but it seemed that the only attendees were members of the press. In any event, I’m quite sure I was the youngest person in the room, and the only law student.

The panel was moderated by sports and entertainment attorney Darren Heitner, who founded SportsAgentBlog.com and contributes to Forbes.com, and as soon as the discussion began, video cameras began rolling, journalists typed frantically, and SLR cameras clicked away. As a first time LASIS reporter, I listened intently and felt slightly inadequate taking notes on my iPhone 5.

The panelists were terrific: Olympic runner Ben Johnson, famously stripped of his gold medals for testing positive for PED’s at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul; Jaimie Fuller, the International Chairman of SKINS Compression Apparel; Troy Ellerman, a lawyer in the BALCO steroid scandal in 2005; sports psychologist Dr. Stan Teitelbaum; US Olympic sailor and top-ranking CrossFit athlete Anna Tunnicliffe; and former MLB outfielder and designated hitter Jose Canseco, author of “Juiced,” the tell-all 2006 book alleging that a majority of MLB players were using steroids.

The discussion made it very clear that while doping’s been around for a long time, until not that long ago, it wasn’t necessarily illegal.  Mr. Canseco said that in 1985, MLB had not yet adopted a drug-testing procedure – there wasn’t even talk about drug testing on the horizon.  In fact, he added, PED’s at that time were endorsed by players and trainers alike as a means to help injured players return to the field. Ben Johnson said that his experience confirmed this.  Back in the 80s, he said, he knew that the Olympic committee banned these drugs, but when he saw everyone else taking these drugs, he didn’t see why he shouldn’t, too.

The panelists also addressed the progress of drug-testing in Major League Baseball.  Mr. Ellerman said that with the BALCO scandal and the release of the Mitchell Report, MLB has made massive strides in drug testing.  “I think in the context of sports, you have to approach drug testing with grace, truth, and time,” he told the audience.

But Dr. Teitelbaum took a different approach.  While acknowledging that progress has been made, he stressed that testing is not where it should be. “Athletes are being cunning about being ahead of the curve.”

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Roger and Me: An Open Letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

By Chris Cotter

In early March, a 20-year-old Georgia college student accused Pittsburgh Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her at a bar in Milledgeville, GA. After a month-long investigation, Georgia district attorney Fred Bright announced on April 12 that he would not charge Roethlisberger with rape. But while Roethlisberger has managed to avoid criminal charges, he will likely face discipline from either his team or from the NFL.

Under the NFL’s latest iteration of its personal conduct policy implemented in 2007, the league can discipline a player for any “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League.” According to the policy, this includes “illegal or irresponsible conduct,” and discipline may be imposed for “conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.” But the League has no set benchmarks by which it measures the length of any suspension it might impose against the conduct from which it resulted.

So, if I’m advising NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, there are a few things I’m telling him to consider, and thus begins, my open letter…

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Victim of Hot Dog Throw at Ballpark Cries Foul

By Gregory Akselband

During one of his crowd-pleasing performances, Royals mascot Sluggerrr miscalculated a behind-the-back toss and launched a hotdog directly into the left eye of ballgame attendee John Coomer. Coomer’s vision is permanently impaired as a result, and in what you might call an attempt to enforce the eye-for-an-eye rule, he is now suing the Kansas City Royals Baseball Corporation in Missouri for negligence and battery.

Media coverage of the story did a fair job of stating the facts but failed to mention the relevant law and legal claims.  LASIS researched the legal niceties of the story, and learned that more often than not, injured ballpark attendees face an uphill battle when it comes to recovering for their injuries.

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Who Owns “Who Dat”?

By Chris Cotter

This Sunday, the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts are set to do battle for the National Football League title. But that’s just the battle being waged on the field. Off the field, it has been the NFL vs. clothing manufacturers, fighting for the title to trademark rights in Saints fans’ infamous battle cry, “Who Dat?”

With the specter of the biggest game of the season looming, the NFL had done anything but endear itself to Saints fans. Asserting its alleged trademark ownership, the league had sent numerous cease and desist letters to vendors of Saints gear selling “who dat” merchandise, which left many in the press wondering why the NFL was suddenly and aggressively protecting “its” trademark right to the phrase.  But history instructs us that the NFL rabidly attempts to trademark anything it believes has even a slight association with the league.

When it comes to trademarks, it’s all about identification. In order for anyone to successfully register a trademark, the mark must “[identify] and [distinguish] the source of the good of one party from those of others.” So the question of who owns the “Who Dat” trademark really turns on what people associate the phrase with.

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