Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Lance will be just fine

Last week, just after Lance Armstrong announced that he would not contest the USADA proceedings, I did a radio interview in which the interviewer relayed the comments of a marketing expert who suggested that Armstrong was done as spokesman, fundraiser, and endorser. I disagreed, saying (consistent with similar arguments made elsewhere) that Lance would benefit from not participating in the proceeding; he would argue that the proceedings were biased and illegitimate, that he was the wronged party and justified in not participating (and thus giving USADA legitimacy), and that he remains a clean champion cyclist.

Case in point: Armstrong's speech yesterday to the World Cancer Congress, which he began as follows: "My name is Lance Armstrong. I am a cancer survivor . . .  I'm a father of five. And yes, I won the Tour de France seven times." Combined with reports that Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation saw a dramatic uptick in donations last week, it looks like, at least in the short term, my instinct was right--Armstrong is going to come through this just fine.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

PEGs: Performance Enhancing Gloves

Researchers at Stanford, led by two biologists, are close to having a commercially viable cooling glove, a device designed to cool core body temperature by cooling blood in particular veins in the palm that are devoted to temperature regulation. (H/T: My colleague Tracy Hresko Pearl).

The research team also discovered that the glove carries athletic benefits. Cooling the body also cools muscles. Muscle fatigue, it has been found, is a product of the temperature in the muscle getting too high (something to do with a chemical enzyme); by cooling the muscles, the glove essentially resets the state of muscle fatigue, allowing an athlete to start over. In a six-week period, one member of the team went from doing 180 pull-ups in a session to over 620; they found similar improvements in bench press, running, and cycling. And several teams--including the Raiders, Niners, Man United, and the Stanford football and track teams--have begun using it.

Given this level of improvement, one of the researchers said that the glove was "[e]qual to or substantially better than steroids … and it's not illegal." But should it be? And if not, returning to a question I asked when I first started blogging, why is the glove different from steroids or HGH or EPO or blood doping or other performance enhances that we have outlawed and decried? All use modern technology and modern scientific knowledge (the science behind cooling was not fully understood until 2009) to improve athletic performance. Athletes training with any of these have a technological advantage not available 10, 20, or 50 years ago.

The only apparent difference is the negative health consequences associated with steroids. But is that all there is? And in our new Libertarian Era, should that be enough?

So Why Not Have a Boxing Dream Team?

A Look at the Potential Implications of Amateur Boxing’s Governing Body Allowing Professional Boxers to Retain Olympic Eligibility

Amateur boxing has a rich history in the Olympic Games. Fordecades, many of the world’s top professional boxers have introduced themselves to the world in medal winning performances in amateur boxing. It thus came as a shock this past month to read about AIBA, the governing body that presides over amateur boxing worldwide, signing several top Olympic boxers, including two-time gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, to professional contracts under the new outfit AIBA Professional Boxing (“APB”). Most surprising was the Associated Press report which indicated, in part, that the top 56 boxers who sign with APB to begin their professional careers will have Olympic quota places reserved for them, “while regular professional boxers wouldn’t be eligible for an Olympic shot.” If interpreted as it appears to read, boxers who turn professional under the umbrella of APB, an off-shoot of amateur boxing’s international governing body, will be permitted to return to the Olympics and compete in the boxing competition even though they will have fought as professionals by then, yet those who do not sign promotional agreements with APB cannot. If one thinks that this sounds patently unfair and could eventually spell the death in the participation of amateurs in Olympic boxing, such thoughts do not seem so farfetched. Why would any nation feel compelled to keep sending its best amateurs when those nations with APB signees can send their best professional boxers? A quick look at the intention behind APB and what a country such as the United States might be able to do in order to send its own professionals follows.

For the article, please go to this link.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Union Solidarity?

The gauntlet has been thrown down and things are about to get interesting. As the NFL continues to negotiate with the NFLRA over terms of a new CBA for the league’s officials, replacement officials work pre-season games. In a bold move yesterday, the NFLPA pulled out the “health and safety” card in support of the NFLRA.

In a pointed statement yesterday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith stated:
“In America it is the employer’s obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible. We believe that if the National Football League fails in that obligation we reserve the right to seek any relief that we believe is appropriate. The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and — by their own admission — further our goal of enhanced safety.”
Let’s be clear, player safety is the priority for the NFLPA. Above salary, compensation, free agency, two-a-day practices, an 18 game schedule, and anything else you can imagine. According to reports the gap is approximately $6,000 per game to get the best football officials in the world back onto the field. The NFL’s annual revenues? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $9.3 billion PER YEAR.

A few thoughts:

1. Great to see solidarity across unions. Always wondered why the various professional sports league unions (MLBPA, NBPA, NFLPA, & NHLPA) didn’t cooperate more than they do.

2. If you don’t think the NFLPA is serious about both a) protecting their players; and b) their membership’s unhappiness with the replacement officials you’re not paying attention.

3. Lurking in the shadows of this labor impasse is the dark cloud hanging over the league—the concussion lawsuit. Unequivocally, this lawsuit threatens the financial stability of the league. Do you think that $6,000 per game is too much for the NFL to show the league’s players that safety is a concern?

For fans of the NFL, the next several days are going to be interesting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

American Indian Mascot Sensitivity at the University of Utah

The Sports Law Blog has tackled the issue of American Indian mascots many times over the past few years. Last week, Dr. Chris Hill, the Athletics Director at the University of Utah (nicknamed the "Utes" after the local Ute Indian tribe), posted a youtube "chat" where he asked Ute fans to become more "sensitive" to issues that might offend American Indians in Utah and across the country when they attend athletic contests (see below). Specifically, Dr. Hill asks fans to be aware that painting their faces, wearing headdresses, and bringing faux tomahawks to games likely offend sacred and religious traditions of Native Americans around the country. He impliedly asked Ute fans to leave the feathers, headdresses, face paint and tomahawk chops at home.

Dr. Hill alluded to the Ute logo, the feather and drumset, as appropriate, likely based on the approval of the use of the name and logo by the Ute tribal counsel, and the NCAA policy, that while generally forbidding the use of American Indian nicknames and mascots, allows an exception for University use of such nicknames and mascots if the local tribe approves. Because of this exception, Florida State continues as the Seminoles and Utah continues as the Utes, while the University of Illinois and the University of North Dakota are no longer able to use Native American imagery as their logos or mascots.

While laudable, Dr. Hill seems to miss the broader point that American Indian imagery and caricatures remain significantly injurious to some American Indian citizens (though some polls indicate that Native Americans are split on the issue of mascot offensiveness). If offensive to some, then why continue the use of the mascot name and imagery? Certainly, University of Utah fans can become more sensitive by educating themselves and leaving American Indian regalia at home on game day. Dr. Hill himself mentioned educating himself on the sacred and spiritual in American Indian culture, which no doubt prompted the message to fans. Still, tradition and culture should not support the continued use of names and mascots that offend.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Importance of mutual funds in India

India has emerged as one of the biggest economic power in the last one decade. The growth rate has witnessed a tremendous increase in terms of percentage and productivity. Apart from this savings and investment has been a constant culture in India which has evolved through all these years taking different forms and manifestations. There is so much f importance laid upon mutual fund India as our elders believe in saving for the future not only for a secured tomorrow but also to ensure the well being of their families. Mutual funds have become the new age mantra for increasing the income apart from the savings bank account, fixed deposit and gold. Earlier mutual fund was meant only for a limited section of industries like banking, jewellery and reality, but looking at the huge potential that the sector offers not only to its customers but also to the investors, the bar has risen to include infrastructure, FMCG and telecom industries.

Mutual funds India are categorized mainly in four categories- money market funds, bond or fixed income funds, stock or equity funds and hybrid funds. There are different rules that guide the investment policy for each of these types of funds but the ground rule that applies to all these funds is that one needs to look at three things at the time of investment. These three things are risk factor- usually it is said that higher the amount invested, higher is the risk and greater are the returns, time duration- total time period for which the money is invested in mutual funds and the portfolio which is investing in many types of funds in order to maximize the returns that come from each funds. Therefore mutual fund investors can invest in a variety of instruments like stocks, bonds, money market securities, gold or a combination of these which provide diversification to the individual who is investing.

Investments are considered to be one of the best tools to maximize the financial goals of an individual. Every investment policy is unique in its own way as it offers over 1000 schemes to boost the financial goals and suits the investment objective of the individual. Another factor that makes mutual funds a lucrative market is the fact that money is managed professionally once invested, it helps in diversifying the portfolio of the investor, low cost of investment due to economies of scale, and the market is well regulated and highly liquid in nature. Apart from this at the time of investment the person should be careful about the nature of the market and the profit margin before making a purchase or sale of funds respectively as the market knowledge factor determines how successful the returns are going to be for the individual.

Legal Issues in Fantasy Sports: Yahoo! More Risk Averse than CBS Sports

As I had predicted last year in my law review article, A Short Treatise on Fantasy Sports and the Law, it was only a matter of time before another public company joined CBS Sports in the cash-prize fantasy football marketplace. As anticipated, Yahoo! has recently announced its launch of Yahoo! Pro Leagues, which are leagues offering up to $500 in cash prizes to fantasy football winners.

Nevertheless, in launching its pay-to-win fantasy football game, Yahoo! seems to be a tad more risk averse than CBS Sports. For example, even though the CBSSports Terms of Service only prevent the paying of prizes to winners in six states (Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Vermont and Washington), the Yahoo! Sports Terms of Service disallows prizes in two more -- Maryland and Illinois.

Yahoo!'s decision not to compete against CBS Sports in either Maryland or Illinois is likely based on the uncertainties in both states' gaming laws. In Maryland, the state governor recently signed into law a bill that exempts certain online fantasy sports games from its gambling prohibitions, and instead grants the state Comptroller the right to regulate the industry. However, to date, the state Comptroller has not issued any regulations related to fantasy sports. Presumably, CBS Sports believes this puts them in the clear to move forward with offering prize-based games.  Meanwhile, Yahoo! is not willing to take that risk. 

Similarly, in Illinois, one section of the state’s gambling law specifies that a person commits a gambling offense if he “[k]nowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or a thing of value.” Yet, another section of that same statute exempts from the law “any bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength,or endurance.” CBS Sports must be confident that its fantasy football contest is a "bona fide contest for the determination of skill."  Meanwhile, Yahoo! might be less sure, perhaps based on a 1983 Illinois decision that found poker did not fall into this exemption.

Most interesting to me, however, is that even though Yahoo has taken a more risk averse approach than CBS Sports, it still does not outlaw its game in a number of states where some risk may still exist. For example, Yahoo! is willing to pay cash prizes to contestants in Kansas, even though last fall the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission had language on its website indicating that pay-to-win fantasy sports games were illegal. In addition, Yahoo! is willing to operate in at least one state where a former attorney general has issued an advisory opinion indicating that fantasy sports games are illegal.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Alan Milstein on Al Jazeera English to discuss Lance Armstrong

Terrific discussion on Al Jazeera English with Alan Milstein, Dave Zirin and Grant Wahl. They have a lively, interesting debate on Lance Armstrong. Here's the video:

To read an article on the Milstein/Zirin/Wahl discussion, click here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My thoughts on Lance Armstrong for CNN International

2012: The Summer of Sports Law

As I thought about this past (and it is past because Boston College's MBA program has already started) summer, I realized the huge impact that "sports law" had on the major events. I wrote the following article which appears on the Huffington Post.

It begins....

Each year I welcome students in my Sports Law course at Boston College by declaring: “To truly understand sports, you must have a basic understanding of the law….let’s begin.” The cycle is straight-forward: the demand for sports on television grows which in turn generates revenue; the business operations to support this growth become more complex, resulting in the law’s ever-increasing role in the events and stories of the industry. The summer of 2012 has poignantly proved my point: virtually every major story, from the Olympics, to college sports, to professional leagues has been shaped by legal principles studied in the first year of law school—civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, and business law.

Let me know what you think....

debt consolidation loan

A debt consolidation loan can be taken out to pay debts such as credit cards and store cards, catalogues and personal loans.
Debt consolidation which is means the name for a loan that you must use to pay off all your other unsecured debts.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lance Armstrong = Pete Rose?

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks on Monday dismissed Lance Armstrong's lawsuit against USADA, concluding that: 1) while USADA processes were questionable, they accorded with due process (although the court skipped the prior question of whether USADA is a government actor); 2) Armstrong had to resort to administrative and foreign remedies; and 3) he contractually agreed to arbitrate all doping matters with USADA. On Thursday, Armstrong announced that he is not going to fight the USADA proceedings. This likely means he will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, his Olympic medal, and all other cycling accomplishments dating back to 1998; he also may receive a lifetime ban from cycling.

Armstrong's statement continues to insist that he never doped or used PEDs. It explains that he decided to "turn the page." While he would "jump at the chance" to defend himself if he thought the process was fair or legitimate, he "refuse[d] to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair."  But, he reminded everyone, "I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

In taking this position, Armstrong sounds very much like Pete Rose. Rose similarly stopped fighting MLB's investigation and accepted a punishment, but without admitting any wrongdoing.  He then spent fifteen years insisting that he had done nothing wrong and that no one had proven that he had done anything wrong and reminding everyone that someone got all those hits and achieved all those things on the field. Eventually, of course, Rose gave up and admitted wrongdoing.

Curious to see what happens with Armstrong going forward.

Is NCAA abusing discovery process in O'Bannon v. NCAA? Sonny Vaccaro targeted

Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News writes today about the NCAA targeting Sonny Vaccaro, an unpaid adviser to Ed O'Bannon's legal team in the former UCLA star's class action lawsuit against the NCAA.  O'Bannon's case is in discovery and the NCAA wants tons of records from Vaccaro, whom the NCAA describes in disparaging ways:
Court documents filed in June show that the NCAA wants records from Vaccaro. The NCAA says they're relevant to the players' claims they can't sell their likenesses. The NCAA's attorneys use words like "agent," "runner" and "broker" to paint Vaccaro's livelihood coming off the backs of players. 

The players' attorneys say Vaccaro criticized the NCAA long before this suit, and that the NCAA hasn't denied investigating Vaccaro and now wants to accuse him of improprieties.
"This is scorched-earth litigation," the players write. 

Counters the NCAA: "Vaccaro and his organization are at the heart of decisions and financial careers of former student athletes. Vaccaro's participation in gathering plaintiffs is directly relevant to the merits of the claims as well as the qualifications of the class members." 
 For more, click here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paralleling Law School Grades and Wonderlic Scores in hiring decisions by Law Firms and NFL Teams

Boston University law professor Jay Wexler has a terrific new essay for Salon titled "I made Clarence Thomas laugh". The essay explores Jay's experience as a clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from 1998-99. It's informative and also funny:
It is true that Justice Ginsburg is short, maybe even quite short. But listening to people who haven’t met her talk about how short she is could lead you to believe that she is some sort of miniature person who could fit in your shirt pocket or the palm of your hand. In fact, she cannot fit in these tiny places.
One passage, in particular, caught my eye:
Almost all the justices hire four law clerks. Most of the clerks come from a handful of top law schools. People are always asking me, “How did you get that job?” I tell them that the one thing in the world I’m actually very good at is taking law school exams. Indeed, I can write an essay about a complicated set of totally made-up facts under extreme time pressure as well as just about anybody. It turns out that this ability has no relationship whatsoever to being a good lawyer, being a good law clerk, being generally smart, or anything else, but it did go a long way to getting me my job at the Court.
I don't believe a relationship between law school grades (which, especially in the case of first year courses, are usually determined only by a final exam) and success as an attorney has ever been proven. Perhaps that's because that kind of relationship may be impossible to show empirically. It also begs the qualitative question of what "success" means - is it only about making money or is it also about respect from peers or advancement of social justice? Is it simply, what will people remember about your career when your career is over? Others, like Above the Law's David Lat, have explored this topic, but there's no conclusion to be found. There's a folksy expression that I've heard, something along the lines of "the A student becomes a professor, the B student becomes a judge and the C student becomes the wealthy lawyer", but that doesn't seem quite right either.

Still, as Jay notes, success on a law school exam seems unrelated to how one works as a lawyer (or as a judge, law maker, law enforcer, regulator, clerk, professor, lobbyist or one of the many other jobs pursuable with a law degree). You get two or three hours to respond to a completely made-up fact pattern, sometimes without access to a book or notes (because lawyers never get to use books or notes, right?). This kind of exam probably is helpful practice for taking the bar exam, but it does not seem related to work as an attorney.

This reminds me of the Wonderlic Test for the NFL draft. I've written about the Wonderlic before. Like students taking a law school exam, Wonderlic test-takers have to respond to made-up questions in a high-pressured, limited time setting:
The Wonderlic is a twelve-minute, fifty-question exam designed to assess aptitude for learning a job and adapting to solve problems. Although it is administered to prospective employees in a wide range of occupations, it is most famously employed in the NFL, with prospective NFL players strongly urged to take it before partaking in the NFL draft. The exam is thought to measure how well prospective NFL players will comprehend playbooks, react to different schemes and onfield developments, and navigate through the pressures of stardom and celebrity, among other considerations that may affect the quality of their employment. The Wonderlic is also commonly perceived as a proxy for an IQ test.
50 questions must be answered in 12 minutes, meaning the test-taker is allotted about 14 seconds per question.
Many have written about what appears to be a lack of relationship between Wonderlic score and success as an NFL player (others, like Jason Chung, have looked at distributing prejudices associated with the test). Still, the test is used by teams in evaluating players. The media also finds it interesting to learn of a player's score, especially a terrible score. Scores are supposed to be kept confidential, but terrible scores seem to get leaked and players with those scores publicly ridiculed as a result. At least law students with bad grades don't get written about in the press.

There's probably something to be said for the idea that decision-makers crave numbers when selecting one person over another. A law firm hiring partner can cite grades as justification to hire one law student over another, and an NFL general manager can use a player's Wonderlic score (along with various other measurements) to justify drafting one player over another. But that doesn't make the decision-making process more accurate or more predictive than other types of processes. And maybe both law firms and NFL teams can learn something from that.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fixing Sports Agent Law: Preliminary Thoughts, and My New Article

In February 2012, the Uniform Law Commission announced the creation of a Study Committee on Amending the Uniform Athlete Agents Act ("UAAA"). This announcement will likely lead to renewed debate about the proper role of sports agent law.

Today, I posted on the Social Science Research Network ("SSRN") the first draft of my new law review article: Disarming the Trojan Horse of the UAAA and SPARTA: How America Should Reform Sports Agent Laws to Conform with True Agency Principles.

In this article, I argue that the current version of the UAAA operates like a Trojan Horse. On the outside, it appears to provide athletes with legal protection against their agents. Yet, on the inside, it attacks the very autonomy and financial well-being that traditional agency law is intended to protect. I then argue for a number of reforms to sports agent law, including the following:
  • The expansion of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act to govern the relationship between professional athletes and their agents.
  • An increased emphasis on preventing conflicts of interest between athletes and their agents, both on the professional and amateur level.
  • The implementation of a private cause of action to allow athletes to bring suit directly against their agents under the UAAA.
  • The removal of language from the UAAA that grants NCAA member schools with a cause of action to sue their own student-athletes for failing to disclose agency contracts.
A full draft of my article is available for download here. Readers' thoughts and feedback are both welcome and appreciated.

Easy First Amendment Cases

Sometimes, they really would be easy. The AD at the University of Arkansas announced today via Twitter a new policy requiring that students get approval in advance from the university for any signs they want to display at football games this season. Obviously, the school is trying to prevent any signs referring to the mess with Bobby Petrino, his mistress, and his motorcycle.

But does anyone at this public institution playing football in a public stadium really believe they could get away with a policy requiring advance state approval in order to speak? Or are they counting on no one challenging it?

Job Posting: International Opportunities Available for US Professional Athletes

Growing up in the United States, our vision for success in professional athletics is limited to the major four leagues—MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. With the exception of soccer, track and field, women’s basketball and perhaps a few other sports, the US major leagues are the “premier” professional leagues—the prestige, visibility, and corresponding salaries, are the best in the world. However, our perspective is undoubtedly skewed, as opportunities are abundant around the globe. Two examples of recent Boston College alumni help illustrate this point.

Craig “The Rhino” Smith entered the NBA in 2006 after graduating from Boston College as the all-time leading rebounder and second all-time leading scorer. He has played atotal of 403 games over six seasons with Minnesota, Los Angeles, and this past season Portland. As a free agent this summer there were five NBA teams interested in him, but none offered him a starting position. In evaluating his options and goals, Smith surprised many when this past week he signed a one-year deal to play for Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem in Israel.

He was tired of being, as he put it “roster filler,” and this new team offered him a chance to play a prominent role. Smith stated “I was tired of being considered a nice guy and being the 10th guy on a team. I'm really sick of that. There's a fire burning in me.” Smith took considerably less money to chase playing time. Obviously, an outstanding year in Israel may make him a stronger NBA free agent candidate next year, but this was more about wanting to play basketball than “be in the NBA.” [Link to his interview here.]

Ryan Shannon, captain of Boston College’s hockey team during the 2004-05 season, has played 305 games in the NHL making stops in Anaheim (where he won the Stanley Cup in2006-07), Vancouver, Ottawa, and Tampa Bay this past season. Like all NHL free agents this year, Shannon would be left to wait for the resolution of the labor impasse between the NHL and NHLPA this summer, and the contract offer that would surely follow. However, like Smith, Shannon made a decision to go overseas and sign a three-year deal with the Zurich Lions of Switzerland’s professional hockey league.

Shannon, as husband and father, decided that he was after “a good environment for my family, something we’d enjoy…..we want to balance life. It’s not just trying to collect a paycheck.” With the NHL under the cloud of a potential lockout, by heading overseas Shannon secured stability for his young family, a guaranteed paycheck, and an amazing opportunity for a unique experience. [Link to his interview here.]

Neither Smith nor Shannon are all-stars in their respective leagues. Both are smart individuals who have a passion for their sport, but also know that they are not defined by what league they play in. Overseas leagues offer them a significant paycheck, opportunities to ply their craft in a competitive environment,and a slightly different career/life balance in an exotic new locale.

This migration is not limited to these two individuals. As labor conflicts in the professional leagues in the United States become almost routine, athletes are heading overseas with greater regularity—chasing opportunities and stability not available here. I wish Smith, Shannon, and the rest of our athletes heading overseas the best of luck in this new chapter in their lives.