August 11, 2009

This news hasn’t hit home yet but those two megaliths really are in for it. Chris Harry gives us a quick look a three law suits about to make big waves.
“NFL training camps and college two-a-days are going hot and heavy, with talk already of some highly anticipated showdowns in the coming season.

But a couple big-time football matchups won’t be on the field, but rather the court.

In court, that is.

A series of lawsuits could have lasting ramifications on sports as we know it, with the one closest to home possibly reaching even further.

More than two dozen state media organizations, including the Sentinel, are suing for access to the NCAA’s records concerning Florida State’s appeal of
sanctions for the cheating scandal in its athletic program.

They say the NCAA’s placement of these records for FSU on a secure Web site is a violation of state public records laws.

“As far as we know, this is the first custodial Web site case that’s been litigated,” said Carol LoCicero, whose Tampa-based firm is representing the news outlets. “And we cast a fairly wide net.”

So does the NCAA, which since 1995 has spent more than $84 million on legal fees, including settlements, according to the Indianapolis Star. The same report said the NCAA reported revenue of $657 million in 2007-08. Obviously, some took notice of that figure.

Others took aim.

Suits brought by a former quarterback and a college basketball star could shake up the lucrative video game industry, if courts rule the NCAA is taking liberty with student-athletes’ likenesses.

“The NCAA says it tries to protect athletes from commercial exploitation, then turns around and exploits them for its own commercial gain,” said Ramogi Huma,  a former UCLA linebacker and president of the National College Players Association. “I don’t know who the NCAA thinks it’s fooling, but I sure would like to know what a jury thinks.”

Barring a settlement, everyone will know.

And then there’s the NFL, which is being sued by an Illinois apparel company that claims the league violated antitrust laws by cutting an exclusive-rights
merchandise deal with Reebok nine years ago. The case is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite victories in lower courts and on appeals, the NFL made the unconventional request for an audience before Chief Justice John Roberts and friends. The league plans to ask for complete immunity from antitrust laws.

The fallout from a favorable NFL ruling could have sweeping antitrust impact on all sports.

“The NFL wants to resolve for all time that they are a single entity,” said William Page, associate professor of the University of Florida College of Law. “Basically, they’re going for the jugular.”
CASE 1-  Associated Press, et al vs. Florida State University board of trustees
The case: The Associated Press — teaming with 26 state news organizations, including the Sentinel — filed suit in June against Florida State University, attorneysrepresenting the school and the NCAA, claiming the defendants violated state public records laws by not releasing records related to FSU’s appeal of athletic sanctions.

The background: Following a two-year investigation into academic fraud at FSU, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions ruled in March that FSU must reduce scholarships and vacate victories in 10 sports after finding that 61 student-athletes cheated (with the help of two full-time staff members and a student tutor) in an on-line music class. The NCAA ordered the football program to vacate 14 victories, a heavy hit to iconic Coach Bobby Bowden and his chase to become college football’s all-time winningest coach. Bowden, who turns 80 in November, trails Penn State legend Joe Paterno by one victory, 383-382.

At issue: In responding to FSU’s appeal, the NCAA blocked public access to its ruling by providing the data to FSU officials through a password-protected
Web site. The NCAA later allowed FSU officials to copy the findings by hand and provide transcripts to the public, but a group of state newspapers and
television stations filed suit claiming the custodial Web site violated Florida’s open records laws. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum backed the claim last week with a “friend of the court” brief. The NCAA, a private organization that legislates more than 1,000 schools nationwide, claims it is not bound by state laws and that adhering to such guidelines inhibits the ability to thoroughly investigate potential wrongdoing.

Case 2- Samuel Michael Keller vs. Electronic Arts Inc., NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Co.
The case: Keller, a quarterback who started his college career at Arizona State then transferred to Nebraska, filed a class-action suit in May against EA Sports and the NCAA that targets the use of players’ images without consent in the sale of video games for profit. Keller is seeking damages not just for himself, but for all college football and basketball players, none of whom — under NCAA rules — can be compensated for use of their virtual likenesses.

The background: Keller, whose collegiate eligibility expired after the 2007 season, was required to do what all incoming NCAA athletes must do before
competing: sign the standard Form 08-3a, a document that requires athletes to relinquish all rights to the commercial use of their image. It also authorizes the NCAA — “or a third party acting on behalf of the NCAA” — to use an athlete’s name or picture to promote NCAA championships and other events, activities or programs.

At issue: NCAA Bylaw 12.5 on contracts and licensing agreements prohibits outside entities from using the likenesses of NCAA players, but neither the NCAA nor the College Licensing Company are stopping EA Sports from using virtual likenesses of players in their games. The EA game does not identify players by name, but their jersey numbers, height, weight, build and even skin and hair color are remarkably similar to the real thing. There is no better example than the quarterback for the gamer’s virtual Florida Gators squad. He’s big, stocky and lowers his shoulder to pile-drive defenders. A band of plays is wrapped around his right forearm. His socks barely cover his ankles. He wears No. 15. And he’s left-handed. Guess who?

CASE 3- American Needle, Inc. vs. NFL
The case: In 2004, Illinois-based apparel company American Needle filed suit against the NFL, claiming an exclusive rights merchandise agreement between the league and Reebok violated antitrust laws. Four-and-a-half years later — following a series of favorable rulings for the NFL in lower courts — the case is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, maybe as early as this fall.

The background: For nearly 20 years, ANI had a non-exclusive contract with the NFL to make logo knit and baseball caps until the league cut its lucrative pact with Reebok in 2000. The lawsuit charged the NFL was illegally restraining trade in violation of Section I of the Sherman Act. The NFL’s denial of the antitrust charges was upheld in trial and appeals court, but ANI pushed on. When the case became one of some 7,500 cases being considered by the Supreme Court, the NFL made a stunning move by joining ANI’s petition to go before the justices. Rather than maintain the defense that held in the lower courts, the NFL is asking the court — with its conservative, pro-business leanings — to consider the league as a single entity that is exempt from antitrust law.

At issue: If the Supreme Court rules that the NFL is a single entity — and not 32 businesses in competition with each other — the same status would be afforded the NBA, MLB, NHL, players unions and, quite possibly, even the NCAA, which would welcome a favorable decision for the NFL because it could end challenges to the Bowl Championship Series and bowl system. Some legal analysts suggest the ruling could be the most significant sports law decision ever — sports “Armageddon,” according to headlines on — while others believe the court would narrow its opinion to prevent the NFL (and others) from claiming single entity for all purposes.




The Sports Curmudgeon said: “I have exactly zero interest in joining into a discussion with any hominid on the planet about the mechanism of weight loss in humankind because there are too many people out there who have a cult-like set of beliefs about one kind of diet or another.  I am a chemist by training and in any system that does not involve a nuclear reaction the First Law of Thermodynamics must be obeyed; kids learned that Law under a different name in seventh grade science; it is the Law of Conservation of Energy.

Lendale White lost 30+ pounds in something like 3 months by eliminating tequila from his diet?  You do not want to do the calculation as to how much tequila he had to be consuming daily – or even hourly – to effect that weight loss with only that dietary modification.  Let us just say that if that is all he did to change his caloric intake, his blood might have been 10-proof.

Nevertheless, what Lendale White did is not an easy thing for a human to do and so I started thinking about some other athletes (past and present) who might use Lendale White as a role model.  Here are some that came to mind:

CC Sabathia:  He is a really good pitcher but at some point, someone is going to calculate what the Yankees paid per pound to sign him for $160M.

Sid Fernandez:  His caboose was anathema to the guys who operated the center field camera in MLB parks; when he pitched the catcher and the umpire often disappeared.

David Wells:  When he sat down in the dugout, seismic sensors detected the event.

Aurelio Lopez (Señor Smoke):  I had a baseball card of his in the 70s that said he weighed 190 lbs.  When I saw him on the mound, I thought they had found a way to weigh him only from the waist down.

Jared Lorenzen:  Just consider his nicknames – “The Pillsbury Throwboy”, “J-Load”, “Hefty Lefty”, “BBQ” (for Big Butted Quarterback) and “The
Abominable Throwman”.

Grady Jackson:  Water runs uphill faster than he does.

Tony Siragusa:  Every time I see him on TV, I want to ask him if Han Solo ever paid off that IOU.

Arte Donovan:  If he took up skydiving, astronomers could study the sun during solar eclipse conditions on a daily basis.

Sir Charles Barkley:  Almost big enough to go into business selling shade.

Kevin Duckworth:  His breakfast cereal bowl needed its own lifeguard.

John “Hot Plate” Williams:  Ate his way out of the NBA.

Eddy Curry:  In danger of eating is way out of the NBA.

Shawn Kemp:  At the end of his career it looked as if was trying to smuggle watermelons in his pants.

Oliver Miller:  Looked as if he was born with a silver shovel in his mouth.

Robert “Tractor” Traylor:  His butt has its own Congressthing.

Butterbean:  He needs to set up sawhorses and a platform in his driveway to iron his clothes.

Surely, that is not an all-inclusive list; but it gives you an idea of some folks who could have used a role model like Lendale White in the past or who can look to him now for inspiration.


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