Accounting for Publicity: Scott Foster & Group Licensing Under Collective Bargaining

On March 29, 2018, while preparing for a home game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Chicago Blackhawks suddenly found themselves without prospective starter Anton Forsberg, who was injured during his off-ice warmups. With nobody else available to back up now-starter-by-necessity Collin Delia (making his own NHL debut as a recent call up from AHL Rockford), the Blackhawks signed 36-year-old, former Western Michigan University goaltender Scott Foster to a one-day amateur tryout contract. The catch? Foster last played for the WMU Broncos in 2006 (for reference, Jonathan Toews’s freshman year at University of North Dakota) and is employed as an accountant for Golub Capital.

By now, the rest is history: with the Blackhawks up 6-2 over Winnipeg, and with Delia suddenly incapacitated with cramps with 14 minutes to go in the third period... who is this guy in the black Vaughns and the AC/DC mask?... let’s check the program for #90... he wouldn’t be in the program on such short notice... yep, there he is, emergency goaltender Scott Foster! Foster made seven saves on seven shots, preserving the win and earning a first star of the game and a story of a lifetime. In a rush to beat the April 17, 2018 filing deadline with the IRScapitalize on Foster’s (almost literally) fifteen minutes of fame, the Blackhawks put out this tweet in order to (sorry, can’t help it) hawk some merchandise...

What is wrong with this story, and why am I flagging the Chicago Blackhawks for an audit? Let’s open the books.

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Esports Levels Up - Franchising & Antitrust

The year was 2017. It was a simpler time - no 16 seed had beat a 1 seed in March - but that is when the world of esports revolutionized. League of Legends had announced its 2018 season of the North America League Championship Series would move to a franchise model. The Overwatch League (“OWL”), a franchise league for Blizzard’s popular title Overwatch, was beginning to take shape. And then, like UMBC’s upset, the NBA announced an esports franchise league out of nowhere: the NBA 2K League (“2K League”). For the inaugural season of the League, seventeen of the thirty NBA franchises will participate.

Up until the announcement of the 2K League, every franchise league looked like a shell of what we know. For example, the the OWL has city based teams, like the San Francisco Shock, player minimums, and player benefits. The announcement of the OWL promised more than this shell, specifically announcing a player combine and draft. These events, however, never came to fruition. Then came the 2K League, with not only player minimums and and city based teams, but also a combine and a draft. The 2K League announced an application process, followed up by a player combine, and then a draft. Thousands applied, 250 people participated in the combine, 102 and will be draft eligible. The combine ran through the month of February and the draft lottery order was selected on March 13 (with Mavs Gaming, the Dallas Mavericks, winning the first overall pick). The draft will take place April 4 at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden’s Lobby (1 p.m. ET).

Although it is incredible to see the growth of esports and creation of franchise leagues, one has to wonder whether these leagues will ever face litigation surrounding a complex body of law that all traditional sports leagues have faced: Antitrust. This post seeks to give a 30,000 foot view of antitrust, what defenses/exemptions are available, and present arguments for the leagues. A majority of the discussion will focus on the 2K League because, to me, it presents the greatest antitrust battle.

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An Excerpt from "Sports Are Worth How Much!? And Other Questions In Pro Sports, Answered (Kind Of)"

The following passage is an excerpt from Justin Bedi's Sports Are Worth How Much!? And Other Questions In Pro Sports, Answered (Kind Of), from the chapter “The History and Impact of Unions In Pro Sports”. It has been edited and condensed to appear in this publication.

“Love them or hate them, unions are a part of the way the working world is organized.

The labor movement has touched virtually every corner of the globe and has impacted every industry, from steelmaking and car manufacturing, to the public service and piloting, to the world of professional sports.

Unions are undoubtedly controversial; on a scale from nuisance to difficult problem, business owners see unions as industry death knells, and on the other side, workers see them as vital to protecting their rights. The debate over the impact and effectiveness of unions is fraught with realities, myths, and hyperbole, and this is particularly true of the professional sports industry, because every part of sports is exciting—even the unions.

Unionism in professional sports boils down to an inherent conflict between billionaire owners and millionaire athletes—the kind of drama that drives daytime soap operas. And due to the overwhelming popularity and cultural significance of professional sports in the U.S. and Canada, the everlasting drama between team owners and athletes has been highly publicised and made accessible to the public.

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The Uphill Legal Battle for Defamation Claims in Professional Sports

Guest Post by Rex Sheild

Professional athletes and coaches are consistently in the limelight, whether they wish to be or not. Sure, some professional athletes and coaches prefer to be at the center of attention, for branding purposes if nothing else. Others, however, would rather maintain a more private life. Regardless of the particular professional athlete or coach preference, they will still be succumbed to defamatory remarks from all types of individuals across a wide range of mediums. As such, in my latest for Sports Law Blonde, I will dissect defamation law in the realm of sports and provide previous and recent case law.

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The Case Michigan State's Tom Izzo Could Have for Defamation

Over a week has passed since ESPN let loose its detailed report stemming from Larry Nassar's sexual assault incidences. The entire situation regarding the adequacy and possible active sexual assault cover ups at Michigan State University is unfortunate because there is so much that happened in the past that cannot be sufficiently remedied beyond justice being served. Some people are beginning to speak out against sexual assault cases they personally experienced, and some people are choosing to dig deeper into the dirt, almost as if trying to take ESPN's Outside the Lines report to the next level (and that report already took things to an uncomfortable but necessary level). In doing so, this creates a problem that implicates certain Michigan State figures - at this point, are we able to separate subjective opinion and irresponsible journalism from objective facts to learn what has really been going down in East Lansing?

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Professional Athletes Leading the Way on Marijuana Reform in United States

Guest Post by Derek Helling

Individual citizens and groups all over the United States are taking part in petition campaigns, legislative hearings and other forms of lobbying to decriminalize the possession and commerce of Cannabis and its by-products. Current and former professional athletes are included in these groups.

The most notable example of this legal advocacy is former NFL player Marvin Washington, who is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions. The suit seeks relief for the plaintiffs against federal laws penalizing Cannabis possession and transportation that the suit argues violate the United States Constitution.

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Overwatch League Starts Strong In Its Stance On Player Conduct Expectations

The Overwatch League (OWL) began a few weeks ago and saw, in my opinion, a pretty successful inaugural weekend! Viewership has dropped a bit since, but that is to be expected to an extent. As its second week of competition began, though, the OWL experienced what could be called its first bit of "sports law" controversy - Félix "xQc" Lengyel, the tank for the Dallas Fuel, made some anti-gay slurs about one of his Houston Outlaws opponents on Thursday night on his personal Twitch account livestream after the Outlaws shut out the Fuel, 4-0. Austin "Muma" Wilmot, the tank for the Outlaws, is openly gay, & despite xQc stating afterward that he had no malicious intent in his remarks, OWL chose to stay strong in its disciplinary stance.

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Administrative Failures in Handling Sexual Assault is a Widespread Issue

In light of the horrible Larry Nassar & USA Gymnastics sexual assault matters & lawsuit, I wanted to share a piece I wrote back in 2013 (i.e., as a law student).

Keep in mind that I was a 2L at the time and did not have quite the understanding of the law as I do now 5 years later (oh my goodness, 2013 is already 5 years ago), but nonetheless, this Comment on USA Swimming is very informative and discusses the same issues as we are today within a different National Governing Body (NGB). Moreover, this Comment shows how another NGB dealt with sexual assault allegations initially and how its later dealings still proved to be insufficient. Hopefully, USA Gymnastics can learn from USA Swimming's past legislative and moral failures. Even more importantly, it evidences how Nassar and USA Gymnastics is only the latest example of administrative failures in handling sexual assault matters. It is a widespread issue across sports, and that widespread issue stretches well beyond sports at that.

In large part, USA Swimming's failures in handling sexual assault were not more widespread until 2017 thanks to an Indianapolis Star investigation. Not to toot my own horn here, but to a legal eye, this was easy to spot as a hot topic problem years before that.

Without further ado...

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