Posts in Civil
2019 Sports Law Hot Topics to Watch

The annual January tradition I know y’all look forward to is here - my predictions on what will be the hottest of the sports law hot topics! I settled on selecting six topics this year, and I must say, it was wonderfully hard to narrow down the list because there is a lot of meat we will get to digest over the next 12 months. (Disclaimer: I think #1 will be the hottest of the hot, but that may be my bias talking since that is one of my main wheelhouses!)

That said, I would also like to remind those of you who may be newly acquainted with the concept of “sports law” that, in all honesty, there is technically no such thing as “sports law,” per se. Rather, what a handful of attorneys and I do is specialize in understanding and zealously advocate to resolve diverse legal issues that take place within the sports industry because the law often treats sports in a special way relative to pretty much every other industry out there.

Keep reading for a brief descriptions of each topic’s current status, why I am including it on this list, and a few Twitter handles to follow for the latest news and analysis throughout the year:

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What Maryland Can Do with DJ Durkin -An Employment Contract Analysis

During a preseason workout, University of Maryland redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed after a conditioning test comprised of ten 100-yard sprints (a.k.a. "suicides," a common athletics drill). From there, he was hospitalized and died two weeks later from heatstroke complications. Exactly what happened on the field during training that day and exactly who was on the field overseeing the workouts is currently under investigation.

The reports so far contain a lot of alleged details, but we will not know more of the full story until the investigations are complete. What we do know comes from a Tuesday press conference [see full transcript], UMD President Wallace D. Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans stated that McNair's treatment did not include cold-water immersion and that "care we provided was not consistent with best practices." Moreover, Loh went on to say that they met with McNair's family to apologize and take "legal and moral responsibility" for what happened leading up to their son's death. We also know that Maryland Head Football Coach DJ Durkin, along with three of his staff members, were placed on administrative leave and that strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, the man who was running the workout, officially received the boot.

There could be many components at play here that we, unfortunately, need to wait to truly find out: any signs of struggle earlier in the workout; whether proper protocol was followed by the coaches, including those for precautions under certain conditions and medical guidelines for attending to any resulting injuries; whether Durkin was aware of the workout conditions; whether Durkin was aware of any protocols not being followed; whether Durkin was there when it all went down (according to reports, he was there); and whether McNair had any pre-existing health conditions that people were unaware of could also come into play in determining how toxic the football culture at Maryland is under Durkin's watch.

So, what can Maryland do with DJ Durkin, from a legitimate legal perspective?

To figure this out, let's (a) go over why we are focusing on the exact terms of Durkin's contract with Maryland, (b) highlight a few sections that may be triggered in determining what will happen with Durkin's employment status, & (c) use those sections to support the three potential scenarios - firing with "cause", firing without "cause", or keeping him.

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The Cost of Becoming a Nation of Laputans

In the Jonathan Swift classic Gulliver’s Travels the main character encounters an island in the sky called Laputa. The aristocratic residents of the island were described as being so engrossed in thought that they often required servants to prod them as they were walking so they wouldn’t walk into stationary objects and each other.

All anyone needs to do is look at crowds of United States citizens engrossed in their mobile devices while walking to see how much they represent Laputans in this regard, but the cost of being out of touch with their environment has more serious consequences than needing assistance to navigate walkways.

Governmental bodies, and the individuals with deep pockets who fund their election campaigns, at all levels have taken advantage of citizens’ disinterest and indifference to their activities to turn what was created to be a representative republic into an unconstitutional oligarchy. This has been evidenced at the city level by repeated abuses of “emergency measures” to bypass the need for approval of the populace at large before handing public dollars over to professional sports teams.

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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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Can an Event Host Cancel a Marathon Without Refunding Registration Fees?

I am officially at the end of the final stretch of marathon prep (translation: the "stay loose and rest" part!) because the Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon is only a few days away! As it stands currently, the weather for the race looks like "blah" October weather consisting of a sunrise 45 minutes into the race, mostly clouds in the morning, a 60% chance of rain that hopefully stays in the afternoon, 80% humidity, warm, and windy. That being said, this lawsuit is right within the marathon theme, and I figured it was worth discussing.

This year would have been the seventh annual Vancouver USA Marathon from September 15-17 had it not been cancelled a month beforehand. Energy Events, the marathon event's host, claimed it decided to cancel the event, which was supposed to include a full marathon, a half marathon, a 5K, a kids' race, a bike ride, and a beer festival, after "careful consideration for several weeks and reviewing the finances." Typically, the Vancouver USA Marathon has approximately 3,000 registered runners, but at the time of cancellation, only about 65% of that had registered.

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