native american mascots.jpgLegal battles over Native American mascots are being waged in both the professional and college sports arenas. The New York Times reports that the controversy over the Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota has gotten more complicated.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association advised the school, along with 17 other universities, to change its mascot three and half years ago, says Ashby Jones at the WSJ Law Blog. While other universities acquiesced, the Fighting Sioux fought back, filing a lawsuit against the NCAA.
The suit was starting to wind down, and the name was to change soon says the NYT, until members of the Sioux tribe decided to file a lawsuit of their own. To keep the name. They’re proud of it:

The members from Spirit Lake behind the lawsuit assert that many of the American Indians opposed to the Fighting Sioux nickname are simply from tribes other than the Sioux, and are jealous of all the recognition. (Opponents call this absurd.)

Eunice Davidson, 57, who says she is “full blood” and “grew up on this reservation” tells the New York Times: “I have to tell you, I am very, very honored that they would use the name.”
When we interviewed Amanda Blackhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation who has a petition pending before the Trademark Board about the Washington Redskins name, she expressed skepticism about Native Americans who defend tribal mascot names. She said they are in the minority.
This week, Fordham Law professor Sonia Katyal penned a column for Findlaw about the IP and First Amendment issues when it comes to racialized symbols. Why do we object to “Wong Brothers” but embrace the “Skins”?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Reservations About Native American Mascots”

Tiger Woods Rachel Uchitel Elin Nordegren.jpgUPDATE (3:07): The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) just held a press conference. FHP announced that Tiger Woods was found “at fault” in his traffic accident, guilty of careless driving. The fine is $164 and four points on his driving record. This ends the Florida Highway Patrol’s investigation.
FHP determined “that there was insufficient evidence to issue a subpoena for any further evidence. There are no claims of domestic violence by any individual.”
Hmm… No evidence, you say? It looks like not talking was in fact the smart thing to do.
* * * * * * * * *
Lawyers, members of the bar, law students, and others with a smattering of legal training: we all have a duty to stand up and defend Tiger Woods’s decision to keep his mouth shut. The mainstream media has this story completely wrong, and it is up to us — those blessed with a basic understanding of criminal jurisprudence — to educate the public about why Tiger is staying silent. We must explain to our mothers and fathers and doormen and bodega owners that Tiger probably has to keep his mouth shut, in order to keep his wife out of jail.
I’ve explained elsewhere that we are looking at a potential domestic violence situation. If some of the reports are true, Elin Nordegren attacked her husband, allegedly threatening him with a golf club.
Now this is the part that laypeople seem to be having difficulty grasping. Just because Tiger is a man doesn’t mean he gets to decide whether or not his wife gets prosecuted for domestic violence. Criminal law doesn’t work that way. If the police find that Elin Nordegren assaulted Tiger, then this process gets taken out of Tiger’s hands. Right now, shutting up is the only thing Tiger can do if he wants to retain a modicum of control over the situation.
Especially in Florida.
More details, after the jump.

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Tiger Woods Rachel Uchitel Elin Nordegren.jpgWe mentioned L’Affaire Tiger Woods in Morning Docket (first three links), but since it was the big story of the long holiday weekend, we thought we’d revisit it in more detail. This story has a number of interesting legal angles.
The most thorough coverage appears over at TMZ. Check out these posts, which thrown together could make for quite the law school exam hypothetical (we’ve included study questions with each one):

  • Cops Pursue Warrant in Woods Case: According to TMZ, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) may be “obtaining a search warrant — allowing them to seize medical records from the hospital that treated Tiger Woods — in an attempt to determine if the wounds Woods sustained are consistent with a car accident or domestic violence” (allegedly perpetrated against Woods by his wife).

Is there probable cause?
More links and questions appear below.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Some Legal Angles on the Tiger Woods Story”

redskins logo.jpgFor most of us, today is Thanksgiving! For a small segment of the population, today is the 2009 National Day of Mourning. The United American Indians of New England describe the day as:

An annual tradition since 1970, Day of Mourning is a solemn, spiritual and highly political day. Many of us fast from sundown the day before through the afternoon of that day (and have a social after Day of Mourning so that participants in DOM can break their fasts). We are mourning our ancestors and the genocide of our peoples and the theft of our lands. NDOM is a day when we mourn, but we also feel our strength in political action. Over the years, participants in Day of Mourning have buried Plymouth Rock a number of times, boarded the Mayflower replica, and placed ku klux klan sheets on the statue of William Bradford, etc.

The arrival of white folks from across the sea led to a Native American holocaust, theft of native lands, and the trivialization of Native American culture for the sake of national and college team mascots.
We’ve written a few times about the Native American battle to get the Washington Redskins football team to change its name. After a 17-year battle, the Native Americans lost a trademark suit against the team. The Supreme Court denied cert for the case earlier this month, meaning that the Redskins and their attorneys at Quinn Emanuel kept their laches victory. (As you certainly remember, not everyone at Quinn was pleased about that.)
In our post about the Supreme Court ruling, we asked:

Are we really going to make it through this entire case without any judge having to rule on whether or not it is appropriate to put “redskins” on a football helmet? Maybe not.

Drinker Biddle & Reath partner Philip Mause, who is representing the Native American plaintiffs, has another petition regarding the Redskins name pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The Board previously ruled in 1992 that “redskins” is defamatory and cannot be trademarked. But that decision was overturned in federal court due to the laches issue. The new case, though, is led by Amanda Blackhorse of the Navajo Nation; Blackhorse and her co-petitioners were in their late teens and twenties when they filed their petition, so the courts won’t be able to dismiss the case based on the time elapsed/age issue.
This petition means there might be a Drinker Biddle v. Quinn Emanuel, round two. We’ve got an interview with lead petitioner Amanda Blackhorse after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Washington Redskins Controversy: An Interview with Amanda Blackhorse”

Louisville slugger aluminum.JPGAt first blush, the judgment awarded to the parents of a fallen baseball player is enough to make a tort reformer vomit. The Helena Independent Record reports (gavel bang: Overlawyered):

After 12 hours of deliberation, a jury sided with the parents of former Miles City American Legion baseball pitcher Brandon Patch in a civil suit over the player’s death during a 2003 game in Helena.

Aluminum bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby Co. failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat used by a Helena Senators player during the game, at least eight of the 12 Lewis and Clark County jurors agreed Wednesday.

Hillerich & Bradsby Co. was ordered to pay $792,000 to Patch’s estate, which is represented by his mother, Debbie Patch, who filed the suit.

The jury felt the bat makers should have had some kind of warning about the dangers of batted balls at high speeds.
Seriously? On first blush, this verdict makes me want to hunt down jury members, scream “warning, terrible judgments could result in you getting hit with a bat,” and play pepper using their eyeballs.
But in my homicidal fantasy, I’m hitting eyeball grounders with a wooden bat, not an aluminum one. Are aluminum bats different, in a way that might partially explain the verdict?
More details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Do Baseball Bats Need Warning Labels?”

Susan Finkelstein Phillies sex.JPGWhat would you do to score World Series tickets? If you aren’t willing to do what this Philadelphia Phillies fan had in mind, then you aren’t really trying. Earlier this week, the New York Post reported:

A rabid Philadelphia fan — apparently believing the “P” on the team’s cap stands for “prostitution” — was busted yesterday for offering sex in exchange for World Series tickets, police said.

Susan Finkelstein, 43, was nabbed after allegedly soliciting an undercover Bensalem, Pa., cop who answered her innuendo-laced craigslist ad seeking the coveted ducats.

CBS has a full photo spread of Susan Finkelstein, in case you have two spare tickets for Saturday.
That’s right, she needs two. One for herself, and one for her husband.
UPDATE: Actually, it seems that she no longer needs tickets for the next game. (Gavel bang: commenter.)
Allegations after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Female Phillies Fans are Easy”

UT Austin school of law logo.JPGA battle went down the other day on a basketball court at Gregory Gym on the University of Texas – Austin campus. It’s a battle that has been fought across time and generations. It pitted a freshman defensive back from the Texas Longhorns (ranked #2 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll) and a UT law student (ranked #15 in the latest U.S. News law school rankings). Who hasn’t been a part of a strong kid v. smart kid fight?
The football player is freshman Kenny Vaccaro. The law student is Jonathon Fuhrman. The Austin-American Statesman takes it from here:

Fuhrman, who is identified as a UT student, told police Vaccaro and his friends were throwing basketballs at him. The affidavit said Fuhrman threw a basketball back at Vaccaro, hitting him in the head.
Fuhrman said Vaccaro then punched him in the face. The affidavit stated that Fuhrman, when he was interviewed by police, had blood coming from a cut lip.

Guys at my high school used to throw basketballs at future legal scholars all of the time. Then they would make love to all the women and be treated like gods. But now they all have multiple out-of-wedlock children and/or priors, while the future legal scholars enjoy prosperous careers and fulfilling romantic relationships. It was no big deal.
Will Vaccaro get punished for this? I’ll share some painful childhood memories, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Cornerback v. The Counselor”

Vick Eagles return.jpgThis Sunday marks Michael Vick’s official return to the National Football League–an event that has been widely criticized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”), as well as some sports writers and doggie bloggers.
What those who criticize NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstating Vick fail to understand, however, is that the NFL may have ultimately lacked any real choice. Had the NFL not reinstated Vick, Vick could have potentially filed an antitrust lawsuit against the 32 NFL clubs for concertedly refusing to deal with him. Even though such a lawsuit would have likely failed in the Second and Seventh Circuits (due to the holdings respectively in the Clarett and American Needle cases), a lawsuit against the NFL clubs would have likely gotten to a jury in the Third, Sixth, Eighth and D.C. Circuits–all places where professional athletes have previously won large antitrust settlements.
As a quick background in antitrust law, Section 1 of the Sherman Act, in pertinent part, states that “[e]very contract, combination … or conspiracy in the restraint of trade or commerce … is declared to be illegal.” Although most Section 1 claims involve restraints of trade related to product markets, the Sherman Act likewise prohibits restraints in labor markets, as long as these restraints occur outside of the proper workings of a collective bargaining agreement (“non-statutory labor exemption”).
Courts in general determine whether a particular restraint violates Section 1 of the Sherman Act in three steps. First, courts will determine whether a particular restraint emerges from a “contract, combination or … conspiracy” among two or more parties. Next, they will determine whether the restraint yields a net anticompetitive effect to consumers. Finally, they will assess whether any antitrust exemption would negate the finding of liability.
After the jump, how might a court weigh these factors?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sports And The Law: Why PETA Shouldn’t Blame Roger Goodell For Michael Vick’s Return”

American Needle v NFL logo.jpgFor those who have been following the Supreme Court case American Needle v. NFL (previously blogged about in more detail here, here, and here), this Friday clothing manufacturer American Needle Inc. will file its opening brief, arguing that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong to define the NFL as a single-entity under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
As many of you know, I have long agreed with American Needle’s view that the NFL should be treated as a collection of 32 separate clubs, and not as a single entity. To me, this issue was best resolved by the Second Circuit back in the 1982 case North American Soccer League v. Nat’l Football League, in which that court held “the sound and more just procedure is to judge the legality of [sports league] restraints according to well-recognized standards of our antitrust laws rather than permit their exemption.”
Currently, the Second Circuit’s view remains in the overwhelming majority, as seven previous courts have upheld this view and rejected the NFL clubs’ single-entity argument. The Seventh Circuit meanwhile remains alone in its iconoclastic position that single-entity status should be determined one league at a time, one function at a time.
American Needle’s counsel on this matter in the law firm Jones Day. The National Football League meanwhile is represented by Covington & Burling LLC–a firm where former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue serves as Senior Of Counsel.
Marc Edelman is a Professor at Barry Law School in Orlando, FL. He previously was a Visiting Professor at Rutgers School of Law-Camden. His bio is available here, and his publications, here.

quinn redskins.jpgWho can forget Quinn Emanuel’s victory in the 17-year-long dispute over the name “Redskins”? Above the Law readers will remember Robert Raskopf’s happy victory email … and the first-year associate who had a problem with the firm’s representation of the Washington Football club. The first year was (eek!) fired for reasons unrelated to his disagreement with the firm’s position.
But is the firm’s position as strong as Raskopf thought? The Blog of the Legal Times reports that the Redskins case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court:

The long-running dispute over the appropriateness of the “Redskins” name for the Washington D.C. NFL football franchise reached the Supreme Court today. Philip Mause, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath in D.C., representing a group of Native Americans offended by the name, filed a petition for certiorari in the case titled Susan Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc.

Was Raskopf’s victory email premature? More details, plus an UPDATE about the Native Americans’ game plan if SCOTUS doesn’t want to play, after the jump.

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