Column: Roger Goodell on Thin IceSeptember 14, 2014

It’s tough to feel any sympathy towards someone who earns $44 million a year, gets free access to any sporting event on the planet, and presumably doesn’t have to wait in line to be seated at his favorite restaurant. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may be the exception to the rule. Goodell has spent the last eight years overseeing the slickest, most efficient, Teflon-coated sport in America. Regardless of the controversy - be it inconsistent and oftentimes arbitrary player discipline, ham-handed negotiations with the players’ union, or the billion dollar concussion lawsuit – there have always been two constants. Goodell has continued to line team owners’ pockets and he has been rewarded handsomely for his stewardship. League revenue will approach $10 billion this year, on track to achieve Goodell’s stated goal of $25 billion by 2025. No wonder owners have been steadfast in their support of the man who has suffered the slings and arrows of the players, Congress and the media.

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Column: MLB Loses Suit on Media RightsSeptember 7, 2014

History can be dry and boring. After all, it’s so “yesterday” and most of us prefer to live in the moment. But if you’re a sports fan, the following bit of history is important to you so bear with me. This history lesson begins in 1922. A Supreme Court decision that didn’t have much of an impact at the time, today affects all sports fans. The Court ruled that baseball games were local affairs, not interstate commerce. As a result, the antitrust laws, which are designed to prohibit actions that unreasonably restrain competition, did not apply to the sport of baseball.

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Column: Colleges Sell Beer, Chase RevenueSeptember 1, 2014

The college football season opened last week and there are a number of changes from last year for the most popular collegiate sport. The most talked about change is The College Football Playoff, a Final Four style postseason format which has replaced the controversial BCS, where the two “best” teams in the land as voted by polls and computer rankings faced off for the national championship. But don’t count on the new format eliminating controversy. Selection of the four playoff participants will be determined by a 13-person committee, fraught with the same human biases and subject to the same intense politicking that pollsters and fans are all too familiar with. Instead of complaints from the second and third place teams, which were du rigueur under the previous system, be prepared for grousing from the fifth and sixth place teams.

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Column: Little League Is Big BusinessAugust 25, 2014

Despite her tender age, Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year old pitcher for the Taney Dragons Little League team in Philadelphia, qualifies as sports’ latest superstar. In the past two weeks, Davis has appeared on live TV pitching in the LL World Series in Williamsport, PA, graced the cover of Sports Illustrated (yes, the cover jinx is alive and well as Davis’ team was eliminated by Nevada), was interviewed by ESPN’s Karl Ravech, made the rounds of the morning talk shows and the evening news, and watched her autograph value soar into the hundreds-of-dollars per item. Whether all that exposure is healthy for a 13-year-old is debatable.

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Column: No Longer a Man's WorldAugust 15, 2014

“This is a man’s world; this is a man’s world…” It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, by James Brown That may have been the case in 1966, the year James Brown recorded his hit single that reached No. 1 on the Billboard R & B chart. But two recent female hires in the sports world suggest that, almost fifty years later, the world has changed. On July 28 the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) elected Washington, D.C, attorney Michele Roberts as its new executive director, marking the first time a women has headed up a Major League sports union. A week later the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs named Becky Hammon, a 16-year veteran of the WNBA, as an assistant coach. The moves were unrelated, except that combined they served to place an exclamation point on the concept of competence over sexual persuasion.

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Column: O'Bannon DecisionAugust 11, 2014

When I first began practicing law, a seasoned attorney gave me some sage advice. He said if the law was on my side, argue the law; if the facts were on my side, argue the facts; if neither the law nor the facts were on my side, pound the table. Apparently, the attorneys representing the NCAA in the Ed O’Bannon case received the same advice as they repeatedly pounded the table throughout the trial in June because they had neither the law nor the facts on their side. Therefore, it was no surprise when presiding Judge Claudia Wilken announced her decision last Friday, a mere six weeks after the conclusion of testimony. And it was even less of a surprise that she found for the plaintiffs, ruling that the NCAA violated federal antitrust laws by restricting student athletes from earning money from their likeness and image rights.

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Column: Orioles & Nats Spar Over Rights FeesAugust 4, 2014

During the recent MLB All-Star Game in Minneapolis Commissioner Bud Selig, in response to a reporter’s question, emphatically said that Montreal would be a viable market for a Major League team. Despite those comments, the odds of MLB returning to Montreal range from slim to non-existent. Selig has made it clear that he is opposed to relocating existing franchises and the league has repeatedly said it has no plans to expand. But Selig has good reason to lament the 2005 move of the Expos to Washington, D.C. where they became the Nationals. In order to facilitate the Expos’ relocation to what the Baltimore Orioles claimed as their territory, MLB and the Nationals were forced to make a number of concessions to Baltimore owner Peter Angelos. The feisty, unpredictable and litigious Angelos threatened to sue MLB until Selig and company sweetened the offer to the point where Angelos couldn’t refuse. One aspect of the resolution included the formation of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) for the purpose of broadcasting both Orioles’ and Nationals’ games.

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Column: Intrigue Surrounding Selig SuccessorJuly 28, 2014

The intrigue surrounding the search for Bud Selig’s successor shows that even successful individuals, usually a prerequisite to owning a Major League sports franchise, can be petty, selfish and subjective. Selig has held the title of baseball commissioner for 22 years, the second longest tenure of any of the sport’s commissioners. At 80 years old, he is determined to step down next January. Selig has been down this road twice before and each time has been persuaded to re-up for an additional term. While some owners have expressed a desire for a three-peat, the commissioner is adamant that this time he means what he says. To emphasize that point, in May he appointed a seven-person search committee and charged them with finding his replacement.

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Column: Rockies Owner Disses FansJuly 21, 2014

It’s obvious that Colorado Rockies’ owner Dick Monfort is stressed and frustrated. His team, which looked like a contender in the spring, recently hit rock bottom in the National League West. But that’s no excuse for the way he’s been treating the team’s fans. Monfort took issue with a fan’s responses on a comment card submitted after the fan attended the Rockies’ Fourth of July game. Rather than reach out to the fan in a positive manner Monfort sent him the following message: “If product and environment that bad, don’t come.” We don’t know what the fan said, but Monfort is the owner of the “product” and the person who controls the fan environment. Therefore, his comments were totally out of line.

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Column: NASCAR Teams Form AllianceJuly 14, 2014

A group of nine team owners representing 25 cars in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup series recently announced the formation of the Race Team Alliance (RTA), signaling a potentially seismic change in the sport of stock car racing. The RTA could be the best thing to ever happen to the sport and the worst nightmare for the France family, owners of NASCAR since it was first organized in 1948. Unlike traditional sports where the governing body is run by team owners who elect a commissioner, when Bill France, Sr. formed NASCAR he anointed himself as the benevolent dictator. Although the third generation of the France family now owns NASCAR, little has changed in how the sport operates. NASCAR sanctions races, negotiates national sponsorship and television contracts, disciplines teams and drivers, and makes up the rules of the sport as it goes along. In addition to NASCAR, the France family controls International Speedway Corporation which owns or operates 13 tracks that host 19 of the 36 races that comprise the Sprint Cup schedule.

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