The NBA, Television Broadcasting Rights, and Collective Bargaining

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Television broadcasting rights in professional sports are a huge chunk of the revenue equation for professional leagues, and it isn’t very hard to see how that is the case. For example, the current NBA TV deal is worth about $930 million annually. In 2016, this deal is set to expire and current reports indicate that an extension is in the works that will pay the NBA over $2 billon annually for the rights to broadcast games on Turner and ESPN networks. When this deal comes to fruition, the revenue generated by the TV deal will dwarf the money coming in from any other source.

While the value of the NBA’s television broadcasting rights are staggering, the most interesting aspect of the new deal is how it will affect the collective bargaining process. In 2011, the NBA suffered through a lockout where owners claimed to be losing hundred of millions of dollars each year. For this reason, the owners argued, the player’s cut of the revenue needed to be scaled back. By the time the lockout ended, the owners had modest success in achieving this particular goal, pinning the player’s share of basketball related income back to between 49% and 51%. The previous basketball related income split was approximately 57–43% in favor of the players.

With the television revenue doubling by 2016, the owners will not have a leg to stand on if they again try to argue that teams are losing money. Considering the amount of money set to be on the table, the players are likely to fight for a bigger chunk. And if the owners aren’t reasonable about it, the league could be looking at another lockout.

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Packers CEO Wants to Enhance “Fan Experience” at Lambeau

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The Green Bay Packers have sold out every home game since the Fourteenth Century, right? Nothing to worry about when it comes to attracting fans and providing them a good experience, right?
Not right if you’re Mark Murphy. In an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on Tuesday, the president and CEO of the Packers described in detail the team’s efforts to improve the “fan experience” and to make Lambeau Field a year-round destination for events and experiences that extend well beyond game days.

Murphy told a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom that, as much as Lambeau is revered as a football shrine, until the large-scale renovation of the stadium in 2003, it was used for 10 games or so each year and not for much else. He called the decision to add a large atrium which includes the Packer Pro Shop and areas for eating and drinking “a brilliant decision” that opened the way to making Lambeau a year-round facility. “It completely changed the organization and particularly Lambeau Field,” Murphy said.

Murphy joined the team in 2008 and is overseeing several hundred million dollars in continuing expansion and improvements to Lambeau, including the addition of 7,000 seats, a new sound system, two HD video boards, and a large gate at the north end of the stadium. Read more »

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Common Sense Could Have Saved NFL from Domestic Abuse Furor

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Ray Rice. Adrian Peterson. These names used to cause fans to wax poetic about on-field performances the previous Sunday or potential blockbuster fantasy football trades. Now, mentioning them conjures up nothing but negativity.

The recent revelation of domestic violence issues in the National Football League has given the league something serious to think about. Once the beacon of how profitable and well-run a professional sports league can be, the NFL is now operating under a cloud shrouded in darkness. The league’s actions, or lack thereof, are coming under fire, and rightfully so. It is impossible to predict exactly what the investigation being headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller will reveal, but it is likely that it will reveal missteps on the part of the NFL in handling the domestic violence issue.

What further inflames the matter is that domestic violence involving NFL players is not a new controversy, yet a specific policy is just now being put forth. According to a database compiled by USA Today, domestic violence issues account for 85 of the 713 total NFL player arrests since 2000. A CNN story also recounted past NFL handling of domestic abuse episodes. Knowing this, it is bewildering that the Ray Rice situation was the catalyst for implementing a league-wide policy. Read more »

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Brutality Touches Down at Home

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imagesVR6YYD65Anyone living in the United States who has watched TV in the last two weeks is undoubtedly aware that the NFL is in the midst of a storm of bad publicity. First, we saw the chilling videotape of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice delivering a punch to the head that knocked out his then-fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer, and then roughly dragging her off the elevator and dropping her like a sack of potatoes on the floor. Only days later, the Minnesota Vikings found themselves in the midst of a similar scandal when their star running back Adrian Peterson was charged with felony child abuse in Texas, where it is alleged he beat his 4-year-old son with a “switch.” Perhaps learning from the debacle that ensued when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell originally imposed a meagre two-game suspension on Rice for his misdeeds, the Minnesota Vikings have suspended Peterson from games and team activities indefinitely, although since he continues to draw his $11 million dollar salary, he is hardly a sympathetic character at the moment. Meanwhile, the incidents involving NFL player violence against their partners and children keep surfacing.

A lot has already been said and written about these cases, and much of the discussion is thoughtful and educational. Numerous commenters, including New York Times columnist Michael Powell, have pointed out that we should not be so shocked that players who are rewarded for brutality on the football field revert to violent behavior at home. He makes an excellent point. After all, the NFL is not the only place where people who use force, sometimes brutal force, in their jobs have a hard time turning it off at home: the military and various police forces have faced similar issues. Moreover, we live in a society with a high tolerance for violence, at least violence of a recreational sort—as evidenced by numerous TV shows, video games and movies. Read more »

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Time for Changes in the Policies of Major League Soccer

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soccerMajor League Soccer (MLS) is the top-flight soccer league in the United States. Unlike professional soccer leagues in other nations, MLS does not use a federation model. In a federation model, a governing association controls each level of the sport, from the amateur ranks that play on Saturday afternoons to the highly paid professionals. In this structure, any team is theoretically capable of reaching the highest level of the pyramid because teams are promoted and relegated up and down the ranks at the end of each season. Instead, the structure of MLS is more akin to other American leagues: private associations in which the owners dictate operation in strictly professional ranks.

Like the other American sports leagues, MLS has largely seen its structure challenged under antitrust law. In Fraser v. Major League Soccer, 284 F.3d 47, 61 (2002), a group of players argued MLS teams’ agreement not to compete for player services was in violation of the Sherman Act. The First Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed because the appellants failed to make the requisite relevant market showing. Id. at 69. Further, the district court’s finding that MLS was a single entity for antitrust purposes was not reversed because the court did not need to decide the issue. Id. at 56.

Within the typical American league structure, the single entity antitrust exemption has not been widely adopted because teams do compete against one another for the services of players, fans, etc. While Fraser leaves the door open for further discussion of MLS and the single entity exemption, recent developments in MLS have revealed a window for claims under the law of private associations. While the remedies are not as lucrative as the treble damages in antitrust cases, the law of private associations could require the league to change its practices. Read more »

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Is it Time to Bring Back the Marquette Law School Baseball Team?

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Vintage BaseballEvery now and then the debate over whether or not Marquette should re-establish its varsity football team gets revived. Once a respected participant in the highest level of college football, Marquette unceremoniously dropped football in 1960. (See also here.)

In spite of its long tradition in sports law, it is a not well known fact that our law school once had its own baseball team. In his The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball: The Cream City from Midwestern Outpost to the Major Leagues, 1859-1901 (p. 324), Milwaukee historian Dennis Pajot notes that in 1895, a team called The Milwaukee Law Class competed with the city’s other amateur teams.

The Milwaukee Law Class, organized by the city’s law students in 1892, was Milwaukee’s first law school. In the mid-1890’s, its name was changed to the Milwaukee Law School, and in 1908, it was acquired by Marquette University. This is why the law school celebrated its centennial in 1992. (A second centennial celebration in 2008 marked the 100th anniversary of Marquette’s acquisition of the Milwaukee Law Class/School.) Read more »

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Remembering the 1964 All-Star Game

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johnny callison cardLast week’s Major League All-Star Game was pretty entertaining, as All-Star games go. The game was reasonably close throughout, and the outcome was never entirely certain until the final out was made. Even though the American League jumped off to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, by the middle of the 4th inning, the game was tied at 3-3. The AL went back up 5-3 in the bottom of the 5th inning, before the offense disappeared on both sides. Neither team scored after that point, and together they combined for only two hits and two walks.

The 2014 game also ended a string of somewhat one-sided games. In 2011 and 2012, the NL prevailed by margins of 5-1 and 8-0, while last year the American League shut out a hapless NL squad by a 3-0 margin.

Submerged in the discussion of the game were occasional references to the 1964 All-Star Game of fifty years ago. That game, one of the most exciting All-Star games of all time, was played on July 7, 1964, in recently opened Shea Stadium, the new home of the hapless New York Mets. Read more »

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Returning College Athletics to College Students

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kansas city chiefs football gamesThere is a simple way to end the hypocrisy that is modern college sport and at the same time preserve the much-beloved pageantry of men’s college football and basketball.

First of all, we need to embrace the idea that college athletics should be a part of the educational mission of colleges, and not part of their “providing entertainment” function. Subject to the exception for men’s football and basketball set out below, participation in college athletics should be limited to regularly enrolled students who chose to attend their college free from the enticement of special financial support.

The first step is to abolish all athletic grants-in-aid (euphemistically called athletic scholarships) except for those awarded in men’s football and basketball. Except for a few pockets of fan support for college baseball and hockey and women’s basketball, the simple fact is that most sports fans do not care about college sports other than football and men’s basketball. Read more »

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Why Did the Washington Redskins Choose the Name “Redskins” in the First Place, Rather than Some Other Native American Name?

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[This is a continuation of an earlier post, “Why the Redskins are Called the Redskins.”] 

In a recently “discovered” Associated Press story of July 5, 1933, owner George Preston Marshall of the National Football League’s Boston franchise is quoted as saying that he was changing the team’s name from “Braves” to “Redskins” to avoid confusion with Boston’s baseball Braves. This bit of evidence has been proclaimed to disprove the contemporary Washington Redskins’ claim that the name change was to honor the team’s newly appointed Indian coach, William Lone Star Dietz.

However, that is not necessarily the case. All the quote really establishes is that Marshall felt he had to change the team’s name before the 1933 season began; it does not necessarily explain why he chose the name “Redskins” as the replacement name. The name change was apparently necessary because Marshall had entered into an agreement for his team to play in Fenway Park in 1933, rather than in Braves Park, as it had done in 1932.

The story of how the team came to choose the name “Redskins” is a complicated one and for which the evidence is somewhat sketchy. Read more »

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Why the Redskins Are Called the Redskins

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Washington Redskins logoWith 50 United States senators signing a letter to the president of the NFL urging him to pressure Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the team’s name, and Congressman Henry Waxman calling for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings on the name, it is clear that the controversy over the name “Redskins” has yet to subside.

In the Wednesday, May 27, Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney purported to rebut the Redskins’ claim that the team was named the Redskins in honor of its Native American coach William “Lone Star” Dietz (whom, it turns out, may not have been an Indian at all, but that was clearly unknown to team owner George Preston Marshall at the time.)  The source of McCartney’s proof is a July 6, 1933 AP story that quoted Marshall to the effect that he changed the team’s name from “Braves” to “Redskins” so that he could avoid confusion with the Boston Braves of baseball’s National League and so that he could continue to use the team’s new Indian head logo.

McCartney is clearly correct on that point.  The team already had a Native American name (Braves) when it signed Dietz as its coach.  The name was changed, as Marshall indicated in the above quote, because the team was moving to a new venue within the city of Boston.  (The team did not move to Washington until 1937.)

Here is the story: Read more »

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Mitten Elected President-Elect of Sports Lawyers Association

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mittenLast week, the Sports Lawyers Association held its 40th annual conference in Chicago. Unsurprisingly, the Law School had a strong presence at the conference, which boasted more than 800 attendees. Current students, alumni, National Sports Law Institute Board Members, and several faculty members (Professors Anderson, Braza, Cervenka, Mitten, and yours truly) all attended the conference. Professors Anderson and Mitten both spoke on panels during the conference.

In addition, Professor Mitten was elected as the president-elect of the Sports Lawyers Association, which is a national and international group of more than 1,700 members consisting of sports industry professionals, sports lawyers, and sports law professors. Professor Mitten will become the organization’s president in May 2015 and serve a two-year term. Congratulations, Professor Mitten!

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Why Are There So Many Major College Post-Season Conference Basketball Tournaments When Forty Years Ago There Were Almost None?

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In the modern world of college basketball, every Division I conference except the Ivy League sponsors a post-season conference tournament. In 2013, there were 31 such tournaments.

For teams that have played extremely well during the regular season, these tournaments are not crucial but a good performance can improve a team’s seeding in the NCAA tournament. For teams on the proverbial bubble, a good performance, even short of a conference championship, can be enough to push a team into the field of 68.

For teams that have no chance of being selected for the post-season on the basis of their regular season performance, their fans can always hope for a miracle run that will allow them to claim their conference’s championship and its automatic bid to the “Big Dance.”

It is not hard to understand the popularity of these tournaments. They bring together into a single building all of the conference’s teams as well as a congregation of fans from across the conference. Some fans are willing to spend large sums to attend the tournament in person, and thousands more are happy to watch it on television or listen to the games on the radio. Fans of underperforming teams know that somewhere out there in the basketball stratosphere there is a team with a losing record that is going to catch fire and will end up matching the NCAA tournament. With luck, that team will be their team.

However, students of the history of college basketball know that 40 years ago, such tournaments were quite rare in major college basketball. Although district championship tournaments were ubiquitous in high school basketball in the 1950s and 1960s, they were once shunned by college conferences. Read more »

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