Sunday, December 21, 2014

UFC Facing its Toughest Fight

It is a common occurrence for sports leagues to come under antitrust violations from other sports leagues (see USFL v. NFL, 842 F.2d 1335), sponsors (see American Needle Inc. v. NFL, 560 U.S. 183), and even its own athletes (see Brady v. NFL).  Whatever the case, plaintiffs charge that the sports league in question is somehow engaged in unfair or noncompetitive practices.  The basic test for antitrust violations is to first identify a specific market, and it is here that the leagues find themselves exempt.  For example, the National Basketball Association is made up of 30 teams, but it is considered a single entity in the overall market for professional basketball.  This allows the league to escape antitrust from other leagues.  With the players and athletes, the leagues set up a collective bargaining agreement with the respected players union which prevents antitrust charges from the players.  All this has worked for years with major professional sports leagues such as the National Football League and Major League Baseball.  However, a recent lawsuit filed against the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brings interesting questions about its labor practices and the rights of the fighters.

The class action lawsuit, filed by current and former fighters, allege that the UFC illegally restricts the fighter’s earnings by preventing them from competing in other mixed martial arts promotions and commanding a share of the fighter’s likeness fees for video games.  When such issues are presented to a league such as the NFL, the answers can usually be found in the collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union.  The problem here is that the UFC has no such agreement with any fighter’s union and instead contracts with the individual fighters.  Thus, the question is if the UFC is unfairly restricting these fighters from competing in other MMA promotions?

This case presents a shaky area for the UFC due to the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, something the NFL uses to escape antitrust from its players.  The suit was filed on Tuesday, December 16 of this year so it will be a long while before any answers appear.  Further, though only three fighters are named in the suit, there is no telling how many more are currently or will become a part of the action.

Leonard Large, Managing Editor

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Law Enforcement & the Media- First Amendment Protection

After the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, much of the public has questioned what exactly does the First Amendment protect? Are we, as a civilized and democratic society, allowed to record officers in uniform as they make an arrest? As they arrest us? Is it illegal to do so? If an officer asks us to stop recording, should we stop? Should we forfeit our phone and be required to delete the recording?

To put it simply, no. The United States is unique in that it protects free speech in order to prevent suspicious arrests and arbitrary stops. So, what happens if an officer is making an arrest and I want to record it, whether the officer knows it or not? I can. The First Amendment allows us to record officers while they are on duty. Since officers have no expectation of privacy while on duty, wiretap laws are normally inapplicable. Unless a person is interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations, recording an officer is legal. The media has embraced this protection, particularly protestors angered by the lack of indictments of the two police officers who killed unarmed civilians.

Some states like Illinois are attempting to restrict a citizen's ability to record officers while making an arrest, however this bill has yet to pass and is unlikely to be constitutional if it does pass.

Until then, it is YOUR RIGHT to record an officer.

Nadin Said, Editor-in-Chief.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is the NFL Going Up In Smoke?

According to a recent New York Times article, more than 500 former NFL players are suingthe National Football League for football-related brain damage. Attorney Jason Luckasevic became enraged with the NFL when his brother’s boss, forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu, confirmed the connection between football and brain damage. Talking with and examining former pro players, Omalu determined patterns of brain injury from autopsy specimens of deceased players. In addition, there are numerous examples of cognitive and behavioral changes in former players such as headaches, sleeplessness, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsonism, among others. Omalu received violent backlash when he published his findings in 2005 and Luckasevic was determined to find a way to support Omalu’s findings—hence, the lawsuit. The complaint is based on the contention that players knew their bodies would be put in jeopardy when they signed up to play the game of football, but they were not aware that their emotional and intellectual well-being would be jeopardized as well. Unfortunately, the players may not receive the damages they are entitled to should the suit be barred by the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. First filed in 2011, the suit is now moving to final settlement, raising many issues and implications to consider while we wait to see how this all turns out.

Football’s class action suit is being compared to what happened to the tobacco industry. Far-fetched at first glance, I think there is real merit to this idea. The tobacco industry thrived for a while and then once everyone realized, based on sound medical data, what it meant for one’s health and well-being, the industry virtually died. Similarly, football is thriving and is easily the most watched sport in America, bringing in $9 billion just last year. Yet, Omalu’s findings have surfaced its short and long term dangers. Perhaps football, like the tobacco industry, will fall to the wayside in favor of safer, less contact heavy sports.

As a result of the medical findings supporting this lawsuit, we can imagine terrible implications for the future of football. Professional contracts may include head injury waivers, leading to fewer athletes to opt into the field. More athletes at all levels may be wary to play at all—it is not difficult to imagine that parents will be apprehensive to let their little ones play in the first place, let alone at the collegiate or professional level. Schools may discontinue their football programs altogether, especially if they cannot sustain medical experts at their fields for practices and games. Should football fall from grace, their annual revenue will be nowhere near the $25 billion Roger Goodell predicts it will be in 2027. Yet, perhaps the athletes who would have played football will now populate into other, “less risky” sports like baseball or basketball. We could see a huge increase in those sports’ popularity and revenue as football’s declines.

There is no way to say if this grim future of football is or is not likely to become reality. But it is important to see that one attorney’s will can put a multi-billion dollar franchise in jeopardy.

- Samantha Albanese (Staff Editor, Denver SELJ)