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Sports Law
Villanova University School of Law
Brandt, Andrew

Sports Law – Andrew Brandt – Fall 2017
Class 1 – 8/23/17
Two Sides to Most Disputes:
Front Office (GMs, scouts, lawyers, contract negotiators)
Player Unions/Associations
Officials & Officials’ Unions
Class 2 – 8/30/17
The Role of the Commissioner and the Law
The Commissioner
What kind of background would be useful?
Law, business, sports
What should commissioner’s role be?
Face of the league – show strength to media, players, etc.; compassion?
Who does he serve?
Technically owners but ideally, would be nice to rep both owners and players à best interest of the game
Serve owner — profits
Position of commissioner first originated in MLB
Scope of Authority
Commissioner, unlike CEO of corp, doesn’t act under direct supervision and control of the owner
Commissioner is an employee of the league but is not under direct control of the employer
General Powers
Decision-making: may disapprove contracts, establish policies/procedures, etc.
Dispute resolution: power to arbitrate disputes btw members of the association
Disciplinary power: power to investigate, prosecute, and even adjudicate
Other Duties:
Oversees player conduct policy & player discipline
Best interest of the league
Protect the integrity of the game
Select & employ referees
Public relations
Broadcasting & TV
Arrange & negotiate league contracts
Milwaukee Am. Ass’n v. Landis (1931)
First Commissioner = Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis (MLB)
Come as result of Black Sox Scandal of 1919 World Series – Shoeless Joe Jackson threw World Series
Need to find someone to restore reputation to the game
District Court in N. Dist. Of Ill.
Player Fred Bennett had been transferred several times btw St. Louis Browns and several minor league teams
All these clubs secretly controlled by Browns’ owner Phil Ball
Commissioner Kenesaw Landis refused to approve latest transaction and declared Bennett a free agent
Judge being asked to determine power of commissioner
P argues commissioner has no power to declare player free agent
D argues by reason of their denial of Bennett’s rights, the plaintiffs have made it commissioner’s duty to declare Bennett a free agent because commissioner is taking “such other steps as he might deem necessary and proper to interest & morale of the players and the game”
Holding: Under Major League Agreement, Commissioner was given juris to hear & determine any disputes btw leagues & clubs or to which player might be party and in case of “conduct detrimental to baseball,” to impose punishment… remedies… and “to take such other steps as he might deem necessary and proper in interest and morale of the players and the game”
Outcome of Landis case
Commissioner’s decision was made /wn his broad, undefined juris, and case dismissed
Following hiring of Landis in 1920, other leagues followed suit: NFL (1941); NBA (1967); NHL (1993)
Pete Rose v. Bart Giamatti (1989)
Pete Rose = baseball player; manager of the Reds
Revealed he was betting on games
Giamatti began investigation into Rose; hired Washington lawyer, John Dowd
Giamatti = baseball purist; Rose = a mess personally
Rose admitted he bet on other sports
Down apparently had evidence Rose bet on baseball – regularly bet on Reds’ games
Giamatti banned Rose from baseball – Article 1, section 2 = investigating nay act to be not in the best interests of baseball and to determine what action is appropriate to take against a club, league, or individual after investigation
Shows power by going after best player in baseball at the time
Rose trying to get to court
Pete Rose didn’t want Giamatti ruling on his case; wanted a judge
Rose agreed to settlement – withdrew his

Days before trial, Charlotte DA announced he was no longer pressing charges and case dismissed – Holder not cooperating
Hardy spent all but 1 game of 2014 season on paid leave, was reinstated, and became free agent in March and was subsequently signed by Cowboys
Handed 10 game suspension by NFL commissioner for violating personal conduct policy
Reduced to 4 games after an appeal by players association
Nothing happened in court of law but still punished by NFL
Career basically over
Ezekiel Elliot
On Aug 11, NFL announced 6 game suspension for Ezekiel Elliot to start this season, after an investigation spanning more than 1 yr. Suspension stems from domestic allegation made against Elliot in July 2016
Elliot’s ex-gf filed police report claiming Elliot had been abusive over course of 5 days in July 2016
Didn’t matter that he was rookie and not yet signed by Cowboys – he had been drafted so under power of commissioner/subject to bargaining agreement
If pre-draft & pre-contract, probs wouldn’t have gotten in as much trouble
Elliot officially filed an appeal on Tuesday after he was suspended. Hearing began on Aug 29 and concluded Aug 31
Sept 5 – suspension upheld
Sept 8 – injunction until lawsuit against NFL complete
NFL filed appeal to injunction
Elliot’s lawyers argued that NFL procedures were fundamentally unfair – never included complaining witness’ testimony; didn’t include finding that one NFL official found complaining witness to be unbelievable
Cowboys ownership = supporting player, not the league: weird