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Sports Law
Wayne State University Law School
Schnieder, Deborah M.

Sports Law Outline
I.                   Best Interests of the Sport: The Role of the Commissioner and Other Governing Authorities
–          Long-standing assumption that it is up to the Commissioner to protect the best interests of the sport from detrimental behavior of league members
o       Authority to regulate players
§         Assess fines for conduct, change contracts, eligibility
o       Establish Schedules
o       League Championships
o       Supervise Officials
o       Negotiate Television and Merchandising Contracts
A.                Pete Rose v. Bart Giamatti – pg. 3
–          To what extent should public law, speaking through judges, venture to overturn decisions made by private leagues, speaking through their commissioners?
–          The Cincinnati team was not a true party to the suit for jurisdictional purposes, because the individual member clubs had no control over the commissioner in his exercise of disciplinary authority.
–          The parties agreed in their contract with the MLB that they agree to submit themselves to the discipline of the Commissioner, and to accept his decisions rendered
–          Class Notes:
o       Where does the source of this authority come from to have this type of action?
o       The league constitution (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL)
o       Do we have a due process requirement? We don’t need due process in sports. You have to follow the procedure of the league constitution.
o       What is the role of courts in reviewing a league’s decision?
B.                 The Legal Scope of the Commissioner’s Authority
–          The Commissioner has to answer in court as to whether his conduct comported with whatever is required by a court respecting due process
–          Commissioner has the job of protecting the best interests of the game and acting as the CEO of an organization.
o       The commissioner is chosen by the owners of the various teams.
Mays case: see victory of individual team rights. Commish only had control over actions on the field
Landis Era
–          Landis took MLB on the condition that he was to be given complete authority and the Major League Agreement was rewritten to reflect these new broad sweeping powers.
o       Landis regulated conducted detrimental to the game.
Milwaukee AM. Ass’n v. Landis (1931) – pg. 10
–          Under the Major League Agreement, the office of commissioner was created, and his functions defined
–          A submission to an arbitrator or an umpire in good faith is proper, and decision under the same is binding,
o       Unless it is unsupported by evidence, or unless the decision is upon some basis without legal foundation or beyond legal recognition
–          The Commissioner has the power to declare a player a free agent and absolve the player of his contract with the club
–          The Commissioner is given almost unlimited discretion in the determination of whether or not a certain state of facts creates a situation detrimental to the national game of baseball
o       Since commissioner was given authority by the player and owners his exercise of those powers can only be reviewed for arbitrariness or fraud.
Court will not intervene unless:
i) Rules and regulations violate law; or
ii) Parties to decisions are not afforded a degree of due process (thus, courts will still review a decision to ensue some due process has been afforded, however, they will not intervene absent the above)
Even if there is a clause that there is no review by the courts there will always be judicial review to determine if the no judicial review clause is ok
Charles O. Finley v. Bowie Kuhn (1978) – pg. 13
Facts: A’s owner, Finley sold K rights to Yankees and Red Sox. The commissioner disapproved the assignments.
Issue: Can the commissioner void a K that is not the best interests of the game?
Hold: Commissioner has the right to void assignments if it is in the best interests of the game
–          The Commissioner of baseball is vested by contract with the authority to disapprove player assignments which he finds to be not in the best interests of baseball
–          In the absence of a waiver of recourse provision in an association charter, it is generally held that courts will not intervene in questions involving the enforcement of bylaws and matters of discipline in voluntary associations
–          Factors that Determine the Authority of the Commissioner
o       History of insulation from review
o       The Language of the ML Agreement
o       Changes in the language over time
o       Interpretation of the Contract in the past
–          Finley’s theory was based on a breach of contract theory.
National League and Ted Turner v Kuhn- Commissioners authority to discipline owners
Facts: Kuhn suspended Turner and took away draft picks. Reason being Turner tampered with the free agency process by telling another owner that he would go very high for one of his players about to be on the market.
Hold: Commish has authority to act with in possible sanctions, can’t take draft pick
Commissioner can’t act beyond powers prescribed to him
–          MLB agreement now covers moral and financial issues for the best interest of the game
Chicago Cubs v. Vincent
Commish can not unilaterally amend constitutional provision because it is not in the BIOFTG.
–          restructuring of the act is not a reaction to an “act”
–          Cubs win!!
o       Legal Theories we could bring to challenge commissioner’s authority
§         Breach of Contract
§         Tortious interference
§         Labor
§         Antitrust
§         Due process or equal protection
§         American Disability Association cases
§         Worker’s comp
C.                Challenges To the Best Interest of the Sport
–          How should the commissioner address issues raised in contemporary life about the best interests of the sport?
–          Actions that take place off the field of play, but may threaten the welfare of the game.
–          The role of the media and how you deal with the media is very important.
o       Should there be a distinction between on and off the field incidents?
1.         Gambling
Molinas v. National Basketball Ass’n (1

d use to challenge the commissioner is under the ADA.
NFL Mgmt Council v. NFLPA
Class Notes: Two MIA D’phins were arrested for unlawful distribution of cocaine
Commish states that resulting obligations of personal conduct are not just owed to the League, they are owed to the public, to the teams with which they players are associated, and to each and every other professional football player. The game itself can be honored or dishonored by its own participants.
NBA Rules: Re: Drugs
–          Decision of commish holds if he believes conduct of plyr is a threat to the integrity of the game
o       Discipline for behavior that is “prejudicial or detrimental to the Association” but that does not implicate the “integrity of, or the maintenance of public confidence in, the game of basketball” can be reviewed by the arbitrator under the traditional “just cause” standard.
§         However, for conduct that raises concerns about “the preservation of the integrity of, or the maintenance of public confidence in, the game of b-ball” and which consists of “a fine and/or suspension that results in a financial impact to the player of more that $25k.
–          The role of labor law as it relates to the power of the commish and how it relates to what he can and can’t do.
o       Think about the different leagues and the powers of each commish
§         MLB commish has less power than others around the various leagues.
– Is it fair to use performance enhancing drugs if everybody has the same opportunity to use them?
3.         Drug Testing
–          What should be done to prevent future use of drugs
–          The Leagues Players’ Associations didn’t want random drug testing
o       Pro’s: Looking for more of a banned substances listed
o       NCAA: Wants to ban drugs period. Recreational, Legal and Illegal
Hill v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (1994) – pg. 57
–          Facts: Athletes from Stanford brought action against NCAA, alleging that its drug testing program violated their state constitutional right to privacy
–          Held: Unlike, a government ∆, the NCAA need only establish that its program furthered an “important” interest.
–          The NCAA’s drug testing policy does not violate California’s constitutional provision protecting privacy b/c its legitimate regulatory objectives outweigh a student-athlete’s diminished expectation of privacy.
–          Drug Testing Program
o       Athletes must
Disclose medications and information about their physical