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

What is the role of law with relation to sports
Need to protect a lot of individuals – athletes, fans, owners
In 1905 18 football players were killed
President Roosevelt stepped in and made it a criminal act to play football and Harvard had just put in a concrete football stadium
Forward pass
Didn’t exist before this
One of the options was to make the football field wider, but they couldn’t make it wider
Now, Harvard had to explain why the forward pass would help the game.
New net sizes after the collective bargaining agreement
Changing the rules
Changing the rules for drugs and steroids
What is in the best interest of the sport?
We now have safety nets all over the rink to make sure that nobody gets hurt by the puck
But, many more baseballs go into the stands than pucks
Pistons brawl was not in the best interest of the sport from any standpoint
Law steps in
There are instances where they are trying to regulate how big the strike zone should be bc baseball games are ending too quickly and we want to lengthen it.
Completely different than the law stepping in for the pistons brawl
A lot of people may say that it makes sense to step in for this type of thing.
The rules are the law.
Role of the Commissioner
CEO of the sport
First choice in 1967, he wanted to be general counsel and he was rejected
Richard Nixon
The fans, owner, broadcasters, merchandisers, guys who work in the stadium, players go into what’s the best interest of the sport
Deal with all the different forces
Big 3: players, owners, fans
Amongst the players
There’s usually some sort of players union           
Like a regular union except that unlike a union where everybody accepts the K’s , here, player’s union set minimum salaries and let the agents negotiate up from there
Rules in baseball are different from football which are different from basketball and different from Hockey
What works in one doesn’t necessarily work for another
Football has been successful from an owners standpoint
From a players standpoint, their salaries are lower and they are beat up more
Hockey had the highest amount of revenue coming in for the players
MLB has the best salaries and the least risk of injury for players
In NBA most players don’t make that much and it’s very physically demanding.
did we need Comerica park or was tiger stadium okay
Was Pontiac stadium okay for football or did we need ford field?
What about performance enhancing drugs and gambling?
Do they matter and do we care?
Commissioner looks at all the conflicting aspects
Drugs may be good…
Need to get fans back…
Legislature says something different…
What can commissioner legislate and what should they legislate?
When you have violence, you have a perception that changes how or who will come and watch the game.
Illegal drugs
Do we care that somebody has been taking coke?
Is it in the best interest of the sport that Pete Rose has been banned
What is truly the role of the commissioner in deciding what the best interest of the sport is
League à Commissioner at top
Authority and power of the commissioner
Protects the best interest of the sport as they see the best interest of the sport
Oversees the game
They are the CEO of this loose group
What is the source of his authority
Commissioner is chosen by the owners of the team.
We have a commissioner that’s set up through rules of the organization which have sometimes been created by the influence of the commissioner
Pg 57 of supp has major league baseball constitution
a)      to investigate any act suspected to be not in the best interest of the national game of baseball, with authority to summon persons and order production of documents
b)      to determine what remedial, punitive or preventive action is app

oration, they create their own rules.
What is right and wrong (public law), comes in and determines what these private institutions have created
The owners and managers of the Reds were to be under the authority of the commissioner and couldn’t make agreements with Rose due to the authority of Giamatti.
(The Reds tried to stop Giamatti from bringing suit because they said that he was biased towards Rose bc of his tax evasion. Court ruled that the Reds couldn’t stop the commissioner from bringing suit bc they too were under his authority due to the constitution of the MLB)
American League Baseball Club of NewYork (Yankees) v. Johnson (1919)
He pitches for the red sox and decides that he would rather go fishing
He walked off the field and went fishing the next day
The commissioner/president (Johnson) isn’t happy with this
Team owner wants to sell the pitcher to the Yankees bc he’s mad at him
The commissioner/president doesn’t like the owners response and wants to suspend him
The difference what the team’s rights were (selling the guy) as compared to the power of the commissioner
The commissioner ends up suspending Mays for deserting his club and breaking contract.
Yankees sued Johnson for suspending Mays.
The commissioner asserts §20 that the president can suspend a player
“The president in the performance of his duties, shall have the power to impose fines or penalties, in the way of suspension or otherwise, upon any manager or player who, in his opinion, has been guilty of conduct detrimental to the general welfare of the game.”