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Sports Law
West Virginia University School of Law
Cummings, Andre Douglas Pond

Sports Law Outline
Chapter One – Moral Integrity of the Sport: The Role of the Commissioner and the Law
A. What is the role of the Commissioner
What is the role of the Commissioner?
·        They are the president of the organizations. 
·        They are supreme voice for the best interests of the game. 
Pete Rose v. Bart Giamatti
Facts: The commissioner begins to investigate Rose for gambling on baseball.  Commissioner Giamatti hired Dowd to investigate Rose’s gambling & banned RRose for ruining the integrity of the game. The Commission believes that gambling sort of takes away from the honesty and competition of the game. Suit was bought in state court and Giamatti wanted the case bought in federal court because he thought it would be unfair to him as Cincinnati loved Rose.  Rose challenged the disciplinary authority but it was authorized by the Constitution of baseball. The case was moved to federal court because it was held to be a suit between the two individuals. Rose eventually dropped the suit because he could petition the commission to end his lifetime ban from baseball.
Rule: The commissioner derivates his authority from a contractual agreement with the owners. The courts have ruled that the commissioner can’t go outside of the contract. The commissioner has to act within the scope of the authority granted to him by the owners.
B. The Legal Scope of the Commissioner’s Authority
Prior to the “Black Sox” scandal, the owners did not give the commissioner a wide range of powers to control the league and act in the best interests of the league.
After the scandal, the baseball owners wanted a much stronger commissioner and their commissioner control became a model for other sports.
Authority was given from the owners to the commissioner – he was given broad power to discipline and act in the best interests of baseball
The commissioners have the authority to give lifetime bans for gambling violations because the power was given to them by the owners to help them promote the best interests of the sport.
When assessing whether a commissioner is acting in the scope of their authority, look at:
1.      commissioner’s power and authority
a.       contractual evaluation by looking at:
                                                                                       i.      circumstances of the contract formation
                                                                                     ii.      language of the contract
                                                                                    iii.      how the parties enforced and reacted to the contract
2.      look at past circumstances
a.       commissioner can act as long as not violating league rules
b.      other owners found that they believed the commissioner had the authority
Amer. Lg. Baseball Club of NY v. Johnson (1919)
The Red Sox sold a pitcher who walked off the mound to the Yankees. After the player was sold, the Yankees did not punish the player. The Commissioner of baseball then decided to punish the player by suspending him. This was taken to court and the judge said th

s within his scope of power to disprove of these contracts and can still do so in today’s world.
Rule: In assessing the measure and extent of the power and authority, consideration must be given to (1) the circumstances attending the creation of the office of Commissioner; (2) language employed in drafting contract; (3) changes and amendments; and (4) interpretation given by parties to their contractual language.
Atlanta National League Baseball Club & Ted Turner v. Bowie Kuhn (1977)
Facts: When the free agency system was established, the league also established anti-tampering rules prior to the draft. These rule said that a player can only talk to the club they were currently with during the pre-draft time. Turner violated the anti-tampering rules by contacting a player before the draft. Kuhn allowed the player’s contract with the Braves to continue, but he suspended Turner from baseball for one year and took away one of his draft picks.
Rule: The court held that the commissioner had the authority to enforce the rules and punish people for violating them. However, the court revoked the penalty in this case because it was not under the exclusive penalty list to revoke a draft pick. Basically the commissioner is bound by the league contract.