October 17, 2017 – Jeff Fannell spoke recently with Global News Canada (Hamilton, Oct. 16) about the collusion grievance filed by free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick against the National Football League. Kaepernick has remained unsigned this season after his much-publicized protest to bring awareness to police brutality and social injustice in the United States. Listen HERE for Jeff’s take on the grievance and the current state of athlete activism.
In a commercial spot for Nike in the late ‘80s, Spike Lee, in character as Mars Blackmon, wanted to know what made Michael Jordan so great. Mars wanted to know if it was Mike’s shorts, his socks, his shoes, or his haircut. Each time, Mike calmly replied, “No, Mars.” At the end of the commercial, Mars was not buying it, yelling, “It’s gotta be the shoes!” I was reminded of that commercial as I watched the video of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live broadcast. Brown, the star wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, decided it would be a good idea to live stream the Steelers’ locker-room celebration following their playoff victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. During the live recording, Brown captured some unflattering comments by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin that were directed at the New England Patriots, the Steelers’ next playoff opponent. A lot has been made of Tomlin’s comments, but that’s not the real issue. The bigger issues center on Brown’s judgment and motivation. Let’s take the easy one first: Brown didn’t exercise poor judgment, he exercised no judgment. No way (I hope) was his live broadcast the result of any kind of deliberate consideration. The second issue […]
The recent resurfacing of the 1997 sexual assault allegations against Peyton Manning while he was a junior at the University of Tennessee serves as a warning to many who are involved in or care about sports. For athletes it provides chilling proof that transgressions or alleged transgressions, even those that may be the product of youthful immaturity, never die. This is especially true today, in the era of enhanced technology capable of producing real-time recordings, images and video that can be preserved in various tangible forms or even in the cloud. Just when an athlete believes he is free to move on with his life and career, the past indiscretion will rise up in the spirit of Egypt’s Pharaoh and come searching for him again. For teams and universities, it heightens the need for thoroughness and transparency when dealing with allegations of improper or potentially illegal conduct. In Manning’s case, the University of Tennessee has been accused of covering up the facts of Manning’s alleged misconduct in order to protect its star quarterback and the university’s image and reputation. Now UT finds itself as a defendant both in a Title IX suit and in the court of public opinion. […]
Brother’s been busy and had been planning to get with you in a minute, but this Cam Newton thing has compelled me to the keyboard. Cam spoke out the other day about being an African-American quarterback who “scares” some people and that he receives some of the criticism because he’s black. On cue, scores of people became uncomfortable, defensive and downright silly, as is often the case when the subject turns to race. Why are you bringing up race? This is about football! This is about the N-F-L!! Well, I’m with Cornell West on this one – race matters. Always has, always will. How it matters may differ, but it always matters, and we should be mature enough at this point to be able to have an intelligent discussion about what remains a sensitive topic for many, particularly in the sports world. Instead, as it relates to Cam, we hear: He dances too much. The theory is Cam gets criticized not because he’s African-American, but because he celebrates too much. He claims he’s all about the team, the argument goes, but he just brings attention to himself. Really? I’m old enough to remember Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets, […]
The Washington Redskins have a new opponent in their court fight to retain their controversial trademark: the Obama administration. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice filed notice of its intention to intervene in the long-running battle over whether the Washington Redskins can legally maintain the trademark on their name. Last June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademarks upon finding that the marks and the name “Redskins” were disparaging to Native Americans. In the team’s appeal of that ruling the Redskins argued that the section of the Lanham Act that prohibits the registration of offensive trademarks was “overly vague and ambiguous” and impermissibly interfered with their First Amendment right to free speech. The team also claimed the ruling stripped the team its intellectual property rights in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The DOJ has joined the battle because the Redskins, in its appeal, raised a constitutional challenge against the Lanham Act, which is a federal law. The Department issued a statement declaring that it is “dedicated to defending the constitutionality of the important statute ensuring that trademark issues involving disparaging and derogatory language are dealt with fairly.” The statement went on to say that the Department will […]
“I’d rather have the experience of playing in the NFL and die 10 to 15 years earlier than not play in the NFL and have a long life. I don’t really look toward my life after football. I’ll figure things out when I get there. As long as I outlive my parents.” So said Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte, who has suffered a back injury, two concussions, a shoulder injury and an eye injury this season. What say you?
Score a victory for workplace justice. On November 28, arbitrator Barbara S. Jones, a former U.S. District Court judge, ruled that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell abused his discretion when he suspended Rice indefinitely following a previous two-game suspension for the same incident. Rice, as most know by now, was suspended two games and fined an additional week’s salary for hitting his then-fiancée Janay Palmer and knocking her unconscious inside an Atlantic City hotel elevator in February. Footage of Rice dragging Janay outside the elevator was available immediately and outraged many. Then in early September a second videotape showing what happened inside the elevator was released, leading to the Ravens cutting Rice and to the NFL suspending him indefinitely. Goodell justified this second (and more severe) penalty on the fact that Rice gave a “starkly different sequence of events” than what was captured on the second video. In overturning the NFL’s suspension Judge Jones found: While Article 43 of the NFL’s CBA (dealing with Club discipline) provides for just cause, Article 46 (dealing with League discipline) does not. This means Rice had to overcome a higher “abuse of discretion” standard. In other words, the NFL would prevail so long as […]
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has fired his agent Eugene Parker and has hired Jay Z’s Roc Nation to represent him. This reportedly has displeased Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has publicly stated how great a relationship he has with Parker, Bryant’s former agent. According to multiple sources Jones has said that Bryant’s signing with Roc Nation would make the Cowboys’ upcoming contract negotiations with Bryant “more difficult.” What in the world is up with THAT?? Players have the right, through their union, to have agents of their choice represent them in contract negotiations. Any owner or club official who interferes or attempts to interfere with that right is violating both the collective bargaining agreement and federal labor law. Jones’ public displeasure is reminiscent of the early days of sports agents when owners simply refused to deal with agents, despite the fact that players had properly designated them as their representatives. This is not only the height of arrogance, it is also dangerous. Players and their unions simply cannot allow any owner to even think that he or she can tell a player – explicitly or implicitly – who can be his agent. That Jones has a “great relationship” […]
NFL players will be subject to fines and perhaps even suspension for wearing non-Bose headphones during TV interviews, thanks to a new agreement between Bose and the NFL. The restriction requires players wearing non-Bose gear to cover up the competitor’s logo or else face punishment. The rule is in effect during practice sessions and on game days, starting from the opening kickoff and lasting until 90 minutes after play has ended. While it is not unusual for leagues to impose restrictions on player use of apparel or equipment in order to protect league sponsors, the NFL’s restrictions on headphones is of a different character. In the former situation, player apparel and equipment is viewed as part of the player’s uniform, which typically is team-issued. League restrictions, in such situations, are understandable. Headphones, on the other hand, are personal items that players purchase with their own funds. The NFL’s current restriction is in place because of a deal the league reached with Bose to outfit coaches with headphones. That’s what makes this hard to swallow. This is not a situation where the sponsor is providing players with apparel as part of its deal with the league and the league turns around […]
Over the years I made sure to encourage the students in my Sports Law classes to avoid, at all costs, becoming mere legal technicians. For a law student, being a legal geek may help you ace a law school exam, but it won’t make you a very effective lawyer. So, every now and then, when wrestling with a legal or policy issue, I tell my students to forget the precedent and the statutes, to put away the casebooks and the class notes and to simply ask, “What’s up with that?” Such a question sidesteps over-analysis and puts us in touch with our instincts, which is something every good lawyer needs to develop and rely upon. Recently, the reactions to developments in the sports world have revealed a troubling trend. Des Hague, CEO of Centerplate, a sports catering company, was caught on an elevator camera repeatedly kicking a Doberman pup and hauling it up by its leash. The public outcry was swift: nearly 200,000 people signed an online petition calling for Hague to be fired. A few weeks later, he “resigned.” Former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice was caught by an elevator camera knocking out his fiancée with a vicious […]