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New Legislation May Lift Ban on Using American Credit Cards for Online Gambling

Saturday, May 9th, 2009
Barney Frank

Barney Frank

Currently in the United States it is illegal for Americans to use credit cards to place bets of any kind online.  This rule was enacted in 2006 under the Uniform Internet Gambling Enforcement Act  (UIGEA).  Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) seeks to repeal the UIGEA and make it possible once again for American banks to allow their customers to place bets online.  http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/frank-bill-authorize-online-gambling-1282.php.

Although a person may get around the UIGEA regulations by using foreign companies to place bets; repealing the UIGEA is a much simpler alternative.  Frank argues that the government should not interfere with a persons liberty interest to make online bets.  The new legislation  is called the Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act and establishes framework that would allow online operators to obtain licenses to accept bets from U.S. residents.  In order for the operators to obtain a license, they would have to meet strict requirements and pass background checks.

Allowing Americans to place wagers online while doing it in a matter that protects the consumer and requires background checks of online operators can only be beneficial.  The online gambling business currently generates $10-$12 Billion a year, and the U.S. is being cut out of the action.  This new law if enacted would be good for the U.S. economy and good for the American entrepreneurs while protecting consumers who are using foreign websites to meet their gambling needs.

Seattle Business Lawyer

Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Blames Supplement Maker for Suspension and Files Suit

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

6-oxoPhiladelphia Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero was suspended for the first 50 games of this season after testing positive for steroids last year.  Romero filed a lawsuit against nutritional supplement manufacturer ErgoPharm, Inc. for manufacturing the supplement 6-OXO and 6OXO Extreme without indicating on the label that the supplement included Androstenedione (“Andro”), a MLB banned substance.  http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4105353

Patrick Arnold, a chemist who runs ErgoPharm and has a history working with steroids, put out a statement claiming that there is a warning label on the 6-OXO  supplements which states “Use of this product may be banned by some athletic or government associations.”

In order to have a product liability claim for having an inadequate warning label, a plaintiff must prove that the average person looking at the warning label would find that the label failed to warn of possible dangers or cause consumers to not understand, be  confused by, or find the warning label is not properly visible.  The outcome of this case is extremely hard to predict as the case will probably be tried in front of a jury.  Juries can be extremely unpredictable and nothing is ever guaranteed no matter how good a case a party may have.  In any event, if Romero’s lawyers can prove that the warning was inadequate, he will probably be entitled to damages in the form of lost salary due to the suspension and possibly punitive damages to make an example of the company.

Athletes use supplements at their own risk, but it should be the manufacturers who are held accountable if they are aware of potentially banned substances being included in their supplements and not giving proper warnings.  In order to help athletes make better choices when choosing supplements to put in their body, major league sports should be required to provide a list of approved substances if they don’t do it already.  Thus, if a player tests positive from the use of an approved supplement they shouldn’t get in trouble and risk losing salary due to unjustified suspensions.

Seattle Sports Lawyer

Welcome to the Seattle Sports, Entertainment & Trademark Lawyer Blog

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Trademark and Copyright Attorney in Seattle WashingtonWelcome to the Symmes Law Group, PLLC’s – Sports, Entertainment & Trademark Lawyer Blog.  This is an interactive blog that details current events in sports, entertainment, and trademark law as well as discusses legal issues and projects that are currently being undertaken by Seattle trademark lawyer Richard Symmes and Symmes Law Group, PLLC.

Symmes Law Group strives to build long-term relationships with our clients throughout the Seattle metro area as well as around the world by offering unparalleled personal service.  If you are need of a legal representation in association with your trademark or entertainment matters  please contact Symmes Law Group, PLLC today at [email protected] or call 206-682-7975 to set up an initial consultation.

How Facebook and Twitter are Affecting Major Sports and Individual’s First Amendment Rights

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

                                         

facebook

twitter1

 Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have made a profound impact on the world of sports, especially in the past few months. Some leagues and sports teams have taken the stance that postings should be censored or eliminated, which could violate an individual’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights. 

 

Twitter is a social networking site in which users post real time updates in 140 characters or less for their followers to read.  Coincidentally many athletes and individuals involved in the sports world have decided to become involved in the Twitter revolution and publish their thoughts online for everybody to see.  The phenomenon has affected the NBA the most.  When Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva decided to Tweet at halftime during a game last month, he was heavily criticized by his head coach Scott Skiles who has since banned Twitter from the locker room. http://nba.fanhouse.com/2009/03/17/skiles-no-tweeting-in-the-locker-room/  The coach’s argument was that tweeting during half time gives the appearance that his team is not focused.  Other popular NBA personalities such as Shaquille O’Neal and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have climbed aboard the Twitter bandwagon and post about such things as new endorsement deals to bad officiating. Cuban was fined 25K when he criticized the officiating in a game last month.  http://nba.fanhouse.com/2009/03/28/mark-cuban-rips-refs-on-twitter/

 

Facebook is a hugely popular social networking site in which users can reconnect with old friends, share pictures, and also start and join fan groups such as the group “John Wall Please come to NC State!!!!”  There are several groups on Facebook that attempt to encourage a recruit to attend a particular school.  However the NCAA has taken objection to fan groups on Facebook that could influence a student athlete to choose one school over another and believes that the groups violate NCAA rules.  The NCAA has attempted to take action against individuals who start groups such as the one mentioned above.  Such action could include refusing to sell tickets to individuals who start such groups and dissociation from an athletic program.  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/collegesports/2009021968_facebook11.html

This begs the question, should the NBA, the NCAA and other sports governing bodies be able to limit an individual’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights. 

The NBA is a private entity who employs and regulates individuals who must abide by the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and team rules.  As a private entity with their own set of rules and regulations, the organization may limit what employees and those associated with the league may say.  The team’s are who is paying an NBA players salary and if the players don’t like the rules, then they can play somewhere else.  If the NBA felt that Twitter was a problem, they could add a rule banning it from locker rooms and limit the content to non NBA activities if they felt that the tweeting was getting out of hand.  At the moment the NBA has not indicated that they will seek to limit the use of Twitter among those associated with the NBA.  In Cuban’s case, criticizing an official in any medium whether online or not when you are an NBA owner is grounds for a fine. 

The NCAA is also a private entity, however many universities are public and cannot limit the speech of individuals as long as the speech does not fall into a regulated category such as being obscene or inciting violence.  A University may always refuse to sell tickets to whomever they please or choose not to let an individual participate in University sponsored events.  However any other action taken that could limit speech would not be allowed.  Therefore if an individual seeks to start a Facebook group and has no intention of attending a game or interacting with a University they have little to worry about in terms of getting in any serious trouble as they are not governed by the NCAA.  However the NCAA could decide to punish schools who allow such groups to be formed.  I have trouble seeing how these types of groups will be regulated in the future unless the NCAA forces Facebook to restrict such groups by threatening to pull all NCAA related content from Facebook, such as March Madness Brackets or other fan groups.

With Twitter and Facebook still in their infancy it will be interesting to see how they evolve and continue to influence the world of sports and entertainment.

New York Jets Fans’ Suit Thrown Out of Federal Court

Thursday, March 26th, 2009
Carl Mayer

Carl Mayer

Many NFL football fans have been disappointed in their team’s performance at one point or another.  That doesn’t mean that said fans should be able to go out and sue their team or other teams for the conduct of a teams personnel or coaching staff for actions not causing actual damages to fans.  One New York Jets Fan thought differently.  Carl Mayer, a Jets season ticket holder and solo attorney from Princeton N.J. thought it would be a good idea to sue New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the NFL over the infamous taping of Jets signals by the Patriots back on September 9, 2007.http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202429353302&rss=newswire

As a young lawyer I thought to myself what kind of lawyer would even consider taking a case that seems impossible to win.  For a plaintiff to win a case, they must suffer some sort of damages.  I don’t see how Mayer could have incurred any kind of damages simply from being a fan of a NFL team that was cheated against.  Luckily for Mayer, he is a solo attorney himself and can incur the financial responsibility of bringing a case in federal court himself.  He also cannot get anybody else in trouble for bringing a frivolous claim in which the courts may impose sanctions against an attorney if they deem proper. 

Mayer claimed the videotaping “violated the contractual expectations and rights of New York Jets ticket-holders who fully anticipated and contracted for a ticket to an honest match played in compliance with all laws, regulations and NFL rules.”  Mayer also claimed tortuous interference with contractual relations and violations of the state Consumer Fraud Act, Deceptive Business Practices Act and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.  Mayer sought statutory, punitive and compensatory damages, restitution, equitable relief and attorneys’ fees on behalf of fellow season ticket-holders.

It is not the best time to be a lawyer these days with the economy in shambles, but Mr. Mayer must have had way too much time on his hands.  The costs of bringing such a case and lost income due to time spent on this case far exceeds any damages (the costs of season tickets) that he could expect to receive.  The Federal Court ruled that the seller of tickets to an entertainment event “does not contract to provide the spectacle, only to license the plaintiff to enter and view whatever event transpires.”

If this suit were allowed to continue fans would be suing their teams for every bone head personnel or coaching mistake that occurred on a field or court in any sport.  The legal Court dockets are backed up with cases that actually matter; I really hope that Mr. Mayer does not appeal this case.  If a fan is not interested in a team or league don’t go to the games or watch on T.V. That is a much easier and economical solution to filing a federal lawsuit. 

NFL Discipline Policy Challenged

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

nfl1Sports attorney David Cornwell is attempting to change the way the NFL hands down discipline to NFL players who breach the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3962086

The NFL, unlike the NBA or MLB has a system in place in which discipline handed down by the commissioner may not be challenged.  Cornwell is arguing that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s rulings should be able to be appealed to an outside arbitrator who will make a binding ruling.  Any new discipline policies must be included in the new CBA as the NFL has opted out of the current CBA agreement which expires at the end of the 2010 season.   http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d5d80868b78&template=without-video&confirm=true

NFL players would definitely benefit from having a new system in place in which they could appeal commissioner rulings.  The hard part will be trying to get the NFL to agree to the changes so that they can be included in the new NFL CBA.  For the new policy to be included in the new CBA the NFL Players Association will have to make some concessions and it should be noted that if an agreement is not reached by the end of the 2009 season, then the 2010 season will have no salary cap.  This means that owners would be free to overspend on players and NFL athletes would be the beneficiaries.  It would be most beneficial to the players association to hold out until the end of the 2010 season to reach an agreement on a new NFL CBA.  However the NFLPA could use the new disciplinary policy as a bargaining chip to getting a deal done before the end of 2009.  For instance they could say in exchange for us agreeing to a new CBA early, you have to include a new disciplinary policy.

I would look to see this policy being implemented in the new CBA in 2011 since the players association has a big incentive not to come to terms until after the 2010 season is finished due to the lack of a salary cap.

 

Entertainment Venues May Be Forced To Abandon Pat Down Searches at Events

Friday, March 6th, 2009

pat-down2I have never really understood the purpose of the entertainment venue pat down and search.  I am all for safety, but if searches are going to be conducted, they should be done right.  Not using metal detectors and searching every purse and bag only holds up lines to get into venues and the majority of searches, especially at sporting events is a waste of time.  If a person really wants to sneak in a weapon it’s not hard, simply stick the weapon down ones pants.  Last I checked full body cavity searches aren’t part of the entertainment experience, well not yet anyways.

In San Francisco a couple of 49er fans have had enough and sued the 49ers.  The fans claim that the pat down searches violate their right to privacy.  The California Supreme Court ruled last week that such a search may violate a person’s right to privacy.     http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202428738944&rss=newswire.  The case was remanded back to the California Superior Court due to an insufficient record.  The lower court must determine whether the search measures put in place have a specific purpose and whether that purpose in narrowly tailored, meaning the searches must be less intrusive than alternatives.

The NFL instituted a pat down search policy in 2005 which could be in jeopardy.  I am somebody who on rare occasions carried out similar search policies while working for the NBA’s Seattle Sonics and I can tell you that these policies are unjustified, carried out half assed, and cause fans to get restless if they are subjected to waiting in long lines due to searches after a game has started.  In some cases while I was working, the policies were completely abandoned right before tipoff due to the long lines and complaints.  A professional franchise doesn’t want to risk losing season ticket holders due to the searches so they may cave in or often times most of the searches are being conducted by temp event staff workers who don’t feel like getting yelled at by fans.

If the NFL or any other entertainment venues wants to conduct searches, they should use metal detectors.  Metal detectors are more effective in identifying weapons, less intrusive, and won’t hold up lines during events.  In the 49er case the team will argue that the NFL policies are necessary in order to assure safety, but they may have trouble in arguing that the policies are being carried out in the least intrusive manner.  The issue will be whether a less intrusive manner such as metal detectors would cause a substantial burden on the team.  A substantial burden may come in the form of finances and if it a less intrusive policy costs a lot more money, then it may not be viable.  The ruling in this case will affect all entertainment venues nationwide.  You better believe that all major sports and entertainment organizations will be paying very close attention as to the result of this case.

 

If an Agent Doesn’t Stick Up For Their NFL Client Then Who Will?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

houston20texans20logoIt happens all too often in the NFL, players playing injured, stepping it up for their team against the better judgment of outside medical consults that the players were never told they should have.  Players are told to rely on their team doctors because they think the team doctors and staff know what is best for them.  This is false.  Teams and coaches are always looking to bend the rules and do whatever it takes to get ahead, which doesn’t include the best interest of the players.  Players are reluctant to challenge team managements wishes for fear that they will be labeled as a malcontent and become expendable, foregoing millions in salary.

Last week there was disturbing news coming out of Houston Texas in which Stevenson accused the Houston Texans of requiring lineman to participate in an illegal contact practice last May in violation of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  According to the NFL CBA spring drills must not involve contact or pads.  One player, former Houston Texan player Dan Stevenson has decided that labels and lost salary are a moot point once a player suffers a career ending injury.  Stevenson suffered a right shoulder labrum tear after participating in the allegedly illegal drills last May.  Stevenson has stood up for other players who still are playing in the NFL or are looking for new teams.  The CBA rules are meant to protect players from becoming injured in the offseason.  Stevenson became expendable when he was injured last May during the illegal contact drills which possibly caused him a career ending injury and a loss of millions of dollars in future earnings.  Stevenson is not afraid to stand up to the Texans now that he is no longer with the team and his NFL career is in jeopardy.  However other players on the team choose not to fight the team for fear of becoming blacklisted in the NFL.

An average NFL players career is just under 4 years and most players may only spend a few years in the NFL.  This means that NFL players need to make the most of their NFL chance and earn as much money as they can in a short period of time.  It is an NFL players’ agent’s duty to recognize the gravity of a situation such as having his player participate in illegal contact drills which could lead to career ending injuries.  An agent who is familiar with the NFL CBA should recognize the gravity of the situation and be able to file an NFL grievance on the players behalf.  Most players have no idea of what their rights are and need an advocate to represent their rights and the rights of all NFL players.

The NFL needs to hand down severe penalties against teams like the Texans who break NFL CBA rules which are put in place to protect players.  If swift action is not taken, teams will continue to take advantage of players, causing the average players career to be even shorter than it already is.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines took an in depth look at what happened in Houston, Texas last May.  Click here for the full story:  http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=3885900

 

High School Football Coach Pleads Not Guilty To Reckless Homicide

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
David Jason Stinson

David Jason Stinson

A first year High School football coach, David Jason Stinson, pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide and negligence for the death of Max Gilpin.  Gilpin was a 15 year old offensive lineman who died of heat stroke last summer in Louisville, Kentucky.   Gilpin was forced to run sprints in a helmet and pads while allegedly being refused a water break.  Gilpin, who was 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, was one of six people to die because of the heat in high school and college athletics in 2008.   http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2008659576_applayerdeathcharges.html

In order for the Gilpin family to win their case for reckless homicide case they must prove that Coach Stinson knew or should have known the consequences of his actions, which in this case was that Gilpin would die.  This is a very difficult standard to prove.  The defense will argue that there is no possible way that coach Stinson knew or should have known that Gilpin would die of heat stroke from going through drills that his team probably went through daily.  Stinson was a former player who most likely had to go through the same type of drills and had been an offensive line coach with the team the last four years, never having any incident.  He therefore will argue that there is no way he could have known Gilpin would die.

The Gilpin family will counter with Gilpin’s medical records that were on file with the school which listed Aderall as a drug Gilpin was taking for ADD.  He was also known to be taking Creatine, a muscle building supplement which is known to have heat related side effects.  The Gilpin family will say coach Stinson should have been aware of the risk of death as he had access to the players medical records and he should have noticed that the player was laboring through practice before he collapsed.  However Stinson is not a doctor, he is a coach which is why the defense will prevail in saying that there is know way that coach Stinson could have known the consequences of his actions.  Many players get tired when working out and going through  drills, it would be tough for anybody who is not a medical professional to spot somebody who is about to suffer from heat stroke.  This claim will probably be dismissed.

To win a claim for negligence the Gilpin family will have to prove, but for coach Stinson’s actions Gilpin would still be alive and that the death was foreseeable.  This again is very difficult to prove unless the coach was a doctor or Gilpin showed signs of heat stroke before he collapsed and was taken to the hospital.  I don’t have all the facts but based on what is in the papers, a claim for negligence should be dismissed.

This case is said to be the first time a coach has been charged for a heat related death of a player.  In a related case, former Minnesota Vikings player Corey Stringer’s widow settled a heat stroke related case against the Vikings this week.  The settlement called for an NFL supported heat stroke educational program for coaches and youth.    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3861331&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines

Can Portland Trailblazers Blackmail Other NBA Teams Over Darius Miles?

Friday, January 9th, 2009
Darius Miles

Darius Miles

In what is one of the most bizarre stories I have heard coming out the NBA or all of professional sports in a long time is how the Portland Trailblazers threatened to sue all of the other NBA teams if they sign Darius Miles to a contract.  Portland team president Larry Miller sent an e-mail to the 29 other NBA teams telling them not to sign Miles because it would hurt Portland financially.  The Blazers will be responsible for paying Miles’ remaining $18 Million left on his contract if he plays in two more games this season.  That money paid would count against the salary cap for Portland and force them to have to pay luxury tax.   http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3822392

Miles while a member of the Portland Trailblazers suffered what was thought to be a career ending knee injury.  He underwent microfracture surgery in 2006 and was released by the Blazers in April 2008 after not playing in any games the previous two years.  Miles was signed by the Boston Celtics this season and played in six pre-season games and was released.  He then signed with the Memphis Grizzlies where he played in two regular season games and then was released before his contract became guaranteed.  According to the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement Miles will be due $18 million if he plays in 10 games this season.  Therefore he is only two games away from having Portland fork over the money.

Portland claims it will sue if they find out that other teams signed Miles for the sole purpose of hurting Portland financially.  However I have no idea of how they will be able to prove other teams motivations unless it is clearly shown that Miles can no longer play at the NBA level.  The fact that he has played with two NBA teams already this season shows that he has what it takes and I predict somebody will give him a shot.  After all injuries always happen and if he is the best available option, somebody is going to pull the trigger.

Additionally the NBA players association has filed a grievance against the Blazers in response to Millers threatening e-mail.  Miles should be allowed to continue his NBA career and earn NBA money while he can.  The fact that somebody is out there trying to sabotage his chances is unfortunate and not fair to Miles.  There is no collusion in the NBA and if a team wishes to sign Miles they have that right.  If I am the Lakers,  Nuggets, Jazz, or Thunder (division rivals of the Blazers) why not sign Miles to a 10 day contract and see what happens.  Worst case scenario they get to hurt a division rival financially, cut Miles after a few days., and Miles gets paid.  Good luck to the Blazers in trying to prove the other teams intentions for signing Miles.

UPDATE – The Memphis Grizzlies have signed Miles to a 10 day contract on 1/10/09, therefore if he plays in two games the Blazers will be on the hook for the $18 million.  If he is waived after a few days, the Blazers just might have a case.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

 

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