Return to The Blitz

The Blitz 1/26/2020

The Blitz

January 26, 2020

Our picks for the
Ten Most Interesting Sports Law Stories
from the past week.


Seeger Weiss To Spend $5M Of Concussion Education Fund

(Law360-Ryan Boysen)  In a motion filed Thursday, Seeger Weiss said it wants to spend about $3 million on an initiative to provide 10 to 14 high school districts with athletic trainers to promote safety, roughly $2.25 million on making medical data produced by the settlement available to academic researchers, and about $20,000 on an educational campaign reminding retired players of medical benefits they’re entitled to other than payouts from the bottomless settlement.  Continue reading…


Breaking Down Michael Avenatti’s Nike Extortion Trial

(Law360-Daniel Siegal)  Once plastered all over cable news screens, Michael Avenatti will soon be making his first of several planned appearances before a different audience: federal jurors. The embattled attorney and former Trump sparring partner will be facing an uphill battle next week in New York as he fights charges that he tried to extort millions of dollars from Nike.  Avenatti’s fall from grace has been as precipitous as his rise to national prominence after years representing plaintiffs in personal injury and class action matters in the Los Angeles area.

Next week’s trial centers on meetings that Avenatti had with Nike attorneys in March. Avenatti, representing LA grassroots basketball coach Gary Franklin, allegedly told Nike’s attorneys that he would go public with claims that the sporting giant was making improper payments to amateur basketball players, unless they ponied up.  Continue reading…


Court Sacks ‘Seasonal Worker’ Status for Injured NFL Player

(The Legal Intelligencer-Jason S. Kaner)  The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled in favor of former linebacker Anthony Trucker, opining that he is a year-round employee. “Contrary to popular belief, although NFL players routinely sign what sounds like lucrative contracts, most of this money is nonguaranteed. Unless guaranteed money is provided for by their contracts, they are not entitled to the entirety of those widely publicized hefty sums. Soon after signing, teams often can release the player without any financial ramifications. It is very rare for an inexperienced undrafted player or a practice squad player to receive any guaranteed money. However, when a player is injured, a team shall not release them without accepting some degree of financial responsibility, regardless of whether their contract has guaranteed money.”

The decision in Trucks addresses how NFL player contracts have added obligations that increase the scope of the player-team relationship because in addition to regular, pre, and post-season games, players are also required to attend media and promotional events throughout the year.  “By determining Trucks was not a seasonal employee, the court has redefined the employer-employee relationship for NFL players in Pennsylvania.”  Continue reading…

Ex-NFLer’s Cannabis Decriminalization Lawsuit May Be Heading To The Supreme Court

(Advocacy for Fairness in Sports-Sheilla Dingus)  Retired NFLer Marvin Washington, with four other plaintiffs, expressed intent to seek certiorari if the Second Circuit dismisses their case.  Washington et al are seeking to have marijuana de-scheduled and decriminalized at the federal level.  The case was initially dismissed at SDNY because the court said the plaintiffs had not exhausted administrative remedies by directly petitioning the DEA.   The Second Circuit ruled, “Accordingly while we concur with the District Court’s ruling, we do not dismiss the case, but rather hold it in abeyance and retain jurisdiction in this panel to take whatever action might become appropriate if the DEA does not act with adequate dispatch.”

The six months elapsed, the panel denied a motion for additional time to deal with DEA.  The plaintiffs argued that DEA would not deschedule cannabis, but instead, move it from Schedule I to Schedule II, leaving the plaintiffs in worse shape than before.  The said they would petition the Supreme Court if the Second Circuit dismisses the case, which is expected.  Continue reading…  Meanwhile, the NFL Says There is Little Evidence to Endorse Marijuana, Medical CBD for Players.


Nassar Accusers Want USA Gymnastics Bankruptcy Canned

(Law360-Ryan Boysen)  Hundreds of gymnasts suing USA Gymnastics over sexual abuse by former team doctor Larry Nassar and others have asked an Indiana bankruptcy court to dismiss the organization’s Chapter 11 case, calling it a farce intended only to protect USAG from the “true depravity” of its actions ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

In a motion filed Tuesday evening, the gymnasts, through the committee that represents their interests in the bankruptcy, said USAG’s 13-month-long Chapter 11 case has been an utter failure.

“USAG and the [U.S. Olympic Committee] have used this bankruptcy proceeding as yet another tool to inflict pain upon these sexual abuse survivors and to deny justice to these girls and women who competed on behalf of their country as the very best at their sport in the world,” John Manly of Manly Stewart & Finaldi LLP, representing some of the gymnasts, said in a statement.  Continue reading…



Owens and Solomon Carrying On Negligence Claims Against NCAA

(Advocacy for Fairness in Sports-Derek Helling)  Months after the NCAA settled the medical monitoring claims of a class of former athletes at disparate member institutions, two of the class members are pursuing negligence claims against the NCAA in separate actions.

Derek Owens and Kyle Solomon are awaiting the scheduling of their trials. Despite the plaintiffs being part of the consolidated complaint in Arrington v. NCAA and having all of their complaints lumped into that action, these negligence claims will proceed separately and how they unfold will have some bearing upon the future of courts’ perception of liability on the NCAA’s part as far as athlete healthcare goes.  Continue reading…


Riddell Can’t Dodge High School Football Player’s Death Suit

(Law360-Mike Curley)  A Texas federal judge said helmet maker Riddell Inc. must face a lawsuit alleging that its football helmets were defective and led to the death by suicide of a former high school football player, rejecting the company’s arguments that the player’s mother filed the suit too late.

In a one-paragraph order filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman wrote that after considering the briefs and responses between Riddell parent company BRG Sports Inc. and Letitia Wilbourn, he found it appropriate to deny BRG’s motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations.  Continue Reading…


In legal battle with the Mountain West, Boise State takes its TV deal discontent to a new level

(The Athletic-Dave Southorn)  On Jan. 9, commissioner Craig Thompson said that the conference’s new contract, which runs through the 2025-26 season, would be the last in which Boise State would have its home games negotiated separately. That means the end of the agreement by which the school receives $1.8 million more than the other  Mountain West members in annual payouts. On Friday, Boise State released a statement saying it was “in the process of weighing our options to move forward.”

One of those options: a complaint against the conference, filed that day in Ada County, Idaho.  The complaint, obtained by The Athletic, alleges the Mountain West is breaking an agreement…  Continue Reading…


Legal Fallout From Antonio Brown’s Burglary With Battery Charges

(Sports Illustrated-Michael McCann) Antonio Brown’s problematic legal situation entered a new and decidedly more serious phase Thursday evening.

The 31-year-old four-time All-Pro wide receiver complied with an arrest warrant by surrendering to the Hollywood (Florida) Police Department. Brown, who just four months ago was catching passes thrown by Tom Brady, faces charges for burglary with battery—a felony that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison—as well as burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief of less than $1,000. Following the issuance of an arrest warrant on Wednesday, Brown remained inside his house, seemingly in defiance of the warrant. Less than 48 hours later he surrendered.  Continue reading…


Saints Lending PR Advice to Local Archdiocese Raises Legal Questions

(Sports Illustrated-Michael McCann)  Saints executives were allegedly doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese to help it contain the fallout from a sexual abuse crisis. The MMQB analyzes the situation from all perspectives.

The New Orleans Saints and one member of a group of about two dozen adult men who contend they were victims of sexual abuse as children are at odds in a civil litigation brought against the Archdiocese of New Orleans in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans. The group member at issue is identified in court documents by the pseudonym “John Doe.”

The Archdiocese is accused of committing negligence, fraudulent concealment, public nuisance and vicarious liability related to the alleged sexual abuse. A central figure in the alleged abuse is George Brignac. Brignac, 85, was ordained as a deacon and employed by the Archdiocese as a teacher for many years.  Continue Reading…

See also: Lawyers in clergy abuse lawsuit seek documents from Saints executives ( Antonio Vargas) and NFL’s Saints fight to shield emails in Catholic abuse crisis  (AP-Jim Mustian)

While most sports talk has been building up for a  Super Bowl crescendo, there’s been no shortage of sports law preceding Pro Bowl Weekend.  Here are a few more stories of interest that didn’t make out “Top Ten.”

NFL player settles drug case vs. his ex-trainer just weeks before trial    (USA Today-Brent Schrotenboer)

Could Former ‘Bachelor’ Contestant Stripped of $1 Million Prize Now Sue DraftKings?   (Sports Illustrated-Michael McCann)

The Astros cheating scandal is turning out to be the gift that keeps on giving.  Once again, it’s Michael McCann to the rescue with answers to 20 Big Questions About MLB’s Sign-Stealing Scandal.   And of course, it spawned a lawsuit:  MLB Cheating Scandal Corrupted Fantasy Baseball, Fan Says  (Mike Curley-Law360)


Advocacy for Fairness in Sports is a nonprofit dedicated to investigative sports journalism.
Please help us to continue bringing the stories that no one else is reporting by making a small contribution toward our operating costs. Court documents and other research necessities can be costly, and you can be a difference-maker by helping us to meet the expenses necessary to remain ad-free and provide the coverage you’ve come to expect from Advocacy for Fairness in Sports.

Permanent link to this article: