Legal Aspects of Sport

I wrote about sports law last year, but thought I’d share a few more points on this subject, especially considering a few of the recent news headlines discussing the intersection of sports and the law.

The first example of the intersection of sports and the law is the case involving former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. This is a great example of how the law can be applied to sports, in this case a class action lawsuit by a former player against several other organizations, including the governing body of collegiate athletics, the NCAA. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out moving forward.

Another example of the law applied to sports is Alex Rodriguez’s lawsuit against his former employer who he claims attempted to “destroy [his] reputation and career.” Again, it will be interesting to see how this one turns out, however because it seems to be a much more private legal case, it’s likely we won’t hear about this one in the mainstream media. One of the best sports law blogs, in my opinion, is RulingSports.com.

A third example of the law as applied to sports are the ongoing concussion lawsuits being filed throughout the country. This one is a bit heavier than the others, mostly because there are so many players and so many different organizations involved. The players are filing lawsuits against equipment manufacturers, hospitals and doctors in addition to the actual sport organizations for the injured athletes played.

I believe the issue of concussions in sport goes much further than the people who were hurt and sustained those injuries – this issue is more than just players getting hurt, but has much more to do with the sociological nature of the manifestation of sport in society. Only when you value the health of the individuals participating more than anything else will sport reflect those ends; however, will that change the sport so much that it eventually becomes something completely different? And how will we have changed as a society as a whole as a result? It seems to me there will have to be an ideological shift in how we work together and how our values manifest themselves in sport in order for any far-reaching change to keep hold. Until then, change will be slow and probably not without a great deal of controversy.

Next, there are always the issues of contract law, specifically as it relates to employment. There have been several articles floating around recently about coaching contracts and athletics director contracts that have gotten my attention. The more of these things you read, the more you have to wonder who is writing them and what they are really trying to achieve. Some are very detailed and outline exactly what is expected and what the consequences are for not performing the required duties. Others end up being so vague that it’s a wonder anyone actually signed those deals. As a suggestion – read the fine print and make sure things are clearly defined so that anyone reading the contract will understand exactly what is outlined. For some, I’m sure that ambiguity is intentional, so beware!

Giving a neutral understanding that there is no such thing as “sports law,” it’s really quite an advantage to have a good understanding of legal principles. I’m certainly not an expert on the law or its interpretation, but the sports law class I took in graduate school gave me a great foundation from which to look at these legal aspects of sport. Leave the legal stuff to your lawyers and attorneys, but take appropriate initiative to know what it is that they’re doing for you – and those goes for all areas of life, not just sports.

Go Forth!

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