Will It Soon Be Lights Out for the Black Out Rule?

Exciting news was announced for sports fans living in towns with fluctuating home game attendance this week.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is reviewing the need for the “blackout” rule. The nearly 40 year old rule prevents satellite and cable companies from televising NFL Events in a team’s home market if the game does not sell out.  The blackout rule was developed when teams earned a significant portion of their revenue from ticket sales.  The idea was implemented in 1975 to encourage fans to buy available tickets rather than staying home and watching the game on TV.  At that time, about 59% of NFL games were blacked out. Today, games sell out far more often because the NFL has grown in popularity.  Perhaps more importantly for the rule, ...
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Concerns Raised Over Attorney Compensation in NFL Concussion Litigation Settlement

Around four months ago it was announced that over 4,500 NFL player plaintiffs and the League reached a $765 million settlement resolving the ongoing multi-district concussion litigation in Pennsylvania District Court.  In brief, the plaintiffs alleged that the NFL intentionally concealed the long-term risks of head injuries and concussions and their role in later-life cognitive decline. However, U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has yet to approve the settlement agreement, partly due to issues concerning attorney compensation.  It was initially reported that no part of the $765 million settlement would go to the lawyers.  Now, concerns are being raised that plaintiffs’ attorneys are attempting to earn legal fees from both the settlement itself and separate client fee agreements – in essence, double-dipping at the ...
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“Cumulative Trauma” California Claim Dismissed by California Court of Appeal

As detailed in prior articles, click here, California has very recently passed litigation in the form of Assembly Bill 1309 an attempt to stem the tide of “cumulative trauma” type claims that have been filed in California by current or former athletes with little or no connection to that state. Although AB 1309 is not discussed in the December 2013 decision of the Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District in the claim of a former WNBA professional, it is clear that California courts are becoming less-inclined to entertain out-of-state claims. Federal Ins. Co. v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board and Adrienne Johnson, No. B239201, (Ct. App. of Californis, 2nd. App Dist., Div. 5, December 3, 2013), centers around the claim of Adrienne Johnson.  Ms. Johnson was drafted by the Cleveland ...
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Are Concussion Problems Heading to MLB as First Former Major Leaguer is Posthumously Diagnosed with CTE?

Researchers at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy announced that former Major League Baseball player Ryan Freel was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”) at the time of his suicide last December.  He is the first MLB player to be officially diagnosed with the disease. CTE is a brain injury associated with repetitive brain trauma (such as concussions) which causes the abnormal build-up of tau proteins in the brain.  Early symptoms of the disease include erratic behavior and memory loss, but it can progress into full-flown dementia, aggression and paranoia as time goes on.  Eventually, this protein build-up can also disable neural pathways controlling memory, judgment and fear. Freel had a history of concussions and head injuries dating back to his early childhood.  Later, while playing for ...
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Palin Claims “Fair Use” on 9/11 Photo

Former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin continues to make headlines. In September 2013, North Jersey Media Group (NJMG) filed a federal lawsuit against Palin and her political action committee (SarahPAC) for copyright infringement. The suit alleges that Palin posted NJMG’s iconic “WTC Flag Raising Photograph” on Palin’s Facebook page without permission. The photograph, taken by a staff photographer for NJMG, depicts three firefighters raising an American flag over the rubble of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Screen shots from Palin’s Facebook page showed the picture posted on September 11, 2013 with the caption “We will never forget.” NJMG asked the court to force Palin and SarahPAC to  pay damages on profits from the photo. On December 12, 2013, Palin filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. ...
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Flyers & NHL Settle Class Action Winter Classic Dispute

A $1.1 million settlement has been reached in a putative class action about the 2012 Winter Classic tickets. Philadelphia Flyers season ticket holders sued Comcast Spectator – the team’s owner – and the NHL after being “forced” to purchase tickets to the Winter Classic separately at a significantly higher price.  If approved, the settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey on December 12, 2013 will end the breach of contract action. On January 2, 2012, the Philadelphia Flyers played in the NHL’s Winter Classic.  The Winter Classic is an annual game played outdoors on or around New Year’s Day that counts as part of the participating teams’ regular season.  The 2012 Winter Classic was a match up between the Flyers’ and the New York Rangers in Philadelphia. ...
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Fines Drop, but Study Finds Dangerous Hits Still Prevalent in NFL

A recent study by the AP analyzed the rate at which NFL players experience dangerous hits by reviewing 549 penalties called through the first 11 weeks of the 2013 football season.  It found that over the first 162 games of the year, 156 of the penalties studied involved contact with the head and neck.  Statistically, this means that nearly once per game, an NFL player receives a blow to the head or neck that could have serious health and/or career consequences.  The numbers also revealed an interesting trend: far more major infraction penalties were called against defensive players than offensive players (224 vs. 69 major infractions, respectively). While the raw data may seem disconcerting, the total number of fines issued by the NFL for major infractions has actually declined significantly ...
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Ex-Players Sue Kansas City Chiefs Over Concussions

The Kansas City Chiefs are the latest target of concussion litigation.  On December 3, 2013, five former members of the NFL team sued for damages related to head injuries. The case was filed in a Missouri state court on Tuesday by Alexander Cooper, Joseph Phillips, Kevin Porter, Leonard Griffin, and Christopher Martin.  It is the first concussion lawsuit filed against an NFL team, rather than the league. The players allege similar complaints to those in the suit settled earlier this year.  They are suing on claims of negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment.  They say the team ignored decades of research showing that concussions cause long-term brain damage.  Rather than warning players of this, the team lied and said concussions were not serious, referring to them as “dings.”  As a ...
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Warner Bros. Wins Final Fight for Superman

On November 21, 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Warner Brothers is the sole owner of Superman’s copyright.  The ruling should be the final legal battle in the lengthy ownership dispute with the estates of Superman’s co-creators.  The court described the case as “another chapter in the long-running saga regarding the ownership of copyrights in Superman – a story almost as old as the Man of Steel himself.” Superman made his debut in 1938 as a character in Action Comics #1.  The character was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  In 1992, Shuster’s heirs signed a deal to transfer all rights to Superman in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits.”  Then, in 2001, Siegel’s heirs inked a similar “multimillion dollar deal.” Both agreements have ...
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The Atlanta Braves Are One Step Closer to a New Field

The Atlanta Braves are “thrilled” that the Cobb County Commission voted in favor of a public financing deal that will move the team out of downtown Atlanta for the first time since 1966. On November 26, 2013, by a 4-1 vote, the commissioners approved spending $300 million in tax revenues to fund part of a new $672 million Braves stadium.  The new field will open in 2017 and will be located in an Atlanta suburb.  The plan calls for the reallocation of current Cobb County property tax revenues as well as new taxes on businesses and tourism. As we reported, public financing deals are not uncommon.  In fact, almost all professional sports stadiums built in the past decades used some public funding.  Yet, time and again these deals prove to ...
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