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March Madness or March Sadness

October 5, 2015


By Christine Purewal – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

One of the most sacred annual traditions in US sport occurs as winter wanes and spring looms on the horizon – March Madness. March Madness 2015 is a near-month long collegiate basketball championship tournament that brought in over 10 million views worldwide and more than $1 billion dollars in revenue.

Athletes participating in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sports are not considered professional athletes. The 440 page NCAA manual refers to these student athletes as amateurs. Despite such a contentious characterization, March Madness brings in more revenue than the Super Bowl. Such high revenue and viewership is made possible because every aspect of the tournament is branded.

Despite such limitless branding, NCAA President Mark Emmert maintains that the NCAA is not a moneymaking industry. It is directly stated on the NCAA official website that “the association’s belief in student-athletes as students first is a foundational principle”. This principle has formed the basis of President Mark Emmert’s argument that amateur athletes should not be compensated for their participation in NCAA sporting events or tournaments. During his testimony for Wilkins v NCAA, President Mark Emmert stated that student athletes are not employees and to pay them would change the very nature of the game.

President Mark Emmert’s contention regarding the compensation of student athletes came under scrutiny when Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA for the use of images of its former student athletes for commercial purposes. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of Ed O’Bannon and made several findings that would impact the future of the NCAA and its athletes. Firstly, she held that NCAA rules regarding restraint of trade were unreasonable and violated antitrust law. Secondly, she ordered that NCAA scholarships should be structured to include cost-of-living expenses, which were currently excluded. Finally, District Judge Claudio Wilken held that colleges should be permitted to put up to $5,000 in a trust for its athletes during each year of eligibility. The NCAA appealed Wilken’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. No decision has been reached in the appeal.

Since the O’Bannon ruling we have seen a changing climate in the courtroom, whereby judges are increasingly questioning the NCAA’s stance and allowing more scholarship cases to be heard.
Most recently, in June 2015 Martin Jenkins, Nigel Hayes and Alec James filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and five major conferences. The injunction sought by the plaintiffs would allow a true free market for college athletes. However, in order to succeed the plaintiffs must challenge the NCAA’s argument that they comply with antitrust laws because they are functioning as a non-commercial entity with an educationally driven mission.

The NCAA’s declaration of being “educationally driven” began to unravel in 2015 when Rashanda McCants filed a class action lawsuit against the NCAA and the University North Carolina Chapel Hill. The lawsuit brings to light the decades-long academic scandal at UNC surrounding “paper classes”. McCants contends that student-athletes were directed towards programs and courses with little rigor in attempt to free their schedules for athletic commitments. In some instances, student athletes were enrolled in non-existent classes within the department of African and Afro-American studies. It is a combination of these factors which McCants claims deprived her of a meaningful education; a meaningful education being of the upmost importance since less than 2% of NCAA student athletes goes on to play professionally.

Given the emergence of these more recent cases, it appears that the climate for student-athletes has not completely changed following the O’Bannon ruling. Although there is a wider acceptance to hear cases regarding the NCAA and possible antitrust law violations, any substantial change to the structure of the NCAA will be a slow process. This is in part due to the flawed system in which the NCAA operates. The system is structured in such a way to maximize revenue through extensive branding and the exploitation of its athletes. It is a combination of these factors which have turned the NCAA into a moneymaking industry.

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Legalized Sports Betting: A Threat To Profits Or The Integrity Of The Game?

October 5, 2015


By Alexander Paterson – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

On August 25th, 2015, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the lower court verdict in NCAA v Christie, voiding New Jersey state legislation on sports betting. In the 2-1 decision by the Appeals Court, it was determined that allowing casinos and racetracks to take bets on sport events violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The decision was the latest event in a three-year legal battle between the state of New Jersey and national sports organizations including the National Basketball League (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

All of the national sports organizations opposed the legalization of sports betting on the grounds that “the sponsorship, operation, advertising, promotion, licensure and authorization of sports gambling … would irreparably harm amateur and professional sports by fostering suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition.” While those fears may have merit, New Jersey legislators pointed out the hypocrisy of the national sports organizations in opposing the legalization of sports betting while they simultaneously advertised and profited from fantasy sports.

Fantasy sports have often been referred to as sports betting, although they were specifically exempted from the PASPA in 2006 through the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). However, the recent rise of daily fantasy sports (DFS) competitions has led to questions of whether DFS fall within the exemption granted by the UIGEA. While traditional fantasy sports competitions involved season or playoff long undertakings, DFS competitions are focused on single day or weekend competitions. Furthermore, fantasy sport companies are now acting as facilitators by accepting entry money for fantasy competitions, then distributing it to the winners. The acceptance of money and its subsequent distribution is a large departure from traditional fantasy sport companies who merely facilitated the choosing of fantasy sports teams and players. The intake and distribution of money strongly resembles the actions of a casino, which is likely one of the reasons that both the Massachusetts Attorney General and Nevada Gaming Control Board have taken preliminary steps to assess the legal standing of DFS.

The first weekend of the NFL season featured a reported $31 million in expenditures on 9000 advertising slots by FanDuel and Draftkings, two fantasy sports companies who have each surpassed $1 billion in estimated value. Perhaps it is not surprising then that FanDuel and Draftkings investors currently include the NHL, MLB, NBA, and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). As mentioned, those leagues were all party to the lawsuit against the legalization of sports gambling, yet they are all currently involved, either directly through ownership stakes or indirectly through advertisement payments, with a practice that bears a strong resemblance to the sports betting they opposed.

In November 2014, Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, wrote an op-ed article in which he endorsed the legalization of sports betting in the United States through federal, as opposed to state, legislation. In 2007, the NFL played its first regular season game (of many) in London, England, where sports betting is a legal, commonly accepted form of entertainment. Similarly, the NHL is also strongly considering the possibility of granting an expansion team to Las Vegas, Nevada, where sports betting is currently legal as well. If national sports leagues are so concerned with the impact of legalized sports betting on the integrity of the game, actively looking to expand to locations where sports betting is already legal appears nonsensical.

Looking at the surrounding factors and events, the opposition of national sport organizations to the legalization of sports betting appears to be one based not on the integrity of the game, but on the ability to profit from the current system. Fantasy sports are surging in popularity, and the exposure provided by fantasy sports competitions, along with the money to be made through ownership stakes and advertising revenue, seem to be the primary drivers of their stance on sports betting. State regulation of sports betting in casinos and racetracks does not offer the same opportunity for investment and profits, so it appears to be in the national sports leagues’ best interests to oppose its legalization for the time being, and until federal regulation materializes, ride the wave of profits produced by fantasy sports.

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Non-Guaranteed Contracts, Guaranteed Injuries

October 5, 2015


By Harman Toor – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

Football is inherently dangerous. The term contact sport doesn’t apply to football, collision sport does. While those playing football know the risks, there are certain injures and concerns that have recently garnered considerable attention. Concussions and how to combat player injuries has become a highly dividing topic. Recently, the NFL reached a settlement with more than 5,000 retired players who accused the NFL of not warning players and hiding the damages of brain injuries. This settlement, numerous medical studies and the fear of North America’s most profitable sport eventually failing have led to numerous changes in an attempt to make football safer. However, the one item that is undermining any progress made when it comes to player safety is non-guaranteed contracts.

In 2013, the NFL implemented a concussion protocol in which independent doctors and neuro-trauma specialists examined players who were believed to have suffered a concussion. This was a welcomed change from years past where team physicians would administer tests and decide whether a player was fit to return to action, having to choose between the needs of the team and the wellbeing of a player.

Takings steps to identify concussions as well as changing rules is ignoring a much larger issue; the requirement of players to play through injuries to avoid a loss of wages. Darnell Docket, former player for the Arizona Cardinals stated, “…we know if we don’t play hurt and injured, we’ll be released just the same…the NFL says it wants us to report concussions, but its actions say differently.”
Of the four major North American sports leagues, the NFL is the only one where the contracts of players are not fully guaranteed. This means that when players sign a contract they are only guaranteed a portion of their salary, and may be released without receiving the total amount they signed for. For example, Aaron Rodgers, a Super Bowl winning quarterback recently signed a contract for $110,000,000 of which $54,000,000 is guaranteed. In comparison, Wes Matthews who suffered a major ACL tear, signed a $70,000,000 deal with the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks that is completely guaranteed. Many football players know that they will not see the entirety of their contract fulfilled, thus they try to negotiate as much guaranteed money upfront as possible.

For the majority of NFL players who are not considered “franchise players”, their leverage for guaranteed money is greatly reduced. Thus, those that know that the fulfillment of their contract hinges on their ability to play are far more likely to ignore their own personal safety in the hopes of continuing to collect a paycheque. Retired linebacker Ted Johnson recalled in The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic suffering a concussion in a 2002 preseason game. In fear of losing his roster spot and non-guaranteed Johnson partook in a contact drill at practice and suffered a second concussion.

This season Kam Chancellor, starting safety for the 2014 Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks held out in the hopes of restructuring his contract. Numerous outlets have heralded him as greedy and not fulfilling his contractual obligation. However, while owners, fans and the media firmly believe a player owes loyalty to his team, due to the nature of the profession, rarely does a team show loyalty to their players. Prior to the 2015 NFL season numerous players had their team options declined, contracts restructured or were released outright by their team, never making it to the end of their contracts. This batch of players included Vince Wilfork, Andre Johnson and Troy Polamalu, all staples of their organizations.

In data released by the NFL, diagnosed brain injuries from 1996 to 2007 showed a significant decrease in the last five years of the sample. However, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs (also known as safeties) have seen an increase in the rate of injury with defensive backs experiencing 291 documented brain injuries, more than any other position. Another study recently conducted by the Department of Veteran Affairs and Boston University found that 96% of former NFL players tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. As more studies reach similar conclusions, the idea of player holding out in the hopes of securing a more lucrative contract is seen less as disloyal and more as a smart business decision, especially without the assurances of a guaranteed contract.

The NFL has made great strides in attempting to make football safe. However, taking one step forward followed by taking two steps back can only get you so far. If players were able to sign guaranteed contracts, there would be less incentive to put your current and future health in harm’s way. The move towards guaranteed contracts would not eradicate the risks associated with football but would alleviate some of the issues. If the NFL’s goal is to improve player safety, then a move towards guaranteed contracts is long overdue. If the goal of the NFL is to avoid future legal battles for putting their players at risk, this move may be the difference between leaving it all on the field or leaving it all in the courtroom.

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1, 2 3 Bites You’re Out: The Possibility of Liability Stemming from Baseballs Contribution to America’s Obesity Epidemic

October 5, 2015


By Cole Rodocker – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

Mom, Apple Pie and Baseball. All quintessentially American, all extremely bad for your health. With governments across the world encouraging participation in sport as a way of battling obesity, it should come as no surprise that many would push their aspiring Ryan’s and Ruth’s towards baseball, a sport more wholesome than most, cheaper than most, and far less susceptible to traumatic brain injury.

Unfortunately, the great American past time may in fact be doing more harm than good to the spectators it entertains and the children playing the sport itself. The result of a mostly sedentary sport and food provided at baseball games may beg the question as to whether more should be done by the MLB in order to facilitate the health of its players and fans. If a football player can sue for inevitable head trauma, why can’t a baseball player or fan sue for a concentrated push towards obesity? The MLB has been sued on numerous occasions over other health related safety concerns, claims that baseball has made someone fat may be right around the corner.

Baseball is well known for its feats of agility and raw power. Baseball is also known as being an extremely slow game for fans and players alike. With television viewership tanking, the MLB has implemented new procedural rules in order to eliminate some of the downtime, thereby speeding up the game without changing any of the fundamental rules. That being said, sitting down is inevitable; this goes for the players as well. During a game with a low score line, players in the outfield might languish until their turn at bat arrives, only to be quickly struck out and find themselves on the pine until they are forced into the field again. Recent studies have shown the catastrophic effects of sitting for more than 8-12 hours on the human body, an effect that in many instances is not even mitigated by regular exercise. The 7th inning stretch may need to be augmented by a 3rd, 5th, and even 9th inning stretch in order to combat the perils of sitting too long.

Even if one trains and strives to be the best they can be physically, baseball stadiums themselves may be a significantly to the increasing waistlines of North Americans. No one has ever asked to have a salad bought for them in lieu of peanuts and crackerjacks. Local sport concessions are predominantly full of less perishable foodstuffs such as soda, candy, hot dogs, etc, which are terrible for players and fans alike. Larger MLB stadiums have begun to diversify their food offerings, yet many of them are known for colossally calorific creations that might make skinnier fans shake their heads in disbelief. The Arizona Diamondbacks are known for the “D-Bat Dog”, a monstrous 18 inch long corn dog stuff with peppers, bacon and cheese, while the Tampa Bay Rays are known for a 4 pound burger which weighs in at over 8000 calories. For those with a sweet tooth, the Texas Rangers have you covered with the “Fried S’mOreo” which, unfortunately, requires little explanation.

As a corpus of law, “obesity litigation” has been generally unsuccessful, especially now that legislation is in place across more than half of the United States that prevents chain restaurants from being sued precisely because they made someone fat. Proving that a customer was duped into thinking something was healthy when it is in fact not has been successful in multiple instances, not the least of which was a recent class action lawsuit against Nutella. Baseball stadiums would be wise not to misjudge the perceptions surrounding the food they sell.

Thankfully, many stadiums also contain healthier options, not the least of which is the widely acclaimed “Veggie Cheesesteak” served up by the Philadelphia Phillies. The MLB is also a major partner in President Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign aimed at engendering better health for children through sport and improved diet. This will hopefully have its desired effect, but it should come as no surprise that the MLB would be so keen to partner in such an initiative. The sport itself and its various trappings create fertile ground for lawsuits concerning baseballs effect on obesity, especially in children participating in programs such as Let’s Move. While the MLB is not solely to blame for the obesity epidemic, it should certainly consider doing more at the grass roots level to both save itself from future litigation, as well as truly enhance the lives of its players and fans.

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TRU Law is Back

October 5, 2015


The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This expression is just as appropriate now as it was when coined by – depending on whom you believe – either Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) or Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153).

It seems that despite the best of intentions, our pseudo-journalistic responsibilities have suffered due to our academic duties at our respective universities (just think of the time we would have if we could teach without prepping, evaluate without marking, write without researching, and administrate without pushing paper), our coaching responsibilities (Kris to his gymnastics and trampoline teams and Jon to his kids’ soccer/football and volleyball teams) plus the realities of our work lives (Kris as Associate Professor and coordinator of LLM and PhD programmes at Staffordshire Law and Jon as Associate Dean of Law at Thompson Rivers University).

Whilst our intent has been to offer educational or informational commentary in response to contemporary events in sports law, we haven’t posted as much as we would have liked but hope to remedy the situation by increased vigilance and through posts written by our JD or LLB students.

Momentum has picked up in the sports law programme at Thompson Rivers University with approximately 40 students enrolled in Jon’s Sports Law I course. These ambitious and talented students will be earnestly contributing to the Canary.

We’ll begin with a light hearted but thought provoking post about baseball, followed by a piece entitled “Non-Guaranteed Contracts, Guaranteed Injuries” concerning NFL football and brain injuries, and many more.

With apologies to Arnold Schwarznegger and Terminator fans, we’re back.

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New Peer-Reviewed Student Sports Law Journal: ‘Laws of the Game’

September 9, 2015


Today marks the launch of our new Peer-reviewed online student sports law journal entitled Laws of the Game. The journal is registered with the British Library (ISSN: 2058-7244) and will be freely available online as a resource. Although the journal is hosted via Staffordshire University’s website, it very much represents a multi-institution collaboration between our editors, reviewers, and indeed authors.

I’ve reproduced the editorial of the first edition below and would strongly encourage you to read the articles. If anybody would like to become involved with the journal, we are now looking for student submissions for edition 2 in January 2016, and academics and practitioners who would like to be involved with the peer-review of these articles….


It is with great pleasure that we are able to publish the first edition (volume 1, number 1) of the peer-reviewed online journal – The Laws of the Game ( Although the journal is intended as a platform for emerging sports law practitioners, we hope that the high-quality of the papers will make it a useful and interesting resource for academics, practitioners and sports industry professionals alike.

All of the papers have undergone detailed blind peer-review processes conducted by a number of academics from a variety of institutions. Indeed, it is to the high credit of the authors, that while this might represent their first publication (of hopefully many in the future), I hope you will agree that the papers are worthy editions to the international pantheon of sports law literature.

It is intended that the journal is not just written by students, but also managed by students – supported, where necessary by academic advisors. By allowing student editors to communicate directly with subject specialists and practitioners, the journal fulfils two important goals: allowing students to acquire valuable team-working and publication skills, but also perhaps more importantly, encouraging students to develop and extend their professional networks.

If you would like to become involved in the journal, whether as an author, editor or as an established academic / practitioner reviewing submissions, please let us know…

Volume 1, Issue 1 contains a wide selection of papers grouped into five broad topics:
Leigh Thompson discusses doping in the context of a case-study on Alberto Contador and his battles with contaminated meat. The article examines the Contador case in detail, focussing in particular on the difficulties arising from the interplay between the provisions of the then 2009 World Anti-Doping Code relating to burdens and standards of proof and sanctioning, and whether these have been addressed in the revised 2015 World Anti-Doping Code.

In the Commercial Regulation section, Reece Savage-West discusses the shifting regulatory models underpinning the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the mixed-martial arts sector, and analyses whether its modern corporate respectability might alienate its core market. In the longest of our papers, Emma Lilley presents the results of her very interesting primary research into anti-corruption. In particular, the paper analyses the recommendations posed by Rick Parry’s “Report of the Sports Betting Integrity Panel 2002” and considers whether any of the conclusions of the 2002 report have been taken on board by the relevant UK sporting bodies.

The third section looks at a variety of event management issues through a number of case-studies. With the forthcoming 2015 Rugby World Cup just around the corner, Di Nixon takes us back to New Zealand 2011 Rugby World Cup and reviews the identification of risks in the lead-up to their lavish opening ceremony. Leigh Thompson reviews the safety risks to participants and spectators in road cycling through the lens of the 2006 Tour of Britain race and highlights the difference between the identification of risks in advance of an event and their management in a ‘live’ environment. Finally, Nic Scott reviews the security risks involved in hosting mega-sporting events through a comparison of the 2002 (Manchester) & 2014 (Glasgow) Commonwealth Games, and the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games held in London.

In the Personal injury section, Sam Sherwin looks at the potential liabilities and issues from enforcing timed injury assessment and treatment breaks during competitions. Indeed, as the recent controversy over injuries at the Australian Open tennis shows, such a topic is particularly current in many other sports too. Jennifer Jolley examines in detail the recent Northern Ireland ice hockey case of Browning v. Odyssey. This case is particularly interesting given its analysis on the standard of care owed by stadium owners to children and the extent to which a risk can be so small that it is justifiable for the reasonable man to ignore it. Finally Olivia Goodrich explores the liability of equestrian event organisers towards the spectators at their ground. The paper will conclude by arguing that three areas in particular (the liabilities towards general spectators, media personnel and officials) merit further research and clarity.

The last section of this edition of the journal is devoted to what we call Polemics, or shorter (perhaps more controversial) discussions. Charlie Pritchard analyses the Greenpeace ambush of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix and discusses the effectiveness of such an approach. Matt Howes discusses the implications of the recent craze of spectator “selfies” whilst road racing cyclists are competing on public roads. Lastly Charlie Howe explores whether a claim can be made for psychiatric injuries following a horse and/or jockey becoming injured during the race, and what implications this might have for events in the future.

We hope that you enjoy the first edition, and we are now welcoming submissions for the second edition later this year on any sports law topic….

Kris Lines, Jon Heshka, Dr Karolina Tetlak & Dr Jo Beswick

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Battle of the Commissioners: Legalization and Regulation of Sports Betting

December 19, 2014


By Sangin Safi – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

In an op-ed published in the New York Times on November 13, 2014, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, argues for the legalization and regulation of sports betting. According to him, “despite legal restrictions, sports betting is widespread.” He points out that since there are only a few legal options available, those who wish to bet resort to illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites. According to an estimate that he provides the underground industry is worth nearly $400 billion annually.

Mr. Silver argues that times have changed since the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which generally prohibits states from authorizing sports betting. According to him, gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States. He points to trends within the United States (i.e. New Jersey’s referendum demonstrating overwhelming support for legal sports betting) as well as international trends where sports betting is widely legal and subject to regulation. In light of these trends, Mr. Silver argues that Congress should adopt a federal framework for legalizing and regulating sports betting, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman disagrees. (As a hockey fan from Canada, I am not too surprised by Mr. Bettman’s cynical position!)

According to Mr. Bettman, “… some attention needs to be paid to what sport is going to represent to young people.” He further states, “[s]hould [sport] be viewed in the competitive, team-oriented sense that it is now? Or, does it become a vehicle for betting, which may in effect change the atmosphere in the stadiums and the arenas?” Mr. Bettman seems to be concerned that by legalizing sports betting, fans would be rooting for the spread instead of rooting for their favorite team.

However, Mr. Bettman seems to miss Mr. Silver’s point. By legalizing sports betting, Congress is not introducing sports betting. Sports betting already exists. By legalizing and strictly regulating it, the government would be bringing sports betting out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated, as Mr. Silver argues.

Furthermore, Mr. Bettman’s concern regarding how sports betting would affect young people as well as the atmosphere at sporting events seems to stem out of his moral judgment on the merits of gambling. However gambling is a form of entertainment just like sport is. As Mr. Silver points out, gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States. Gambling and sport have co-existed without having a particular affect on young people or the atmosphere at sporting events. Therefore, it could hardly be argued that by legalizing and regulating what already exists, there would be a negative affect on young people and the atmosphere at sporting events.

Moreover, Mr. Bettman seems to suggest that rooting for the spread and rooting for your favorite team are mutually exclusive things. However, most sports fan are able to differentiate between the two and can partake in both activities without affecting their enthusiasm and loyalty to their favorite team. Indeed, it could be argued that sports betting might actually increase the level of interest ordinary citizens might have in sports and in attending sporting events.

In conclusion, while Mr. Silver’s offers a pragmatic opinion on the future of sports betting, Mr. Bettman seems to think that by legalizing and regulating an estimated $400 billion a year underground industry, society would be sending the wrong message to young people. In this battle, Mr. Silver is clearly leading 1-0.


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NHL Expansion in Toronto – is sharing caring?

December 19, 2014


by Michael Truong – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

As long as Canada remains the hockey mecca of the world, rumour and speculation over National Hockey League (“League”) expansion in Toronto will not subside. With the Toronto Maple Leafs being the most valuable franchise valued at over $1 billion, a second team in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) seems inevitable. While many Canadians, and in particular those living in Hamilton, support League expansion in the GTA, the Toronto Maple Leafs have refused to endorse any such idea.

A second team in the GTA would be a contentious expansion destination, not because the market could not handle a second team, but because the Toronto Maple Leafs would undoubtedly fight to prevent any potential market dilution. A second team means splitting the corporate support and the fan base, which may reduce the value of the existing franchise. Thus, it seems only natural that the Toronto Maple Leafs would vigorously defend their territorial rights before ever conceding their hockey monopoly.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have defended their territorial rights once before. In 2009, Jim Balsillie, the former CEO of Research in Motion, attempted to purchase the former Phoenix Coyotes and move them to Hamilton. The Toronto Maple Leafs took the position that the relocation of a team into their home territory was not subject to a majority vote and that they held de facto veto over whether a new team could move into the region. Though a legal battle never materialized, the NHL Constitution seems to support the Maple Leaf’s case.

Under section 12.2 of the NHL Constitution, each member “accepts and agrees to abide by the … Constitution and each and every alteration, amendment and repeal.” Therefore, the Toronto Maple Leafs are bound by section 3.3, which provides that before any new teams are admitted to the League, the only requirement is a favourable vote of three-fourths of the Board of Governors.

More importantly, however, is the issue of territorial exclusivity. Section 4.3 of Article IV of the NHL Constitution states that each NHL team has exclusive control within its “home territory,” which means “exclusive territorial rights in the city in which it is located and within fifty miles of that city’s corporate limits.” The provision further states that “No franchise shall be granted a home territory within the home territory of a member, without the written consent of such member.” Section 4.3 appears to be the legal weapon with which the Toronto Maple Leafs could mount a defence against the League’s expansion into the GTA. So long as any expansion plans fall within the Leaf’s “home territory,” the League faces an uphill battle.

By virtue of Section 4.3, all NHL member teams seemingly hold a veto over the League if the expansion plan is in the respective team’s backyard. It seems odd that the League would leave a loophole open for teams to potentially handcuff them. Nevertheless, there are a few ways for the League to defend itself against a veto argument.

First, the “city’s corporate limits” in Section 4.3 is ambiguous enough that the NHL can argue for the most restrictive interpretation of territorial exclusivity so as to place them outside the scope of the Toronto Maple Leaf’s territorial rights as set out under Article IV. If successful, this would open up Southern Ontario as a potential destination.

The NHL may even argue that any potential expansion opportunity belongs solely to the League itself, an argument which has been successful in US courts (See, e.g., L.A. Mem’l Coliseum Comm’n v. NFL, 791 F.2d 1356 (9th Cir. 1986); NBA v. SDC Basketball Club, Inc., 815 F.2d 562 (9th Cir. 1987); St. Louis Convention & Visitors Comm’n v. NFL, 154 F.3d 851 (8th Cir. 1998).

If and when the Toronto Maple Leafs are faced with an expansion team in the GTA, any reservations regarding potential depreciation in the value of the franchise may be offset by the projected expansion fee of $1-1.5 billion. If Anaheim serves as an example, the Maple Leafs would stand to receive a sizable share of that expansion fee likely amounting to an influx of $500-750 million, a sum that would cause any owner to think twice.

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Overly ambitious parents in youth sports

November 23, 2014


By Robert Mazzarolo – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

In early November, Chief Justice Chris Hinkson, of the British Columbia Supreme Court, issued a restraining order against a mother of three. While restraining orders are not uncommon, this one was. The mother was ordered to stop contacting coaches and officials of the National Hockey League, Western Hockey League, and Kootenay Ice Hockey League, in which her two older sons were involved. The mother was sending hundreds of e-mails to her sons’ coaches and officials, outlining her disapproval with their handling of the boys in their hockey activities. Undoubtedly, this mother believed her sons were the next Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews of hockey, but no one else could see it.

Those of us who have experienced coaching, managing, or just being involved in youth athletics, can recall horror stories of parents who believed their child was the next Great One, if only their coach would realize it. I understand parents wanting their child to be treated equally by their coach. I even understand overly competitive parents pushing their children to achieve more. However what I do not understand is a parent believing as fact that their kid is going to be a star in professional sport. The odds are stacked against them.

Here’s why.

The two most popular team sports in Canada for youth athletes are hockey and soccer. Both sports have professional leagues in North America and in other countries around the world. Both have a well-defined pathway and structure, designed to assist young athletes who wish, presumably along with their parent’s wishes, to make it professionally in that sport. In the following analysis I will be making assumptions in order to simplify matters. However, all assumptions will benefit the young Canadian becoming a professional athlete in that sport. This analysis will only focus on young male athletes, as this data is more accessible and their opportunities in these sports are more lucrative.

First, let’s analyze hockey. According to Statistics Canada, in 2012 roughly 537,000 males, aged 17 and younger, were registered in minor hockey across Canada. The NHL consists of 30 franchises across North America. Assuming each franchise has a roster of 23 players and all roster spots are available for Canadians only (notwithstanding that the actual number of Canadians in the NHL is just over half of the total), there are a total of 690 roster spots available in the NHL. Taking the total roster spots available in the NHL (690), dividing it by the total number of registered male youth minor hockey players in Canada for 2012 (537,000), and then multiplying that number by 100 to get a percentage, your result is 0.128%. For each parent who believes their son is going to the NHL, the odds of that happening are 0.128%. Barely over one tenth of one percent!

Second, we’ll look at soccer. According to the Canadian Soccer Association, there are approximately 850,000 registered soccer players in Canada. 58% of players are male. The professional league in North America is Major League Soccer (MLS), which as of 2014 had 19 franchises. Let us assume that each franchise has 30 roster spots available and once again, they are reserved for Canadians only. Therefore, there are a total of 570 roster spots available in MLS. Using the same formula as we used for hockey (570 divided by 425,000 times 100), the result is 0.134%. As with hockey, each registered male soccer player in Canada has less than a 1% chance of playing professionally in MLS, let alone playing professionally in Europe or South America.

Truly, these numbers are astoundingly low and represent long odds for any young athlete hoping to be a professional athlete in either hockey or soccer. This even includes the key assumption of all roster spots are available only to Canadians which is clearly not the case here. If this assumption were removed, the odds fall dramatically. It is a wonder why any parent believes their son will become a professional athlete, especially in hockey or soccer. My message to all parents who have kids involved in sports is this: Relax, take a step back, and enjoy the excitement of your son and/or daughter competing, having fun, and learning invaluable life lessons while they participate in sports. They almost certainly will not become a professional athlete. Very little you do will change the odds of that happening and we certainly do not need any more restraining orders in sports.

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The saga of Adrian Peterson

November 23, 2014


By Jeanine Ball – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

NFL star running back Adrian Peterson, who has been touted as one of the best players in the NFL will face a hearing on the fate of his future with the League this coming Monday.

In early September, allegations broke that Peterson abused his four year old son. His son was injured when hit by a wooden switch or stick, including bruising and cuts on his body. Peterson was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child. Last week he bargained for a plea deal to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault. The terms of the plea included 80 hours of community service work, two years of “deferred adjudication” (which is similar to probation), a fine of $4,000, and a requirement to attend parenting classes.

Throughout the ordeal Peterson has been suspended from his team, the Minnesota Vikings, while still receiving his annual salary of $11.25 million.

Issues of race, domestic violence, and the intense scrutiny on professional athletes have brought this story to a fevered pitch on social media.

Peterson has had a chaotic year. His two year old son was murdered in October of 2013. Peterson returned to play just days later. Since the indictment for abuse of his four year old son in September, his arrest was considered after he admitted to “smoking a little weed.”

Now he has pled guilty. What does this mean for his future in the NFL?

The NFL guidelines for domestic violence were amended in August following the Ray Rice scandal. A six game suspension is now the punishment for a first offence (it was previously just two games). The player’s union on Peterson’s behalf is arguing for immediate reinstatement. Neither option seems a just solution under the circumstances.

Peterson offered some justification for his actions towards his son as Peterson used disciplinary techniques used on him as a child growing up in Texas. His mother has defended his actions and has emphasized they were acts that were motivated by love. She has been quoted as saying, “When you whip those you love, it’s not about abuse, it’s about love. You want to make them understand that they did wrong.” Regardless of his personal history, causing harm to a child contravened both United States federal and international Law. A $4,000 fine to an individual making a salary of $11.25 million and some hours of community service and probation time is not a significant penalty considering the circumstances of the offender.

Likewise, a six game suspension may serve a purpose in terms of deterrence, but the time involved is insufficient to allow substantive recovery or reconciliation for Peterson with his family. A leave of absence from his team and the NFL would give him time to receive counselling and increase the chance for him to restore a healthy relationship with his son and focus on parenting out of the media glare. Continuing to play in the NFL is not a context that will allow Peterson to rehabilitate from these personal issues.

In order to move towards positive outcomes, the discussion should shift to a focus on healing at a number of levels. Seemingly forgotten in the hysteria around Peterson’s punishment is that a four year old boy was physically and emotionally abused and that concern for his rehabilitation – not those of his famous father back into the NFL – should come first.

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