Die hard sports fans in some cases resemble small children who put their hands over their ears and start screaming I can't hear you when someone tries to explain the real business of sports. This week has not been a good week for the true believers of sports. Alex Rodriguez is suing Major League Baseball, the commissioner Bud Selig, a doctor and others in an attempt to get his 211 game suspension for allegedly using drugs (he never failed a drug test) overturned.
While baseball fans enjoy the baseball playoffs, attorney Jeffrey Kessler is going after the cartel known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Kessler, who is part of the New York-based Winston and Strawn law firm, is a big time sports attorney and his role figures to be representing college players and former college players who see huge cable TV money, along with massive dollars from advertisers and marketers flow into the college sports industry while those athletes get a generous but partial annual scholarship to play sports and perhaps get an education if football, basketball or other sports don't get in the way.
The players are not exactly indentured servants but there are some rather strange rules that are attached to their contracts with colleges and universities. The athletes are limited to how much money they can make from outside jobs and are scrutinized if they go home for the holidays. One reason there are so many college basketball tournaments over the American Thanksgiving holiday, besides a money grab from promoters and a TV pay day for schools, is to keep the players from going home. The same hold true for football teams playing bowl games over the Christmas vacation.
The colleges are worried that poor student-athletes might be getting money from an unauthorized source to travel. That's against NCAA rules. The NCAA has all the leverage in the relationship with the student-athletes who make the money for the institutions.
The true die hard sports fans will cover their ears and start yelling I can't hear you when these topics are discussed. After all, the legal system gets in the way of a fans' enjoyment which is to watch a game.
NCAA members, and the NCAA is run by college presidents, chancellors, provosts and other members of high academia, have taken the unpaid players likenesses and have used them in the lucrative video game market. The NCAA along with the video game maker Electronic Arts has been sued by former athletes including football player Sam Keller and basketball player Ed O'Bannon for using their likenesses in the games and not paying them. The video game company has settled with the athletes but the NCAA has not. The NCAA has ended the video games contract with Electronic Arts.
The college presidents, chancellors, provosts and others connected to the NCAA may also see lawsuits from players who claim they suffered brain injuries that may have not been treated properly during their time playing college football.
There is already some complaints from some areas of the media and the football industry that "football is under siege" because the former players are going after the NFL for money because of the injuries. Football is a dangerous game and a collision game and bodies colliding can be catastrophic.
The games go on.
Soccer's World Cup has an image problem that the organization's parent body is scrambling to correct. FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and there are reports that Qatar is using slave owner-like methods in getting stadiums built for the event. FIFA seems more concerned about the summer heat for the players in 2022 than the workers and there are reports that some workers have died on the job and live in awful conditions. FIFA has kept quiet about the reports of workers fatalities at World Cup stadium construction sites.
The games go on.
The Sochi, Russia Olympics have become a political pawn because of Edward Snowden's NSA/security leaks and subsequent landing in Russia. The Russia new crackdown on gay and lesbian rights has been giving the old soft shoe by the International Olympic Committee despite the group's lip service that all human rights must be respected in the Olympics movement. Of course the IOC looked the other way in the build up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Games at the reports of human rights violations in China.
Two National Football League owners are doing battle in the legal system and that could have an impact on their teams. Cleveland’s Jimmy Haslam’s company Pilot Flying J has been accused of bilking clients out of money and that is ongoing. Meanwhile, a Superior Court judge in New Jersey awarded $84.5 million to two business partners who she said were cheated by Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his family out of revenues from a Montville, New Jersey apartment complex for more than 21 years. That too is ongoing.
Major League Baseball is also facing another lawsuit. This time from the city of San Jose which is suing baseball on antitrust grounds because Major League Baseball has not allowed Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff to pursue a baseball park in San Jose because San Jose is “San Francisco Giants territory.” That court case will continue.
This is the sports world today. For those looking to lose themselves in the enjoyment or disappoint of wins and losses, it's a fantasy, a diversion but in the real world, sports is nothing more than a cut throat business no matter how many times a fan covers up his or her ears and screams, I'm not listening to you.
Evan Weiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at Amazon.com and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/americas-passion-how-coal/id595575002?m...), From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/from-peach-baskets-to-dance/id636914196...) and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/business-and-politics-of-sports-evan-wei...) are available