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#Top Five Sports Law Stories For 2015

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(Authors’ Note: And updated version of this story was published on April 22, 2015 to reflect recent case developments).

Last year was an historic year in sports law, highlighted by the National Labor Relations Board’s March 26 ruling that Northwestern University football players may unionize, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California’s August 8 ruling that the NCAA’s restraints on college-athlete pay violated antitrust law.

2015 figures to be just as exciting year.

Here are the top five sports law stories that remain ‘on the docket’ for 2015:

1. College Athletes Continue their Fight for Free Markets . While Judge Wilken’s August 8 ruling in O’Bannon v. NCAA opened up the door for college athletes to potentially enjoy trust funds of up to $5,000 per year,the case’s ruling is likely just the beginning to change in college-athlete labor markets. Right behind O’Bannon on the docket is Jenkins v. NCAA. a case being litigated for the plaintiffs by acclaimed sports-law expert Jeffrey Kessler. Unlike the limited remedy sought by the lawyers in O’Bannon. the Jenkins case argues for a true free market for college athletes’ labor services – a result likely justified by traditional interpretation of antitrust laws. With the right expert testimony (something plaintiffs lawyers were lacking in the O’Bannon case), the athletes in Jenkins just might win and overturn the NCAA’s whole shebang.

2. College Athletes Continue their Unionizing Efforts. Much as how the O’Bannon antitrust litigation against the NCAA remains ongoing on appeal, so too does the litigation before the National Labor Relations Board related to the Northwestern University scholarship football players’ right to unionize. Although an initial ruling in this dispute was reached in favor of the Northwestern scholarship football players, the Northwestern University appeal of this decision to the full Board remains unresolved. Once this appeal is decided, the losing party will then likely appeal the subsequent ruling into the federal courts.

Former Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter led players’ efforts to form union.

3. Commissioner Discipline in the NFL. While the Minnesota Vikings season is long complete, Adrian Peterson’s appeal of his indefinite suspension from the NFL has barely begun. If this matter is not settled privately, the courts will have the final say on whether the NFL can maintain a league-wide system of punishment that allows an agent on behalf of the teams to have final say. Perhaps a court decision will also address the outstanding legal issue of whether an indefinite suspension from a pro sports league is tantamount to an illegal group boycott – an issue that both sports leagues and labor arbitrators have long skirted by design.

4. Fight for Legalized Sports Gambling in New Jersey, and the Proliferation of Daily Fantasy Sports Across the Globe. With the proliferation of online gaming throughout cyberspace, it seems inevitable that America is headed in the direction of legalized, and perhaps regulated, sports gambling. However, in this intermittent period, there are many unanswered questions. Currently, the State of New Jersey is moving forward with its efforts to legalize sports gambling within its borders — something opposed by the U.S. professional sports leagues even though each of these leagues have at least some financial interest in ‘daily fantasy sports’ contests. In addition, at least two groups of private entrepreneurs have recently launched play-the-house parlay betting contests under the moniker of ‘daily fantasy sports .’ State and federal regulators will have to make the difficult decision of whether these games warrant criminal investigation in light of current interpretations of various gaming laws.

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