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Roger I. Abrams

Roger I. Abrams

Posted: November 22, 2010 05:51 PM

For the past month I have been engaged in a "virtual" book tour around the nation for my latest sports law book, entitled Sports Justice: The Business and the Law of Sports. From Seattle to Miami and Bangor to Los Angeles, I have chatted with sports jocks and drive-time radio folks about current issues in the world of sports. The beauty of this "tour" is that I never had to leave my office, and I never missed a class.

The book tour offered some insights into what was on the minds of the media when it came to the games we love and can't seem to live without. The first topic raised a month ago was Brett Favre, the to-be Hall of Fame quarterback, who allegedly sent sexually explicit notes and photographs of his anatomy to a woman who at the time was a fellow employee of the New York Jets. The high titillation quotient of the story could not be ignored. Could Favre or the Jets be held liable? The Jets quickly distanced themselves from their erstwhile QB while Favre remained silent. I suggested that the Commissioner would have the final say as to any discipline for the Vikings' quarterback and would likely take action if only to emphasize that such alleged behavior was intolerable, especially after the recent incidents involving Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback. If the alleged victim were to seek any compensation for sexual harassment, that matter would be addressed privately, and it would be unlikely to find its way to court. As the month progressed, however, the Favre story fell off the radar screen in radioland. As the Vikings sunk in the standings, interest declined. Now that the Vikes have fired their coach, no one seems to care anymore.

There was much interest in the story of Casey Martin, the disabled golfer, who I talk about in the book. Martin had to use the federal courts and the Americans with Disabilities Act to secure the right to employ a golf cart because he simply could not walk the course. When he arrived at the ball, however, he could play the game with the best on the Tour. The case made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court which decided that the game of golf does not include walking and that Martin's rights were violated.

The Casey Martin decision always generates excited discussion in my Sports Law class where many of the students play golf and some find the court result simply unfair. Perhaps they even see it as cheating. The radio folks seemed unwilling to pick a fight on that ground, perhaps showing a kindness to a guest that law students do not always demonstrate to their professors. In any case, they were fascinated by how the law has impacted sports.

Sometimes the on-air discussion was regionally-oriented. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay area hosts, for example, wanted to chat about my chapter on Al Davis, one of the great characters of the sports business. They were ready to hurl insults at the Brooklyn-born entrepreneur who, for the moment at least, has returned his franchise back to Oakland after a sojourn in LA. The Denver station focused on Jeremy Bloom's case. They all remembered the great world-class mogul skier who was banned from playing football for the University of Colorado Buffaloes by the NCAA because he had modeled clothes for Tommie Hilfinger. They could not understand the NCAA's reasoning. They are not alone. I tried to explain that the NCAA is a cartel seeking to protect its brand of amateur sports, but I could not explain why the NCAA would allow college basketball players to play professional baseball during the off-season while Bloom was banned because he took a good picture for a clothes advertisement.

Upon returning from my book tour, I am struck with how varied and interesting the world of sports radio is. Small markets have some terrific interviewers. Large markets varied in quality. All enjoyed the discussion of issues that are often the first to be ignored when reading the sports pages. They all wanted to talk about what was going to happen with next year's negotiations in the NFL and the NBA. I assured them there would not be a football lockout, but that basketball was more uncertain. The Indianapolis radio station was pleased about the prospect for an NFL settlement, because the 2012 Super Bowl is scheduled for Lucas Oil Stadium. I also told them that if the labor disputes were settled, they should remember where they heard it first. And if there were work stoppages, however, they should forget everything I said.