Confused By A Court Ruling…

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the Ed O’Bannon/NCAA lawsuit last week saying that the NCAA rules which restrict payments to athletes violate antitrust laws but it also found that the District Court Judge was wrong in ruling that athletes could receive $5K in compensation for the NCAA using their likenesses to generate revenues. Normally, at this point, I would try to expand upon that statement; but to be frank, it seems self-contradictory to me. Even worse, people who have written about it have claimed that the Appeals Court decision is a victory for both sides. I do not understand that either.

I barely know how to spell Sherman Anti-Trust Act but it sure does seem to me that the NCAA is a “combination in restraint of trade” and I do recall from my high school history classes that such entities are forbidden by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. I will stand corrected if someone argues that it is not the NCAA that is the “combination” here but it is the various conferences that are amalgams of NCAA members that are the entities doing the “restraining”. So, if indeed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that NCAA rules are somehow in violation of the anti-trust laws, I do not see how that can be a “victory” for the NCAA. Here is a portion of the ruling from last week:

“The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules. In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market. The Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.”

To me, that sounds as if the court is telling both sides that they lost. The NCAA has a new set of standards to operate under and the athletes get scholarships as their ”compensation” for going to a school and playing sports there. That sounds to me as if neither side got what it wanted out of this matter. In fact, it sounds as if the athletes lost some important ground in terms of seeking payment for their services by colleges:

“…in finding that paying students cash compensation would promote amateurism as effectively as not paying them, the district court ignored that not paying student-athletes is precisely what makes them amateurs.”

Frankly, it is a bit sad to me to learn that it took folks at the appellate level of the Federal Judiciary to figure out that not paying the players is the essence of amateurism…

Surely, this is not over and there will be more to come from this lawsuit. Hopefully, the next ruling will be a tad clearer for those of us who are interested in sports but not steeped in the legal construct of anti-trust law. Here is a summary article from last week; perhaps it will make things clearer than I can make them here

I am not one who goes to a sporting event and revels in the antics of team mascots. To my mind, the best of the mascots rise to the level of “mildly annoying”. Those comments set the stage for my reaction to a story from last week about Ragnar the Viking. He is the guy who rides his motorcycle out in the stadium during Minnesota Vikings’ games; his costume consists of furry boots and vest, a metal helmet with horns and a huge beard. I guess the word I would use to describe him – never having seen him in person – would be “harmless”. Last year, the Vikings paid Ragnar $1500 per home game ($12K per season) for his services; this year, Ragnar wanted a raise to $20K per game ($160K per season). You need not get out your calculator to realize that is more than a “cost of living increase” in percentage terms. Also, not surprisingly, the Vikings did not accede to his demand and unless there is some kind of negotiated settlement, the Vikings will have to go forth this year without Ragnar and his motorcycle.

At some point, I suspect that someone will write some kind of sappy story about how a certain element of attending Vikings’ games has been missing now that Ragnar is not on the premises. When you read such a story, please recall the numbers here and ask yourself:

    If you owned the Vikings, would you pay a mascot $160K a season – and more if the team has a home playoff game or two?

I do not think I need to spell out what my response would be…

Picking up on another story from last week, the Washington Nationals fired Matt Williams as their manager because the team did not come close to living up to expectations for this season. Williams just finished his second year as manager of the team and – interestingly – he was the NL Manager of the Year in 2014. Juxtaposing the two seasons, one might draw different conclusions:

    A. Williams got awfully stupid awfully fast in 2015 to go from “Manager of the Year” to “Expendable Scapegoat of the Year” – – or – –

    B. “Manager of the Year” is pretty much a meaningless honor despite that significance that the folks who vote on it attach to it.

The entire coaching staff for the team has also been sent packing but the GM who assembled this team of underachievers is still in place and the activist owner of the team has not yet figured out neither the manager nor a single coach ever blew a lead in the 7th or 8th inning to lose a game and that the players were responsible for each and every runner left in scoring position all season long.

With regard to the MLB playoffs:

    Take the OVER in games between the Rangers and the Blue Jays.

    Take the UNDER in games between the Mets and Dodgers when Kershaw or Grienke pitch for the Dodgers.

    I will go with an avian World Series – Blue Jays versus Cardinals.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding baseball records:

“I’m sorry, but there are too many records in Major League Baseball. The other night a game was halted to announce a player just tied the mark for most stolen bases on a Thursday by a guy named Gary.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

10 thoughts on “Confused By A Court Ruling…”

  1. Curmudgeon –
    I for one think this ruling could have grave implications for the NCAA (and therefore expect an appeal to SCOTUS by the NCAA). I would say they won the battle (no direct payments to athletes) but lost the War (NCAA is NOT exempt from anti-trust laws). So even though this ruling would not allow non-education cost – related cash payments, it opens the door to any number of challenges to other NCAA directives. If this ruling stands, I would expect to see schools to be allowed/forced to compete for recruits by expanding on current limitations (e.g., guaranteed 4-year scholarship at the front end (a door that’s already being cracked), expansion of meal & housing provisions, even the cap on total scholarships offered, …). In short, even though not an immediate boon to student-athletes, this represents a huge hit to the omnipotent power (though exercised incompetently!) of the NC2A. And schools will have to stop hiding behind “NCAA rules” and compete more aggressively for their recruits thereby beginning to tilt the playing field a bit more toward level for those athletes.

    1. Pete Murray:

      Thanks for the explanation; that is far deeper than I was willing or able to go. Since I am not a huge fan of the NCAA, I am certainly not going to root for them in this matter, but I still wonder how the existing emphasis on “amateurism” meshes with a significant expansion of the “meal and housing allowances”.

      If this does go to the Supreme Court, however, I will look forward to reading – but not necessarily understanding – Justice Scalia’s commentary on the matter.

  2. Sir:

    a) I think Ragnar the Viking has one other option: find a good sailing vessel (a reproduction longship, perhaps) and go raiding, rampaging, and ravaging in the many lakes in Minnesota, not to mention Lake Superior, and collect loot and booty to supplement his income; and,
    b) I know the NLDS is only one game, but surely your view on Pirates vs. Cubbies is valuable…oh, never mind, *I* could pick that one: Cubs beat the pirates 16 out of 20 games this year (somewhere in that neighborhood), Cubs in 1.

    1. I could point out that in 1988 the Mets beat LA 10 of 11… and lost the NLDS in 7…

      Ah, you got Arrietta – gotta pick the Cubs.

      As for Ragnar – he got Ragnar-rocked! But really, how many people would notice the difference if they simply replaced him with some OTHER big guy on a bike? The beard and wig can even be fake. Heck, they could get some large WOMAN to do it, and almost no one be the wiser. Be careful not to overplay your hand, Philly Phanatic…. (IMO, the best mascot)

      1. Ed:

        If I were the Vikings, I would not even give Ragnar the chance to claim that I was “infringing” on his mascot character.

        IMO, “best mascot” is pretty much the same as “tallest dwarf”.

  3. Another challenge I expect is the NCAA rule that forces an athlete to miss a year of competition when he or she transfers to another school. Or the rule that allows a school to prohibit a transfer to other specific schools. Or, to prohibit the transfer completely.

    1. Doug:

      I am not sure I see how that kind of a challenge comes out of the current matter that has to do withpayments to athletes, but I would not mind seeing those transfer rules challenged.

  4. I think the problem with Williams is that he would not coddle the over paid young stars like like Harper. Harper could have never played for Casey Stengel!

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