Law & Policy: Governing Bodies
- MMA Ban Remains in N.Y., Despite Risks to Amateurs
by Carla Varriale July 2015
The sport of Mixed Martial Arts remains controversial. Once the province of bare-knuckled underground fights, MMA has evolved into a lucrative and increasingly mainstream sport.
- Bill Would Create Commission to Oversee College Athletics
by Stuart Goldman June 2015
Five members of Congress, including some who have criticized the NCAA’s handling of recent sanctions against Penn State University and Syracuse University, introduced a bill last week aimed at NCAA reform.
Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) announced plans last Thursday to introduce the National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act, local and national media outlets reported. The bill is similar to legislation Dent and Beatty proposed in 2013, according to the Huffington Post:
Like that bill, the new legislation requires concussion testing for all athletes in contact sports, mandates that schools guarantee four-year scholarships to athletes in those sports, and seeks to improve due process rights for athletes and schools accused of NCAA rules infractions. The bill would prevent universities from accessing federal Title IV education funds if they do not comply with these stipulations.
The bill also would create a presidential commission to oversee broad issues of college athletics, such as financial transparency, tax regulations and the recruiting and retention of student-athletes, the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call reported.
“Make no mistake about it, the NCAA is a corporate colossus, and it’s high time we take a look at it,” Katko said in a PennLive.com report.
At a press conference, Rush was most critical of the NCAA, saying it “exploits (athletes’) labor without pay,” according to the Huffington Post. Rush added it is beyond time to reform “the abysmal cesspool that’s called college athletics in America.”
Dent, who like Thompson is a Penn State graduate, said the bill was born from the NCAA's responses to letters he wrote regarding the NCAA sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, the Morning Call reported. Dent and Thompson said the NCAA did not provide Penn State with due process.
“The attitude of that institution, their lack of responsiveness and frankly the arrogant way they handled it, is what drove me,” Dent said in the Morning Call. “[The NCAA] had a total lack of regard to people who appropriate public money.”
Katko represents a district in New York that includes Syracuse. He was critical of the sanctions against the Syracuse University football and men’s basketball teams, including a nine-game suspension of Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim. Katko said the NCAA “went out of their way to humiliate and pound on Jim Boeheim” and added the presidential commission would “take a fresh look at what the NCAA has become,” the Morning Call reported.
The NCAA had no comment on the bill, according to the media outlets.
- Seven FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges
by Laura Godlewski May 2015
The rumors of corruption plaguing FIFA have finally come to a head following the arrest of seven top soccer officials on Wednesday at a hotel in Switzerland. The seven officials will be extradited to the United States on federal corruption charges alleging widespread corruption spanning two decades -- including bids for World Cups and marketing and broadcast deals -- throughout the organization. The charges, part of a 47-count indictment unsealed Wednesday morning in New York, include racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. Sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America were also named in the indictment, accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in order to receive media deals during major soccer tournaments.
“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” acting U.S. attorney Kelly T. Currie said in a statement. “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”
Hours after the arrests were made, Swiss officials announced that they had opened criminal cases related to the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. According to Swiss officials, “electronic data and documents were seized today at FIFA’s head office in Zurich.”
The seven arrested are connected with regional confederations of North and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted of the charges. In total, the indictment charges nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives, six of whom have already entered guilty pleas.
According to the United States Justice Department, the corruption is linked to World Cup qualifying matches, as well as the Copa America, the continental championship of South America. U.S. authorities suspect that the arrested officials received or paid bribes totaling millions of dollars and that the bribes were agreed to and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out through U.S. banks.
“When leaders in an organization resort to cheating the very members that they are supposed to represent, they must be held accountable,” said Richard Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. “Corruption, tax evasion and money laundering are certainly not the cornerstones of any successful business. Whether you call it soccer or football, the fans, players and sponsors around the world who love this game should not have to worry about officials corrupting their sport. This case isn't about soccer, it is about fairness and following the law. IRS-CI will continue to investigate financial crimes and follow the money wherever it may lead around the world, leveling the playing field for those who obey the law.”
In addition to the search of FIFA’s headquarters by Swiss officials, United States officials executed search warrants at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami Beach. CONCACAF is the North American regional body and reported itself in 2012 to U.S. tax authorities. CONCACAF’s former president left the soccer world in 2011 to avoid FIFA sanctions as a result of a bribery scandal associated with the election for the FIFA presidential position of that year. The former secretary general of CONCACAF left the organization in 2013 and pleaded guilty to charges.
Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not arrested or indicted and is expected to remain president of the organization.
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- Athletes-as-Employees Model Would Alter ND Approach
by Paul Steinbach May 2015
The University of Notre Dame is the latest school to express that it would withdraw from the current setup of big-time college sports in the event student-athletes are deemed to be employees, according to athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who appeared as a panelist at a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Sports meeting Tuesday.
"Notre Dame's just not prepared to participate in any model where the athlete isn't a student first and foremost — that's the hallmark for us," Swarbrick told USA TODAY Sports. "If the entire model were to move toward athletes as employees, we'd head in a different direction. Our president has been clear about that. I'm not articulating a unique position."
It's one that's not unique to Notre Dame, either. Northwestern University president emeritus Henry Beinen, a Knight Commission member, expressed a hope that Northwestern athletics would likewise seek a different approach to athletics, if the National Labor Relations Board concludes that an employer-employee relationship exists. The NLRB is deliberating the March 2014 ruling of regional director Peter Sung Ohr that Northwestern's scholarship football players are employees of the university, a ruling that included an order that Northwestern players vote on whether or not to unionize.
"If we wound up with a business where you wound up paying the players to play, I think alumni would have a different view [of college sports]," Beinen said. "I think the faculty would be unaccepting of it, at least at universities like Northwestern and Stanford and maybe Notre Dame, Rice, Duke. … We haven't gotten there by a long shot. Will we? I don't know. I hope not."
After appearing at a Congressional hearing on the Northwestern unionization effort last May, Stanford University athletic director Bernard Muir told USA Today Sports, "If [Stanford's athletes] are deemed employees, we will opt for a different model."
Speaking at Tuesday's meeting, NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon reiterated the associations long-standing position that student-athletes are amateurs. “Amateur status, as defined by being college eligible, is compromised when they use their athletic skill for pay,” Lennon said. “The introduction of pay may lead some — not all, but some — to not take full advantage of these educational opportunities that are available to them in their college years.”
- San Francisco Nears Smokeless Tobacco Ban at City Fields, Including Giants' AT&T Park
by Michael Gaio April 2015
San Francisco officials are on the verge of spitting out a rule that would ban smokeless tobacco from ball fields throughout the city, including the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park.
- Bill Banning 'Redskins' Moniker Advances in California
by Emily Attwood April 2015
The state of California is poised to quell any further debate over whether “Redskins” is an inappropriate athletic team name once and for all. The California Racial Mascots Act, advanced to a state Assembly panel on Tuesday, would prohibit the use of the name by any public school beginning January 1, 2016.
“There is obviously a lack of respect when we allow teams to brand themselves with racial slurs,” said assemblyman Luis Alejo, the bill’s author. “The R-word was once used to describe Native American scalps sold for bounty, and in today's society it has become widely recognized as a racial slur.”
There are currently four public schools in the state that use the name Redskins for their athletic programs. The affected schools would not be required to cease all use of the name. Items such as yearbooks and newspapers would not longer be able to utilize the name, but to prevent financial hardship, schools would be allowed to keep uniforms and other materials bearing the name, provided they have selected a new name. Under the legislation, schools would be able to purchase up to 20 percent of uniforms with the old name until 2019.
“Tulare Union Redskins are part of a long and proud tradition dating back to 1890,” Sarah Koligian, superintendent of Tulare Join Union High School District, one of the four holdout schools, told SFGate. “Our school has worked closely with our local Indian tribes to include them in the discussion regarding how the Tulare Union Redskin depicts both pride and respect.”
The bill, approved last month by the Assembly Education Committee, was approved by the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media but must go through another committee before advancing to the Assembly floor.
“It’s a small thing we can do in California that is part of a national movement to phase out the use of racial slurs as mascots,” Alejo said.
- Indiana to Alter Controversial Law, NCAA Pleased
by Michael Gaio April 2015
With the men’s Final Four just two days away, one of the biggest story lines has had nothing to do with basketball. Instead, the spotlight has been on host-state Indiana and its controversial “religious freedom” law, which is being amended just one week after its introduction.
- Tennessee Fires Donnie Tyndall Amid NCAA Probe
by Michael Gaio March 2015
The University of Tennessee has fired men's basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, the school announced Friday morning. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports first reported Tyndall's departure.
- Florida HS Coach Out Amid Foreign Recruiting Scandal
by Michael Gaio March 2015
On the bright side, Lake Wales High School’s boys’ basketball coach led his team to a winning record on the court. On the down side, he was willing to do almost anything — including recruiting students from other countries to get there. At least that’s what a report filed by the school to the Florida High School Athletic Association is claiming.
- Minnesota Bill Aims to Undo HS Transgender Policy
by Michael Gaio March 2015
Minnesota legislators have introduced a new bill that would undo the state high school league's controversial transgender athlete policy.