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International Sports Law Blog

Pay for college athletes gaining momentum

Anyone who attends a Division 1 football game or the March Madness basketball tournament sees the incredible amount of money involved. The fact is that college sports are now big business. However, while professional athletes are paid millions of dollars to compete and many sign lucrative endorsement deals, the money in college sports bypasses the “scholar/athlete” and goes to schools, athletic departments, coaches, clothing companies, media companies and other businesses in the college sports food chain. 

There is now a report on Capitol Hill authored by Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut that calls for college athletes to be fairly compensated for their labor. This came to light as the FBI investigated an NCAA rule violation where money from Adidas went to top college basketball players, using assistant coaches and others as intermediaries.

Rob Gronkowski post-NFL career starts with cannabis oil

We have recently talked at length about the NFL’s stance on marijuana. Now former Patriot’s star tight end Rob Gronkowski - simply known as “Gronk” - has big plans for his next phase in life, including going into business with CBDMedic, which is a cannabis-based topical cream that is applied to aches and pains. He is not the first former NFL player to go into the CBD business, with more players signing up every day to be spokespersons, investors or both.

Always looking downfield

Less than one year to the Tokyo Olympics

The XXXII Olympic Summer Games will be held in Tokyo next year. There will be inspirational victories, crushing defeats, and inevitably, controversies involving athlete performance. Politics will play out on the global stage, ideally by showing signs of unity and sportsmanship among the international assembly of athletes. However, it likely will also involve Tweets from the White House. There will be laps in the pool and on the track. Balls will be thrown, caught, kicked, blocked and shot.

No one can tell the future beyond the above certainties, but here are some likely story lines involving athletes from the U.S. during the 2020 Olympic Games:

NFL hires Jay-Z to provide cover for treatment of Kaepernick

The NFL saw its collective honey pot crack when quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others kneeled during the national anthem before games in 2016. The reason was social justice, particularly regarding law enforcement’s treatment of African-American men, which is a demographic that makes up 75% of the players in professional football. The crack began to gush when Kaepernick, who started in a Superbowl for the 49ers and was in the prime of his career, found that no team was interested in signing him as a free agent after his seven-year contract worth $126 million was canceled after 2016. He was paid just $40 million.

Allegations of oppressive billionaire owners (none of whom are black) colluding against hiring activist players became rampant, and Kaepernick filed a grievance with the NFL, eventually receiving less than $10 million to settle earlier this year.

Student suspended for sexual misconduct claims discrimination

In June, a male student of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) filed suit against the school after he was suspended for alleged sexual misconduct. The unnamed student, identified in the complaint as “John Doe,” claims the school’s disciplinary process “was directly and indirectly designed to discriminate against male students on the basis of their sex.”

Athlete claims fertility treatments caused failed drug test

New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate is appealing a four-game suspension after the NFL ruled he violated the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Tate confirmed the suspension but said he plans to appeal the ruling.

The 10-year NFL veteran says the banned substance in question was a prescribed medication he was taking after he and his wife started seeing a fertility specialist in the off-season. Tate says he discovered the drug was on the league’s banned substance list just days after he began taking it.

U.S. women's team poised to take on FIFA

There has been a lot of media attention given to the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) before, during and after their unprecedented fourth FIFA World Cup win and second in a row. Team members have courted controversy on several fronts, notably irking President Trump in their rebuff of his invitation to visit the White House.

Challenging FIFA to pay more

Despite risks, CBD use in pro golf continues to rise

Ten years ago, few would have expected to see professional golfers sponsored by a product even tangentially related to marijuana. However, athletes across the world have discovered the benefits of CBD oil, a hemp product mostly devoid of THC. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of prohibited supplements in 2018 – but, as with any supplement, CBD use is not without its risks.

NCAA comes out against California bill for college athletes

The NCAA is pushing back against a bill in the California legislature that would allow college athletes to earn money for the use of their name, image or likeness beginning in 2023. In a letter to State Assembly committees, NCAA President Mark Emmert told lawmakers that if the bill passes California schools might be prohibited from competing in NCAA championships. It will be interesting to see if the NCAA follows through with its threat, as California is home to 23 schools in Division I alone. 

Athletes influence social change throughout history

Along with celebrating back-to-back World Cup wins, the U.S. national women's soccer team has also embraced its role in advocating for LGBTQ inclusion and gender equity. While other professional sports in the U.S. seem to lack openly gay players, the UWNT has become a source of pride for LGBTQ Americans. Time and time again, the team has stood together on issues of inclusiveness.

Even as the Women's World Cup champions take the world by storm, social activism in sports has existed for about as long as sport itself. Long before Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, athletes engaged in protests at the Olympic Games and numerous other arenas. In some cases, putting their careers on the line.

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