The NBA And Its Teams Provide Solid Strategies For Teams Looking To Go Green

With over 1.3 million viewers tuning in to watch its regular season games, the NBA has a unique platform to facilitate social change. Last week, the NBA utilized that platform to educate its teams and fans about ways to reduce their collective environmental footprint. NBA Green Week presented by Sprint allowed the NBA and its teams to encourage environmental responsibility throughout their communities.

When asked why the NBA dedicates a week of its season to NBA Green Week, NBA senior vice president of social responsibility, Todd Jacobson, said, “Social responsibility is part of our league’s DNA. Through the NBA’s reach and the profile of our players, we have the ability to address important social issues, such as environmental awareness. In partnership with the Green Sports Alliance, the NBA, its teams and players are committed to taking steps to promote environmental stewardship and encourage our fans to join us. NBA Green Week presented by Sprint is our chance to highlight some of the great work taking place around the league, while promoting environmental awareness and encouraging our fans to think about their effect on the environment.”

Notably, NBA Green Week is the only week-long initiative hosted by any professional sports league that is entirely focused upon educating fans about environmental stewardship. One example of the week’s events is the NBA’s commitment to plant a tree with the Arbor Day Foundation every time that #NBAGreen was posted on social media or three trees every time a three-pointer is scored during the week’s games. Beyond tree planting, the NBA also partnered with Sprint to host phone recycling events and has also purchased renewable energy certificates in conjunction with Bonneville Environmental Foundation to cover the energy used during the week’s games.

Highlighted throughout the NBA Green Week agenda was the NBA and its teams’ partnership with the Green Sports Alliance. Founded in 2010 to inspire teams, fans, leagues and venues to embrace sustainability, the Green Sports Alliance counts numerous NBA teams and their venues as members.

In 2015, teams are continuing to identify standards of best practice for developing sustainability plans that they can not only adopt, but will also motivate their fans to engage in green practices. Several initiatives engaged in by some NBA Green Sports Alliance members serve as great examples of how teams can incorporate sustainability into their business model and positively impact the environment. These initiatives can easily be replicated by other teams, both inside and outside of the NBA.

Portland Trailblazers

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The initiative: Inaugural members of the Green Sports Alliance, the Portland Trail Blazers and their arena, the Moda Center, are sports leaders in the green arena. Recently, the team launched the Threes for Trees campaign. In partnership with Daimler Trucks, the Trailblazers plant three trees for every three pointer scored during the season. 3,000 trees will be planted this spring in Portland’s Sandy River delta.

Ideas for other teams:  Other teams should consider ways that they can utilize particular areas of team success to drive sustainability.  Additionally, the lesson from the Trail Blazers, is that corporate sponsors are willing to come on board to support these endeavors.  Thus, teams’ corporate sponsorship teams should be creating activations centering around sustainability and pushing those to sponsors.

Miami Heat

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The initiative: After the first NBA Green Week in 2008, the Miami Heat realized it could attain LEED certification for its arena, the AmericanAirlines Arena. In 2009, AmericanAirlines Arena received LEED Gold certification. In 2015, AmericanAirlines Arena became the first sports and entertainment venue in the world to achieve LEED Gold recertification status. “From becoming certified to recertification, we were focused on keeping up and managing our own standards. We want to keep leading the industry in terms of sustainability, because in sports, there are still very few stadiums that are LEED certified,” said the Heat’s operations and sustainability coordinator, Jackie Ventura.

Ideas for other teams: One thing that allowed the AmericanAirlines Arena to obtain LEED Gold recertification, was the Heat’s adoption of unique strategies to reduce arena waste. In this regard, it launched the Re-Heat program, which saves over 5,000 pounds of concessionaire’s food from the trash can, and instead, redirects it to local homeless shelters. Other teams can follow the Heat’s lead by identifying unique ways to reduce arena waste that also benefit their communities.

Golden State Warriors

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The initiative: The Golden State Warriors pride themselves on the sustainability and green initiatives adopted not only at the team’s arena, but its headquarters and practice facilities as well. One recent initiative has focused upon recycling water bottles at the team’s headquarters. There, over 67,000 water bottles annually avoid the landfill through recycling initiatives.

Ideas for other teams: Water bottles continue to be one of the greatest causes of landfill waste. Other teams should follow the Warriors’ lead and institute sound recycling policies for their employees’ water bottles. Alternatively, teams can distribute reusable water bottles to their employees and provide water filling stations in their offices. Teams can also host giveaway nights where they distribute free reusable water bottles to fans to educate them on the waste issues that arise with disposable water bottles.

Houston Rockets

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The initiative: Recognizing the presence the team holds in the Houston community, the Rockets hold an annual electronics recycling drive annually. The drive gives local Houston citizens an opportunity to turn in televisions, computers and other electronic components to have them safely and properly recycled. This initiative not only keeps these items out of landfills, but ensures the possibility of their proper re-use.

Ideas for other teams: Many teams host similar e-cycle events, but the key is to allow for the event to actively engage fans with the team. Thus, teams should consider including green giveaways in their events or ensure that there are educational materials on hand for fans to pick up about how they can make their home more sustainable. Furthermore, teams should engage employees to become involved in the recycling events by providing incentives to the employees who bring in the greatest number of electronics to be recycled.

Phoenix Suns

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The initiative: In 2012, 966 solar panels were installed at the Phoenix Suns’ home, the U.S. Airways Center. The project, a joint effort between the Suns and APS with an estimated cost of $1.26 million, has some serious environmental impacts. The solar panels create 378,000 kWh of solar energy per year, which amounts to 20 Suns’ games worth of clean energy.

Ideas for other teams: A handful of other NBA teams have installed solar panels on their arenas. Given the steep price of these, though, teams should seek to involve corporate sponsors to partner in the initiative. Furthermore, teams can utilize the solar panels as a way to engage their communities. For instance, teams can host elementary and middle school aged children on field trips to visit and learn about solar electricity.

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How Adidas Signed The Best NBA Rookies To Its Brand

Last weekend may have been the most fashionable weekend in New York history.

In the midst of Fashion Week’s (or, is it really fashion month?!) kicking off, the NBA’s top stars descended upon New York City for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game. This year, for the first time ever, the NBA incorporated a number of fashion elements into the weekend’s festivities.

One such element is the presentation of the NBA’s first fashion show. Airing Saturday night, the fashion featured eight NBA players taking the runway in a three-round show, featuring boardroom, game day and night out apparel.
The official apparel provider of the NBA, adidas, also found its way onto the runway during All-Star Weekend. Over the weekend, Kanye West hosted the adidas Originals x Kanye West YEEZY SEASON 1 fashion show to mark the launch of his new sneaker with the brand.

Over the last year, adidas has intensified its push to dominate the market share of hip-hop and NBA enthusiasts. The YEEZY SEASON 1 launch marks part of a growing initiative by adidas to secure the biggest names in entertainment and sports to market its brand.

At the start of the NBA season, adidas made waves when the brand announced the signing of four of the top-six rookies drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. Signing the number-one overall draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, along with Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart marked a successful execution of company strategy for adidas.

“We’ve been targeting this class for a couple of years. As we look at our long-term strategy within basketball, athletes play a critically important part of how we plan to grow our business and brand. It’s the best way to connect with fans and kids. At the end of the day, the kids buying sneakers are the ones looking up to the best players in the game. We’ve always had a focus in partnering with the best athletes in the game, going back to Kareem, Allen Iverson and more recently, Derrick Rose. In this draft class, we saw an opportunity to reinvest in our portfolio of players,” said adidas’ head of basketball, Chris Grancio.

For NBA players, signing with an apparel company provides an opportunity to collaborate on the types and designs of sneakers they’ll wear on the court. As players’ fashion brands off the court continue to grow, with many having their own fashion lines, this is a critical opportunity for apparel companies to present NBA stars. “The relationship becomes more collaborative the more time that we have to work with the players. We are working on some custom player edition products for our rookies for the tail end of the season and the playoffs. We showed them designs and got feedback, so they’ll have input on their first player editions,” Grancio explained.

Launching a player edition sneaker is not only an honor for the player involved, but provides players with a critical opportunity in an age of fashion forward NBA players: Choice. “Guys are different when it comes to how many different pairs of shoes they wear during a season. Ricky Rubio only wants to wear three or four pairs a season. He likes to stay in the same product. We have other guys who will wear a new pair every single night. Guys like Damian Lillard will wear a different model five nights in a row. The guys who are sneakerheads, like Jeremy Lin, are emailing almost daily about the products they see at retail,” Grancio noted.

Sneakerheads who don’t have an NBA contract should cheer on those that do. The more that players like Lin and Lillard push the needle on sneaker style, the more likely it is that fans will see new, fashion forward products arrive in stores. Further, with the competition to sign top-level NBA talent heating up, sneakerheads are also likely to benefit, as apparel brands work to out maneuver each other in terms of creating the most stylish and trendsetting sneakers.

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Why It Took More Than Two Centuries For The Royal And Ancient Golf Club To Admit Female Members

The history of golf is intricately tied to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. The modern game of golf was created in its homeland of Scotland. In modern years, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club served as a governing authority of the game. Royalty, top golf professionals and high-powered businessmen have called themselves members of the prestigious club.

For 260 years, the history of golf was intricately tied to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. And unfortunately, part of that history is marked by the exclusion of women and minorities from some of golf’s leading and most prestigious clubs.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club led the way in excluding women from the ranks of its membership. As women rose the corporate ladder and up golf’s leader boards, it held onto its status as a “boy’s club” for nearly three centuries.

Yesterday, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club announced that in September 2014 it chose to break from history. For the first time in its 260-year existence, it decided to allow female members. Notably, while the club granted honorary memberships, it also afforded some women the chance to become full, dues paying members.

While the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s decision should be celebrated, the question remains, why now? How does one of the most prestigious golf venues decide 260-years into its existence to break with tradition and let women into the “boy’s club”?

To answer that question, one needs to look to Rio de Janeiro, the host site of the 2016 Olympic Games. What could the lively, South American city have to do with changing a stale tradition born in Europe? The answer is simple: Everything.

Golf hasn’t been part of the Olympic program since 1904. In a history spanning centuries, golf has only made the Olympic program twice. For a sport that now counts 60 million players on six continents as game participants, being held off of the sports world’s biggest stage is detrimental.

The greatest detriment golf has missed out by being held out of the Olympic Games is not having its sport played out on the millions of televisions that tune into the Olympic Games every four years. The ability to participate on a world stage in front of millions of viewers could have propelled golf to participation levels beyond the 60 million it sees today.

When it comes to selecting which sports make up the Olympic program, the International Olympic Committee considers a number of factors. Global public and media interest make up several of those factors. Beyond interest in the sport, though, the IOC also considers social issues surrounding the sport, including discrimination existing within the sport.

Golf was added to the 2016 Olympic program in 2009, when two of the game’s leading clubs–the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and Augusta National–still precluded female members. Yet, given the factors the IOC considers in selecting a program, it’s arguably unsurprising that in the years leading up to the Rio Games that golf is distancing itself from its discriminatory past. Along with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club accepting female members, in 2012 August National–where The Masters is played–admitted two female members.

These clubs and golf’s leaders know that if the game wants to keep its spot on the Olympic program, it must work to be more inclusive. In order for golf to remain on the program–and not see another century long absence from the Olympic Games–it must continue to make progress in terms of inclusivity. One way to ensure that happens, is by eliminating discrimination at the highest level of the sport and working with top clubs to admit female and minority members.

One must question whether access to some of golf’s greatest clubs would have come sooner for women if golf remained on the Olympic program during the 20th century. Given the power of the Olympic Games on sport–in terms of global television viewership numbers and licensing revenue–one may think that the IOC could have provided the pressure necessary for golf to move further towards inclusivity. Regardless, though, of the reasons or timing, that women have been given an opening to a more equal footing into the game of golf is something for the young girls teeing off at the local course to celebrate.

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St. Jude Takes Its Fight Against Childhood Cancer To The Super Bowl

One Sunday morning while sitting at mass, then a struggling entertainer, Danny Thomas, put his livelihood on the line. Hard up for work and with a baby on the way, Thomas found himself sitting in a church pew. Moved by the words spoken at the service that day, he tossed the last $7 to his name into the collection plate.

Years later, after becoming a successful entertainer, that action led Thomas in part to create the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude, which treats over 67,000 patients free of cost annually, hosts the Legends for Charity event each during Super Bowl weekend in the city where the big game is played.

The Super Bowl presents the perfect opportunity to shine a light on St. Jude’s efforts in eradicating childhood cancer and disease. This is because, the NFL family is a second family to St. Jude. Thomas, who once found himself literally without a dollar to his name, would go on to become one of the first owners of the Miami Dolphins NFL team. “St. Jude has been intertwined with football for years. Danny Thomas was actually one of the original owners of the Miami Dolphins, so we have always had a history with football,” St. Jude’s chief marketing officer, Emily Callahan, said.

For the last 10 years, St. Jude has built upon its NFL relationship by hosting the Legends for Charity event. Hosted at the NFL Headquarters Hotel in the city where the Super Bowl is played, the event brings together some of the biggest names in sports broadcasting to celebrate the work of St. Jude and award the Pat Summerall Award for an individual’s significant contributions to the sports world.

This year, Fox Sports’ lead play-by-play announcer, Joe Buck, was honored by St. Jude with the Pat Summerall Award. “If you think about the people who have received this award, they are the biggest names in sports and sports broadcasting. They’re people who have had incredible careers that have spanned multiple sports. They’re also people who have good character. So many of them have a deep passion for kids and the kids of St. Jude,” Callahan remarked.

Although the Legends for Charity event is hosted outside of St. Jude’s partnership with the NFL, St. Jude is grateful for the opportunities the NFL partnership brings its patients. The NFL serves as the “Official Champion of Play” at St. Jude. Through its NFL PLAY 60 initiative, the NFL supports St. Jude’s Child Life program, which provides St. Jude’s patients with therapeutic play and other activities. “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is very lucky to have a partnership with the NFL and its PLAY 60 initiative. The NFL brand is one of the most powerful brands in the world. It’s incredibly meaningful to associate St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with the NFL brand,” Callahan said.

For the children of St. Jude fighting life-threatening illnesses, the opportunity to play not only presents the chance to be a kid again, but a chance at living. “So many of our kids, when you talk to them, often all they want to do is get well and go back to playing the sports they love. Every day, I see stories about the power of sport, play and activity in helping a child feel vibrant and alive,” Callahan noted.

Callahan and St. Jude have countless stories of the ways in which St. Jude patients have been impacted positively by the ability to play sports. For many, the thought of taking the field again is a driving force in their recovery. “When I think about our partnership with NFL PLAY 60, I think about Shon Coleman. Shon went to play at Auburn and was one of the most talented kids there. Then, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. To get Shon well and back on the field to be part of the incredible season Auburn had was incredible. So many of our kids have been impacted by the NFL PLAY 60 partnership,” Callahan said.

When St. Jude opened in 1962, the survival rate for childhood cancer patients was a mere 20 percent. Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of St. Jude, that number is an impressive 80 percent. Yet, as the doctors, patients and supporters of St. Jude know, the fight against childhood cancer will not end until the survival rate is 100 percent. Until then, St. Jude and the Legends for Charity event will continue championing the cause of ending childhood cancer over Super Bowl weekend.

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The FCC’s Elimination Of The Sports Blackout Rule Isn’t A Touchdown For NFL Fans

News out of Washington, D.C. today may have given NFL fans in San Diego and Buffalo a sigh of relief. NFL teams in those cities were the only two teams during the 2013 season to face local television blackouts of games. Today, the FCC announced the repeal of sports blackout rules that were enacted nearly forty years ago. While the word “repeal” coupled with the words “sports blackout rule” would seemingly signal good news for fans whose teams face television blackouts, such isn’t necessarily the case.

Under the FCC’s sports blackout rules, cable and satellite television providers were forbidden from airing sports events that were blacked out on local television stations. Notably, the rules had no reign over local television stations’ blackouts of sporting events. Rather, individual leagues–not the FCC–instituted rules related to when games for their respective sport would be blacked out on local television.

Arguably, the league with the most stringent and well-known local television blackout policy is the NFL. Under the NFL’s blackout policy, if a home team doesn’t sell out 85-percent of its stadium within 72-hours of kickoff, the game will be blacked out within 75-miles of the stadium’s radius. Notably, the NFL is the only league whose local blackout rule centers around stadium attendance. Under the NHL and MLB’s policies, local broadcasters receive broadcasting priority, unless a national broadcaster has exclusive rights to the game. As for the NBA, if a game is aired on NBATV, it will be blacked out from local broadcasting stations within a 35-mile radius of the home team’s market.

What, then, is the effect of today’s unanimous vote by the FCC to repeal its sports blackout rules? The result is that now, cable and satellite providers may air games blacked out by leagues on local television networks without interference by the FCC. The question becomes, though, what is the likelihood that networks will bite at the chance to do this? Due to current contractual obligations outlined between leagues and local networks and cable and satellite providers, the likelihood is slim. Add to that the fact that the NFL and other leagues’ lawyers are most likely renegotiating their contracts with cable and satellite providers to limit those parties’ abilities to air blacked out games after today’s FCC ruling, and the likelihood is nearly non-existent. Couple both of these factors with the bargaining power that the leagues have in negotiating television contracts and the likelihood evaporates.

So, then, was any victory gained by fans as a result of today’s FCC ruling? Perhaps. The FCC’s decision sent a clear message to the NFL and other leagues that the agency will no longer enforce rules to protect attendance figures at their teams’ stadiums. This is notable, as a consistent rationale the NFL has levied for its blackout rule is that without it, stadium attendance would decrease. The timing of the FCC’s decision may signal why the agency is suddenly unwilling to continue being a silent endorser of the NFL’s blackout rule. It was all the way back in January 2012 that the FCC announced that it was seeking comment on the petition which led to today’s decision. Arguably, the FCC could have issued its ruling much in advance of today. Thus, there perhaps exists an argument that the current climate surrounding the NFL–from the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson suspensions to the Redskins name debate and concussion litigation–finally motivated the FCC to pull the plug on its sports blackout rules.

Whatever the reasoning, though, the effect of today’s decision will be limited. That is, unless a cable or satellite provider is willing to stand in the face of the NFL and air blacked out games regardless of the NFL’s local blackout rule. However, given the high value of the NFL’s broadcasting rights–it’s three years into a $27-million, nine-year deal with Fox , NBC and CBS–and the league’s high viewership numbers–205-million fans tuned in during the 2013 season–the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits. Thus, if fans in San Diego and Buffalo want to guarantee seeing their team’s home games, the best plan of action even after the today’s FCC decision is to buy tickets and head to the stadium.

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Three Years

Three years ago, I woke up and decided to change my life.

I was miserable at work and uninspired with my day-to-day.  I knew that the path I was traveling down wasn’t the path planned or even intended for my life.  I knew that I held the map to take me away from my unhappiness, and so, on July 1, 2011 I woke up and decided to travel somewhere new.  For me, at the time, that somewhere new was creating RulingSports.com.

The last three years have been a journey.  A whirlwind, a trip of amazement, a host of new opportunities.  To sum it up, it’s been amazing.  Really, really amazing.

I started RulingSports.com with the intention of utilizing the platform it gave me to get out of the job situation I found myself in.  And it did just that.  About a year ago, I accepted an offer from the University of Miami to teach sports law and sports governance.  As I sit on campus to write this, overlooking Lake Miami, I know that I wouldn’t be here if not for the decision I made on July 1, 2011 to start RulingSports.com.

RulingSports.com has been so critical to my career success.  It was critical to my success for two important reasons:  First, it allowed me to be heard and second, it allowed me to connect with others.  This little website has served as a launch pad for me to make my opinions heard and relevant.  The website propelled me to new grounds and better opportunities, like at The U, and with Forbes, Sportsdigita and the Huffington Post.  These opportunities, in turn, led me to wonderful people.  Givers, leaders, movers, shakers.  The best of the best.

I tell people this a lot, but when I woke up on July 1, 2011, I had no idea what awaited me on this side of things.  I was so, so, so miserable in the months leading up to that genesis.  I wasn’t myself.  If I knew just how life could be–and would be–here on the other side, I would’ve eased up on myself.  I would’ve cut the universe some slack.  I would’ve relaxed.  I would’ve enjoyed.  Because, I would’ve known that with patience and hard work, anything is possible.

Perhaps what I’m the most grateful for in terms of the experiences I’ve been given over the last three years, is what I’ve learned.  Every day, because of my work with the University of Miami and Forbes, I am able to talk to brilliant people.  From these people, I glean ideas.  I learn tricks.  I see success.

If there’s anything I’ve learned within the last three years, it is this:  To stay relevant, one must continue to grow.  When I launched RulingSports.com in 2011, all I intended it to be was a sports law blog.  Sports law was my bread and butter then.  Staying true to that platform was critical in the website’s infancy, because it allowed me to brand myself.

I’m grateful for that bread and butter, but it’s time for me to adapt and expand my horizons.  There’s more I want to do, and there is much more to me than sports law.  In the coming months, RulingSports.com is going to take on a new look, a look that is more representative of who I am and where I am at now.  Sports law will still be part of the site’s focus, but it will not be its entire focus.  I have so much more that I want to offer the sports world that I am finally ready to share. I hope you will travel along with me!

Three years.  It went by in a blink of an eye.  This has been an amazing journey.  I told someone today, that there is little in life that gives me the thrill like covering a sports story.  I’m at my happiest when I am walking around the concourse leading to a team’s locker room, preparing to get a story.  It’s exhilarating for me.  The rush it gives me is like few other things I’ve experienced in this life.  When I’m on the sidelines or in the press box, life makes sense.  I truly believe I was put on this Earth to be a storyteller.  And I thank God that I realized this and pursued it instead of succumbing to the notion that it was a silly dream or unattainable goal.

What I would tell you, is to pursue your passion.  Believe in yourself more than anybody else.  Let go of the naysayers.  Remove the jealous people from your life.  Give something, just one thing, your all.  Whether it’s love, an education or a job.  Do something with the full belief that you will succeed in it.  Do not take “no” for an answer.  Don’t quit until you get there.

Because once you get there–which you will–it’s great.  So, so great.

Thank you all for an amazing three years.  Each of you has played a very special role in making this dream of mine–as crazy as it may be–come true.

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NBA Fans And Corporate Sponsors Hold The Greatest Power To Punish Donald Sterling

Yesterday, TMZ disseminated a recording</a> that allegedly contained Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, making racist comments about African-Americans. In the wake of the recording’s dissemination, NBA players, civil rights leaders and President Barack Obama have shared their disgust over the recording’s comments and have called for the NBA to take action against Sterling. In response to the recording, NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference and indicated that an investigation into the recording is ongoing and that all sides will be afforded due process. While the NBA holds power to levy serious sanctions against Sterling should its investigation reveal the voice on the recording is his, for the time being, fans and corporate sponsors hold the greatest power to punish Sterling.

As noted above, the NBA has power to sanction Sterling should the voice on the recording belong to him. This ability is held in the commissioner’s “best interest of the game” power. Utilizing that power, Silver can institute investigations and subsequently levy sanctions into matters that affect the best interests of the game. However, it is unlikely that this power would be utilized to directly remove Sterling from his position as an NBA owner. That is because other documents, specifically the NBA franchise agreement, constitution and bylaws, govern that ability. While those documents are confidential, the league can reportedly only remove</a> an owner from his post if the team is embroiled in serious financial difficulties.

Thus, if the NBA’s investigation reveals that the voice on the recording is Sterling’s, it is likely that Silver will issue a combination of a fine and a suspension against Sterling. While Silver could issue a lengthy enough suspension to effectively motivate the 81-year-old Sterling to sell the team, doing so could invoke a legal challenge by Sterling. This legal challenge would likely arise, because Sterling would assert that because he has never been suspended by the NBA before, a suspension exceeding one season would be arbitrary and capricious.

Along with calling for the NBA to remove Sterling as an owner, others have called for the Clippers to refuse to play. While Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has indicated that the team has decided not to do this, the question remains whether the team legally could. Arguably, sitting out from a game would amount to a strike by Clippers players, as they would be boycotting their working conditions under Sterling. However, under the collective bargaining agreement the National Basketball Players Association signed with the NBA in 2011, strikes during the term of the collective bargaining agreement are not allowed. Thus, sitting out a game would violate the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and could open up the players to a labor law claim and also a breach of contract lawsuit.

Yet, another body of law arguably paves a way for the players to legally sit out from play. That is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII grants employees the right to sit out from work to boycott an employer’s discriminatory practices. Arguably, Sterling’s conduct and a subsequent refusal to work by Clippers players would fall within the realm of Title VII. However, due to the collective bargaining and contractual issues discussed above, Sterling would likely wage a legal battle should players sit out of a game. Thus, it would be up to a court to decide whether players were within their legal right to not play. Given the legal intricacies of players sitting out from play, it is not a path they are likely to choose.

Given the legal issues limiting the message the NBA and its players can send to Sterling regarding his alleged racist comments, fans hold the greatest power in sending him a strong enough message that such speech will not be tolerated.  Forbes valued the Clippers</a> at $575 million in 2014. That valuation came after Sterling purchased the team for a mere $12 million some 33-years earlier. Thus, the Clippers are a team that fans, corporate sponsors and television broadcast network partners have built into a financial success through their ticket and merchandise purchases, partnership contracts and lucrative television broadcast contracts.

To send the greatest message to Sterling, fans should take a page out of the playbook of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, which organized boycotts of companies that engaged in discriminatory behavior. The thought behind such movements is to hurt the companies’ bottom line so that they are pushed into adopting acceptable race relations practices. While sitting at home for the remainder of the playoffs will likely not be a strong enough move for fans to hit Sterling and the Clippers’ bottom line, over time, fans’ refusal to attend Clippers games will hurt the team’s bottom line. Additionally, the Clippers’ corporate sponsors should consider pulling their money from the team after reviewing their contracts, which likely include a morals clause. Finally, the team’s television broadcasting networks should consider similar action.

When news of Sterling’s alleged comments arose yesterday, many people cried out and said the comments were part of a pattern of behavior that has been ongoing for decades. Perhaps now is the time to end that behavior. If the NBA and its players are limited in how they can end the behavior, the power lies in the people and corporate entities who have helped line Sterling’s pockets. These individuals and corporations must pull back their monetary support of the team until Sterling not only issues an apology, but demonstrates that he has completely changed his beliefs and feelings towards people of races other than his.

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The NCAA Approves Unlimited Meals For Division I Athletes After Shabazz Napier Complains About Going Hungry: The Lesson For Other College Athletes

In a locker room in AT&T Stadium after the University of Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship, UConn’s star player, Shabazz Napier, sat in a locker room.  Like many champions before him, he sat with media members’ recorders in front of his face engaging in a post-game interview.  While there was nothing extraordinary about the setting, it was the words that came out of Napier’s mouth that made the interview out of the ordinary:  ”Sometimes, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities.”

In a period where the NCAA amateurism landscape is facing the greatest threat of extinction, Napier’s words were thunderous.  Napier’s comments turned the talk away from conversations about paying college athletes and instead refocused attention on the plausibility that some college athletes’ most basic needs are not being fully met.

Today the NCAA Division I Legislative Council approved a rule allowing Division I programs to grant all of their athletes unlimited meals and snacks.  The rules change will not be considered final until the NCAA Division I board of directors meets on April 24.  As it currently stands, NCAA Division I programs are allowed to provide scholarship athletes with one training table meal per day.  A cost for the training table meal is deducted from the amount of money those athletes receive to purchase food plans or other food with.  Walk-on and non-scholarship athletes may participate in training table meals, but must pay to eat them.

While NCAA athletes’ appetites were victorious today, what signal was sent to college athletes about how to pursue other desired changes to the NCAA’s bylaws?

Although the timing of the NCAA’s decision coincided nicely with Napier’s comments, the issue of allowing schools to provide athletes unlimited meals has actually been on the NCAA’s table since 2012.  It was in that year that theCollegiate and Professional Sport Dietitians Association provided data to the NCAA demonstrating that some of its athletes were not receiving proper nutrition.  In turn, the Collegiate and Professional Sport Dietitians Association suggested that the NCAA allow its member institutions to grant their athletes unlimited meals.  The proposal has worked its way through the NCAA’s governance system since 2012 to make it to today’s vote.

The learning lesson for college athletes therefore is twofold.  The first lesson is that the backing of a professional organization and its research bolsters the credibility of their requested NCAA bylaw changes.  Would the NCAA have been spurred to action to allow unlimited meals based on Napier’s comments alone?  While the answer to that question is unknown, it’s unlikely.  However, when presented with data that demonstrated a large number of college athletes lack proper nutrition, it became harder for the NCAA to turn away from such requests.  Thus, in asking the NCAA for things beyond what a grant in aid allows, college athletes should seek the assistance of professional organizations whose research lines up with what they’re requesting.

The second lesson from the NCAA’s decision today is that timing and public relations don’t hurt in pushing the NCAA to make changes that college athletes desire.  Again, it is unknown whether the Division I Legislative Council would have voted the way it did today had Napier not made his comments about nights spent hungry.  Yet, it is arguable that by focusing attention on his hunger nearly immediately after winning a national championship Napier put the NCAA in a corner where it had no option but to allow for unlimited meals.  Yes, the legislation on unlimited meals had been working its way through the NCAA since 2012.  However, if Napier did not make his comments, would the NCAA have faced the public relations nightmare it would have if the Legislative Council voted against the proposal?  Thus, today’s decision show that there is power behind some college athletes’ voices.  However, it is the platform and manner in which they choose to use those voices that dictates whether they will be heard.

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Why Baylor’s Men’s Basketball Team Won’t Be Wearing “Sic ‘Em Bears” Jerseys This Postseason

Last week adidas made waves when it unveiled its “Made in March” line of NCAA men’s basketball postseason uniforms.  Continuing the trend seen throughout the NBA this season, it announced that a handful of team’s postseason jerseys are sleeved.  Arguably, though, the biggest wave made by adidas’ announcement was the revealing of Baylor’s jersey, which featured the phrase “Sic ‘Em Bears,” which is the school’s yell.  While basketball players have voiced their distaste for sleeved jersey this season, the NCAA similarly voiced its distaste of adidas’ decision to put “Sic ‘Em Bears” on a basketball jersey when it ruled that Baylor cannot wear the uniforms.

The basis for the NCAA’s decision is crouched away in its Men’s Basketball Rule Book.  Amongst other things, that document provides guidelines as to what can and cannot be displayed on a team’s jerseys.  For instance, the rules state that the “neutral zone” of a men’s basketball player’s jersey may only contain a player’s name or an institutional name mascot.  More importantly, though, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rule Book states that no more than two identifying names or abbreviations may be placed on the front or back of a game jersey.  The identifying names must identify the school, the school’s nickname or mascot, or the player’s name.

The limitations placed on the identifying names that may be put on a basketball player’s jersey are the reason why Baylor’s men’s basketball team cannot wear jerseys featuring the phrase “Sic ‘Em Bears.”  That is because although the phrase is deep rooted in Baylor history, it arguably does not directly identify Baylor nor contain the school’s nickname.  While adidas could have argued that the jerseys identify Baylor’s mascot since the phrase contains the word “Bears,” the NCAA’s decision today demonstrates that such an argument does not meet its standards.

When it comes to developing jerseys featuring “Sick ‘Em Bears,” adidas may not be out of luck.  That is because when it comes to football uniforms, the NCAA’s rules are different.  The 2013 and 2014 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations manual provides that along with a player’s number, a football jersey may only contain the player’s name; school name; NCAA Football logo; sleeve stripes; insignia for the school, conference, mascot, postseason game, memorial or the military; or an American or state flag.  Given the presence of the broad category of “insignia” in the rule, it is likely that a Baylor football uniform could feature the phrase.  The question, though, is whether adidas is willing to take another design risk and place the phrase on a football uniform?  Regardless of what adidas decides to do moving forward with Baylor’s uniforms, one thing is certain: The company generated significant conversation over a basketball uniform design that wasn’t worn for a single quarter of basketball.

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Does A Federal Lawsuit Pave The Best Path For Alex Rodriguez To Get Back Onto The Baseball Diamond?

After an arbitration panel upheld 162 games of a 211-game suspension previously levied by MLB, Alex Rodriguez sued MLB, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and MLBPA.  In the lawsuit brought in federal court, Rodriguez raises three claims:  breach of the duty of fair representation by MLBPA, breach of the collective bargaining agreements by MLB and vacatur of the arbitration award.  Overall, Rodriguez seeks the court to overturn the arbitration decision and award whatever other relief is just and equitable.

In the wake of MLB’s investigation into him for alleged illegal performance enhancing substance use, Rodriguez has levied most of his disfavor of the process against MLB.  Rodriguez and his legal team have publicly challenged MLB’s suspension of Rodriguez and its subsequent legal maneuvering during the arbitration process.  Surprisingly, though, in his lawsuit, Rodriguez takes a bigger swipe at a different entity: MLBPA.

The bulk of the 77-page complaint filed by Rodriguez takes aim at what he alleges to have been the union’s breach of its duty of fair representation during the grievance process.  According to Rodriguez, MLBPA refused to act upon his request that it object to MLB’s alleged breaches of the Joint Drug Agreement and Basic Agreement.  Additionally, Rodriguez requested MLBPA to intervene in and seek dismissal of MLB’s state court proceeding in Florida against Tony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis.  According to the lawsuit, MLBPA refused to do this.  Furthermore, Rodriguez alleges that MLBPA made derogatory public statements about him and points to comments made publicly by former MLBPA executive director, Michael Weiner, in this regard.  Due to these issues, Rodriguez sought to select the arbitrator of his choosing to hear his grievance.  MLBPA denied him this request and instead selected an arbitrator of its choosing–as is normal procedure–for the three-member panel.  In his lawsuit, Rodriguez objects to this.

Under federal law, a labor union–like MLBPA–owes its members certain duties.  One of those duties is the duty of fair representation.  Under the duty of fair representation, MLBPA is required to represent the interests of all of its members without discrimination.  To show that a union acted discriminatorily, more than negligence or ineptitude in its representation of a member must be shown.  Rather, the totality of the circumstances must show that MLBPA violated its duty of fair representation by arbitrarily or in bad faith discriminating against Rodriguez in the representation of him throughout the grievance process.

In his lawsuit, Rodriguez raises allegations in an attempt to argue that MLBPA acted discriminatorily in its representation of him throughout the grievance process.  Overall, Rodriguez’s argument is that MLBPA did not want to risk its reputation and good favor with MLB and the arbitration panel in fighting Rodriguez’s case.  Rodriguez points to alleged incidences of this conduct as behavior which amounted to the requisite discriminatory conduct to be violative of the duty of fair representation.

Given the claims Rodriguez’s lawsuit brings and the goals of the lawsuit, the question becomes, did Rodriguez bring his claims in the right forum?  While Rodriguez names as defendants MLB, MLBPA and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, a review and understanding of applicable precedent demonstrates that the party against whom he has the strongest claim is MLBPA.  This is due to the fact that in labor disputes, courts rarely intervene and/or find in the favor of a plaintiff unless an employer (here, MLB and the Officer of the Commissioner of Baseball) act arbitrarily or capriciously or in disregard of their own rules or the law.  Although Rodriguez has asserted that MLB and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball have acted in disregard of the Joint Drug Agreement and Basic Agreement, given the flexibilities present in those documents, his arguments against these parties are arguably his weakest.  Negating the argument that MLB and the Officer of the Commissioner of Baseball acted arbitrarily or capriciously is MLB’s allegedly uncovering of significant evidence that Rodriguez allegedly used performance enhancing substances.  The evidence MLB allegedly holds and legal precedent make it unlikely that a court will find against MLB and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.

That then, leaves the MLBPA.  Given the duty of fair representation, it appears that the strongest claims in Rodriguez’s lawsuit are those raised against MLBPA.  As such, was a federal lawsuit the best route for Rodriguez to bring these claims?  It turns out that another avenue may have presented a more timely disposition of Rodriguez’s claims.  That avenue is an unfair labor practice filing alleging that MLBPA breached its duty of fair representation by discriminating against Rodriguez throughout his grievance against MLB.

Due to Rodriguez’s main goal in bringing his lawsuit appearing to be returning to the baseball diamond, time is arguably of the essence when it comes to the resolution of his claims.  Given the motions and discovery processes in federal court, it could easily be over a year before Rodriguez’s lawsuit is resolved.  An unfair labor practice, however, could see disposition in a more timely manner.  The issue with this route, though, is the remedies available to Rodriguez.  The filing an unfair labor practice charge against MLBPA would unlikely bring about the result Rodriguez is seeking of having his MLB suspension shorted so that he can return to play this year.

While the legal minutiae is tough to sort through in this case, one thing is certain:  The road for Rodriguez back to the baseball diamond is one that will span over a year.  Whether serving a suspension or battling in court, this matter is not one that will disappear soon.

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