Thursday, November 06, 2014

          Seeking Justice In Sports

          Bruce Simon ‘80 tackles unfair practices of the NCAA and MLB

          Sample alt tag.

          UC Hastings Board of Directors member Bruce Simon ‘80 enjoyed a storied San Francisco childhood, watching the 49ers at Kezar Stadium and hopping cable cars downtown to sneak into skyscraper construction sites.

          (These escapades were recently recounted in profiles in Northern California SuperLawyers and Law 360).

          When he was at UC Hastings in the late 1970s, he had visions of being a sports lawyer, or perhaps an agent for athletes. “The Note that I wrote for Comm/Ent was on sports agency law and about how athletes were being taken advantage of,” he said.

          But despite an abiding passion for the San Francisco Giants (he’s an annual season ticket holder since the Candlestick days) Simon believes that the business of sport is broken. Now sports-related litigation is a high profile area of his practice at Pearson, Simon & Warshaw LLP, after he spent three decades focusing on antitrust and class action cases of all types.

          “What’s happening is that sports — even amateur sports — creates so much money now that certain amount of greed has set in. Some of the athletes who are at the heart of these empires are not getting compensated for the value they are bringing.” Simon cited the example of T.V. contracts for events like March Madness, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) basketball competition that bring in billions of dollars, which doesn’t flow back to NCAA athletes.

          Recently, his firm has taken on a case that alleges that the NCAA is acting like a cartel, illegally suppressing the compensation players can receive. Instead of competing in a free market to lure players to their schools, the NCAA and power conferences get together and determine a cap onathletic scholarships, known as grants in aid.

          The legal arguments against this practice is that there should be competitive decisions made about what student athletes should get. This is important because thecap on grants in aid that all of the schools and conferences agreed on does not reflect the economic realities of going to school. “It means that the grants that many men and women basketball players, and Division I football players, receive don’t even cover the true cost of attendance at their schools. So those students have to pay the difference, and many of the athletes, coming from poor families, don’t have the means.” In addition, Simon said, there are prescriptions about the kind of work they can do, adding to their burden.

          In another related case, O’Bannon v. NCAA, Simon’s firm helped bring suit on behalf of student-athletes who object to the NCAA’s restraints on players benefiting from the licensing of their images in products such as live broadcasts and video games. A former UCLA basketball player, O’Bannon was outraged when he saw his likeness on a popular video game. O’Bannon’s suit argued that after graduation, student athletes should be able to claim compensation for the NCAA's commercial use of their images. The question was whether this would violate the orienting principle of collegiate sports: amateurism. This past August, Judge Wilkin of the Northern District of California found for O’Bannon, stating that the NCAA’s rule on name and likeness constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade that violated antitrust law.

          A third case Simon’s firm is litigating is against the office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. It involves MLB’s failure to comply with the wage and hour laws in their payments to minor-league players. “They play for a set amount of compensation during their season,” explained Simon. “They have no collective bargaining agreement or union, and it’s a take it or leave it contract.”

          The typical minor league player who is not star quality and who won’t advance to the major leagues gets a minimal signing bonus, and only gets paid around $1500 per month for a five month season. These players are not compensated for off-season training, spring training, or for extra, related activities like community events. Simon reported that this adds up to less than minimum wage under state and federal law. “During their playing season, they stay with host families, because they can’t afford their own places!”

          Simon’s righteous indignation is palpable.   

          “What’s at stake in all of these cases is fairness and equity and making sure that these athletes are treated the same as everyone else,” he said. “If you are an employee, you need to be compensated, and the employer needs to abide by the wage and hour laws. There is no exemption for athletes.”

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Friday, June 22, 2018

          Professor Chimène Keitner Announced as Inaugural Scholar-In-Residence at Orrick

          The “Orrick scholars program,” believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, is an innovation of collaboration that will support attorneys focusing on numerous areas of practice, including cyberlaw issues.
          Friday, June 15, 2018

          The “Great Facilitator” Sammy Chang Leaves a Lasting Legacy at UC Hastings

          Recent graduate Samuel “Sammy” Chang ’18 identified many problems facing UC Hastings law students and facilitated the change needed to fix them throughout his law school career.
          Thursday, June 07, 2018

          Valerie McGinty '06 Leads a Push to Elect Progressive Women in California

          The UC Hastings alumna founded Fund Her after the 2016 election to achieve gender parity in the California State Legislature.
          Friday, June 01, 2018

          Thinkers & Doers: May 2018

          Professor Karen Musalo & actress Jane Fonda co-author New York Times piece – Can Trump block people on Twitter? – Alum builds 25-foot art installation on the Embarcadero – The health care merger arms race – Highlights from the 137th Commencement – Pride Law Fund honoring Professor Matthew Coles – Orrick Attorneys & UC Hastings Students Step Up to Help Homeless – and much more
          Friday, May 18, 2018

          UC Hastings Students Speak at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

          Members of the Hastings Human Rights and International Law Organization attended the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to meet diplomats, engage in discussions on human rights issues, and deliver advocacy statements during proceedings.
          Go to News Archive