Sports Law Attorney Brandon, FL

Sports Law is comprised of laws that apply to athletes and the sports they play.  It is not one single area of law with generally applicable principles.  Sports Law deals with a variety of matters, including contract, tort, agency, antitrust, constitutional, labor, trademark, sex discrimination, criminal, and tax issues.  Some laws depend on the status of the athlete, some laws differ according to the sport, and some laws vary for other reasons.   If you are an athlete and you need a sports agent, or just need legal assistance with a personal matter,  The Law Office of B. Elaine Jones is here to meet your legal needs.

Amateur Athletes

A common misconception about amateur sports and professional sports is that professionals are paid to play sports where the amateur or collegiate athletes are not.  Amateur and college athletes often receive compensation for their efforts.  College athletes receive academic scholarships for playing on a college team.  This provides athletes with a way to pay for their education so that when their athletic career is over they have another career to turn to.  Most athletic careers do not last a lifetime and the educational opportunities offered to the college athlete may be priceless, as many accomplished athletes would not be able to get a college education without playing sports.  Some athletes can make a living in amateur sports because victories in high-profile amateur events can lead to advertising deals and other business opportunities.  The Law Office of B. Elaine Jones can assist amateur sports athletes with negotiating advertising deals and other business opportunities.

Amateur sports is divided into two categories:  restricted and unrestricted competition.  Restricted competition includes high school and college athletics.  Sports on these levels are controlled by athletic conferences, associations and leagues connected to high schools and colleges.  Athletes in restricted competition must be eligible to play.  Eligibility is determined by the conferences, associations and leagues formed by the schools.  Unrestricted competition is open to all amateur athletes, with some qualifications.  The Olympics is an example of unrestricted competition.  Any person may seek entry into the Olympics by entering recognized contests in the years before the Olympiad and qualifying tryouts.  Many events formerly reserved for amateurs, such as the Olympics, were opened to professionals in the 1980s and 1990s.  Athletes once concerned with maintaining amateur status now may enjoy the fruits of professional competitions without losing access to prestigious amateur events.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the most important administrative body governing sports on the college level.  Membership in the NCAA is voluntary.  Many colleges and universities are members of the NCAA, and they give the association the authority to exercise control over their student-athletes, coaches, and other athletic operatives.  The NCAA operates along a series of bylaws that govern areas of ethical conduct, amateur eligibility, financial aid, recruiting, gender equity, championship events and academic standards.  The NCAA arranges for television and radio contracts and performs other functions to promote the well-being of college sports.

The NCAA exerts a tremendous amount of control over its members.   Under NCAA rules, college athletes must meet and maintain a certain grade-point average before playing, may not hire an agent while playing for a college, and may not participate in annual professional draft of college athletes without losing their eligibility.  The NCAA may discipline coaches and scouts for violating restrictions on the recruiting of high school athletes.  Athletes may be suspended or banned from a team for drug use or even for alcohol consumption.  Each team has its own set of rules that complement the NCAA rules.  The NCAA has enforcement power and can introduce a series of punishments up to the death penalty, the full shut-down of a sporting activity at an offending college.  This of course will hurt the finances of the offending college as the revenues produced by some college sports have made college athletics a multimillion-dollar entertainment industry.  The latest college program to be sanctioned by the NCAA is the Ohio State University football program.

Sex Discrimination under Title IX

In the 1970s, Congress passed Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments (20 U.S.C.A. §§1681-1688 [1994] to ban sex discrimination in publicly funded educational programs.  The Act, passed in 1972, makes it illegal for a federally funded institution to discriminate on the basis of sex or gender.  The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is charged with enforcing this legislation.  This agency developed a three-prong test for schools to adhere to:  (1) Are the opportunities for female and male athletes proportionate to their enrollment; (2) Does the school have a history of expanding athletic opportunities for women; (3) Has the school demonstrated success in meeting the needs of its students.  In 1995, the Gender in Equity Disclosure Act was passed to require schools to report annually the information publicly on male-female athletic participation rates, recruiting by gender, and financial support. Attorney B. Elaine Jones has been admitted to the Middle District Court of Florida in the 11th Circuit of the federal court system and is fully capable of assisting your needs if you believe you have been or are being discriminated against in organized athletics.

Unlike intercollegiate sports, international amateur sports are run by a number of organizations.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is made up of each country’sOlympic Committee,  which in turn recognizes a national governing body (NGB) for each Olympic related sport.  The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is the national governing body for all U.S. athletes in the Olympic and Pan-American Games.   

Labor and Anti-Trust Issues In Sports

In 1967, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accepted that players have the right to form unions or players associations.  It is now common for professional athletes to organize into associations or unions in order to negotiate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with their sport’s owners.  Under Federal labor law, players and owners must negotiatemandatory issues, those relating to hours, wages and working conditions, in good faith.  All other issues are deemed permissive, and do not have to be negotiated.  Once a CBA is in place, players agree not to strike and owners promise not to lock out players.   By way of example, the 2005 National Hockey League (NHL) season was cancelled because of an owners’ lockout after the parties’ CBA had expired.  Historically, the most contested issues subject to CBA negotiation are free agency, minimum salary, squad size, draft, salary cap, grounds for termination and suspension. It is important to note, that the formation of players unions for the purpose of negotiating contracts with management is exempt from anti-trust scrutiny under labor law; and the by-product of good faith negotiations between management and players unions in the form of a CBA is also exempt from anti-trust scrutiny.

In nearly all professional sports the issue of limits on the use of performance enhancing drugs has become an integral aspect of CBA negotiations.  Drug policies are not uniform for all professional sports.  Typically, each CBA explains the policy regarding drug testing, list of banned drugs, violations, penalties, privacy issues, and rights of appeal.  Drug violations may lead to suspensions and loss of salary.  The BALCO controversy involving high-profile athletes and coaches like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McQuire among others highlights the alleged widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in different sports.

Tort Law Issues

Until around 1975, torts were never a part of sports law.  However, in a 1975 Illinois appellate case, Nabozny v. Barnhill, the court established the notion that players can be found guilty of negligence if their actions are “deliberate, willful or with a reckless disregard for the safety of another player so as to cause injury to that player.”  Spectators can also sue for negligence if their injuries could not have been expected given the nature of the sporting event they were attending.    For example, a baseball fan sitting in the bleachers could reasonably expect that a baseball could come toward his/her seat.

Sports’ tort law extends into other less obvious areas also such as medical malpractice against team doctors for giving a player a false clean bill of health just so that player may continue to perform.  A player who purposefully causes bodily harm to another athlete, coach or spectator may be guilty of an intentional tort as well as a criminal act.  An example of this would be professional basketball player Ron Artest’s outburst in a basketball game a couple of years ago where he entered the bleachers and began fighting with spectators.  The publication of false information about a well-known athlete (public figure) may be actionable if it was published with reckless disregard for the truth or actual malice.

You can contact us at:

The Law Office of B. Elaine Jones
P.O. Box 2664
Brandon, FL 33509-2664
813.681.8383
bej@belainejoneslaw.com