Rodeo Read Vol. 2

Photo Via: The LA Times

A quick read to catch you up in sports, entertainment, and law

The NFL Draft is 10 days away. Not only does this mean we get to see Trevor Lawrence in a Jaguars jersey playing with arguably a worse offense than he played with at Clemson, but it also means we are closer to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced on April 13 via Twitter that all fans and staff will be required to be vaccinated to attend games; without a vaccination, no entry. In addition, there will be no exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

The Bills offered a statement saying they will continue to be in full compliance with state and local government regulations.

With that exciting news, we turn further into the ever-entertaining intersection of sports, entertainment, and law.

Entertainment for All

Buffalo is home to many things, unheralded athletes such as Joe Mesi and Bob Lanier, incredible chicken wings – I am looking at you, Elmo’s – and a great group of hard-working individuals. It is fitting that NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in the great city of Buffalo, his signing of a bill that requires all internet service providers in New York to offer affordable high-speed internet access for low-income families that qualify.

Despite any political affiliations, one subject matter that we can all support is equal opportunity. Internet providers can charge no more than $15 a month for a basic plan or $20 for a higher-speed plan. Furthermore, an announcement was made that an emergency fund from Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation will provide free internet access for students statewide for the 2021-22 school year.

I know what you are thinking, what in the world does this have to do with entertainment. Well, I will tell you. Things such as, YouTube, Google, Instagram, Twitter, UB Law Sports & Entertainment Forum, all require internet. Certain New Yorkers across the state could not access any of these everyday entertainment options that have become necessities in our current world. This bill helps young kids not only have a basic necessity to complete schoolwork, but finally watch video clips showing why Michael Jordan is better than LeBron James or start creating their own personal brand so one day they can profit off their Name, Image, and Likeness when they become college athletes. (Yes, I snuck NIL in this week).

The Chargers Go Hollywood

When you move from San Diego to Los Angeles, a sliver of HBO’s Succession is expected when dealing with family money. Now, this is not Al Davis moving the Raiders to Los Angeles and the jury finding against the NFL for violating federal anti-trust law. This is more of a sticky-family, wills, trust, and estates case.

A brief history is due. The Spanos Family has owned the Chargers since 1984. Four siblings each own 15 percent of the team and 36 percent is owned by the Spanos family trust. The two main characters of this Hollywood feature are Dean Spanos, often referred to as the face of ownership for the Chargers, and his sister Dea.

Long-story short, per ESPN, the Spanos family trust is in debt. No, not the typical college tuition debt – although I do not know which is more daunting – but a debt that is roughly $350 million. A little more than half of the debt is a result of the trust’s investment in the Chargers. 

Now, most of us are thinking, if Dea feels like this debt is too much to conquer, why does she not sell her 15 percent stake in the team? The remaining Spanos have a right to purchase Dea’s 15 percent stake and Dea can be out scot free with significantly more cash.

Well, according to Dea, she feels that merely selling her 15 percent stake is not enough. Dea is petitioning the court to force the sale of the 36 percent owned by the Spanos Family trust. Simply put, not only is Dea’s 15 percent stake worth significantly more if paired with the 36 percent trust stake, but the debt of the trust can also be paid for. Interestingly, Dea and Dean are the two co-trustees of the trust.

Although I have yet to take a class in wills, trust, and estates, I do know a bit. A trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest and preserve the assets for the beneficiaries of the trust. Dea may argue that as a co-trustee, she is acting in the best interest of the family trust. Dea can argue that selling the family trust stake in the Chargers best serves the family trust beneficiaries.

It will be interesting to see how the court handles this case. If sold, whoever buys the 51 percent available shares would then have majority control of the Chargers. Dean and his siblings would lose control and some multi-billion-dollar entrepreneur named Jeff Bezos can fulfill his dream of owning an NFL franchise. As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, “Go Chargers, Go!”

Aaron Donald Gives the Public a Lesson in Evidence

Full disclosure, I have yet to take a class in evidence either. However, I can tell you one thing, when a video is released proving your innocence and the once plaintiff offers his apology to the once defendant, charges against a defendant are dropped. 

If that scenario sounds familiar, you are probably remembering correctly. DeVincent Spriggs this past week pressed charges against Los Angeles Rams’ prized jewel Aaron Donald. Spriggs alleged that Donald assaulted him, leaving him with a multitude of injuries.

The public jury often decides too quickly that a party is guilty. Our “innocent until proven guilty” language seems to be reversed in the court of public opinion. Many thought this would be another NFL player getting himself into an unfortunate situation. However, as all of us good law students know, not so fast. The video in fact showed Donald stopping the altercation. Spriggs then released a public apology to Donald through his attorney.

Taco Eating Contest Turned Deadly

A minor league baseball team, the Fresno Grizzlies, find themselves in the middle of a lawsuit over a taco eating contest held on April 13, 2019. The owner of the Grizzlies, Fresno Sports and Events, is being sued for negligence by Marshall Hutchings, the son of the man who tragically died, Dana Hutchings, while participating in the eating contest.

Per NBC News, Marshall alleges that Dana, 41, was not made aware of the risks and danger involved in an eating competition. The participants attempted to eat as many tacos as possible during the allotted time. Dana died after he choked on tacos while participating in the competition. Marshall believes that Fresno Sports and Events should have taken steps to protect an amateur who had not trained for such an event. 

Recent precedent exists for such an incident. In Nelson v. Sacred Heart University, Caitlin Nelson, a then student at Sacred Heart, died during a pancake eating contest. Nelson’s estate sued Sacred Heart, citing negligence on behalf of the school for wrongful death. To this point, there has not been a public update on the Nelson case. Per CTpost, settlement talks started in September of 2020 and a trial was tentatively scheduled for January 2021.

As is likely in this case, settlement talks will start shortly. Nevertheless, what we do know is that in both cases for there to be negligence, there must be: (1) duty; (2) breach of that duty; (3) causation (4) and actual injury. What we don’t know is how amateur food eating contest are going to proceed post-pandemic.

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