Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens, former college basketball players for the University of Maryland Terrapins, are suing Epic Games, along with game creators, over the use of the “Running Man” dance in the popular video game, Fortnite. In this game, players can unlock this Running Man dance for $5 to use for their own characters. The Running Man dance became popular on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2016 when Brantley and Nickens appeared on the show to perform the dance.
According to the Baltimore Sun, however, the two former Terps explained on the episode how they took the dance, which was started by former high school students Kevin Vincent and Jeremiah Hall, and used it to “keep our teammates loose in the locker room,” which ultimately led to their appearance on the show.
Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, filed to dismiss the suit by arguing that the plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Copyright Act and the dance is protected by the First Amendment. However, the opposition to the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss states that “. . . the motion of the human body can be as valuable as a person’s face or name — if not more so.” The response also acknowledges that Brantley and Jared gave the dance viral fame without mentioning The Ellen DeGeneres Show or that Brantley and Nickens did not actually create the dance themselves.
One legally unaffiliated culprit for contention regarding Brantley and Nickens might be that, because the NCAA does not allow college athletes to receive gifts above a certain dollar amount, the players only received pieces of customized underwear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show while Vincent and Hall received $10,000 earlier on the same episode for performing the same dance.
This is yet another lawsuit filed against Epic Games over dance moves featured in Fortnite Battle Royale. The most notable example was when Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who famously played Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, sued Epic Games over the use of the famous “Carlton Dance” he created and performed throughout the show. Epic Games did not ask Ribeiro for permission before programming the players to allow them to purchase the ability to perform the “Carlton Dance.”
In their motion to dismiss response, Brantley and Nickens also contended Epic Games’ assertion that the pair cannot trademark the Running Man by citing that the dance cannot be trademarked.
According to Tech Crunch, Epic Games gained over $3 billion in profits in 2018 “fueled by the continued success of Fortnite.” Although Fortnite is free to play, players purchase digital items within the game itself, such as the ability to perform the Running Man dance. Tech Crunch also reported that the company’s valuation rose to $15 billion by the end of 2018.
The pay of U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) players as compared to U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) players has been a highly contentious legal debate in recent years, but the key issues are not straightforward – they involve a mix of anti-discrimination and contract and labor laws, which remain unresolved.
Members of the USWNT, including stars Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Megan Rapinoe, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, accusing it of gender discrimination. The players maintain that U.S. soccer has engaged in gender-based employment discrimination in violation of the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both of which make it illegal for employers to pay women lower wages than men for equal work. Along with unequal pay (i.e., women’s players earning as little as 38 percent compared to their male counterparts), the lawsuit also cites the denial of “at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their games; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment.”
The complaint stresses that the USWNT has consistently been more successful than the USMNT and should be compensated more than their male counterparts. Namely, the USWNT just won their fourth World Cup title, and their second in a row, in addition to four Olympic gold medals, while the USMNT did not qualify for the last men’s World Cup and has never won either tournament. The complaint states simply: “…during the period relevant to this case, the USWNT earned more in profits and/or revenue than the USMNT.”
The attorneys for U.S. Soccer filed an answer in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California denying all adverse claims and raising affirmative defenses. U.S. Soccer rejects the idea of breaking the law or engaging in gender-based discrimination in paying men more than women.
Under the EPA, in order to make a prima facie case, the USWNT will have the burden to show that the skill, effort, and responsibility required in their job performance are equal to those of higher-paid males. The work does not need to be identical, just substantially similar, which is determined on a case-by-case basis.
To effectively rebut an EPA claim, U.S. Soccer, the employer, must prove affirmatively that a pay differential between similarly situated male and female employees is defensible due to a:
Pay system based on quantity or quality of output
Or, disparity based on any other factor other than sex
Similarly, Title VII makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against pay and benefits on the basis of sex. The employer must present some evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory motive for the challenged action or decision.
U.S. Soccer’s response is that, “USWNT and USMNT are physically and functionally separate organizations that perform services for U.S. Soccer in physically separate spaces and compete in different competitions, venues, and countries at different times; have different coaches, staff, and leadership; have separate collective bargaining agreements; and have separate budgets that take into account the different revenue that the teams generate.” In other words: the women are not entitled to equal pay, because it’s not equal work.
U.S. Soccer further explains, “No pay comparison can be made between the USWNT players, who earn guaranteed salaries and benefits, and the USMNT players, who are paid strictly on a match appearance fee basis.” In essence, their attorneys argue that economic claims between women and men are like comparing apples and oranges since they are paid through two different compensation systems and have differing pay structures. U.S. Soccer wants the court to find that any pay difference is explainable by non-discriminatory factors.
The USWNT and U.S. Soccer tentatively agreed to pursue mediation for the gender pay discrimination lawsuit after the World Cup Final. If the mediation goes forward, it can resolve the issues in the players’ lawsuit outside federal court. If the mediation is unsuccessful, the USWNT players seek a jury trial to resolve their claims. Their requested relief includes seeking back pay, front pay, the financial value of lost job benefits, punitive damages reflecting just punishment of U.S. Soccer, and attorneys’ fees. In addition, the players demand a permanent injunction to prevent U.S. Soccer from any further (alleged) discrimination.
While the outcome of the lawsuit is unclear at this point in time, it is evident that the “equal play, equal pay” theme will be seen more often in athletics and the sports world.
 An analysis included in the lawsuit claims that if the men’s and women’s team each played and won 20 friendlies in a year, the women would earn a maximum of $99,000, while the men would earn an average of $263,320.
 Between 2014 and 2017, the women say they were forced to play on artificial surfaces (rather than safer natural grass) for 12 of their 62 matches at home, compared to the men playing one game on an artificial surface. On three occasions, according to the lawsuit, the USSF rolled natural grass over artificial surfaces for the men, despite the women being forced to play on artificial grass in the same stadiums. The federation is also accused of putting the men on charter flights on 17 occasions in 2017, but not once for the women, the lawsuit says.
The initial story, released on the sports section of TMZ.com on June 18, 2014, stated that a 47-year-old man named Theodore Watson told police that Jones approached him and tried to hire him to kill his agent. Watson then allegedly told police that when he refused, Jones responded by calling himself a “gangster” and that he would make Watson “disappear.” Watson went to police allegedly in fear for his personal safety because he believed Jones would “make good on his threat.” The TMZ story mentioned that Jones had not been arrested or charged with a crime.
An update to the story added that Jones said the hitman allegations were erroneous and added that he has a “great relationship with his agent.” Jones also complained that Watson was Jones’ first cousin who “filed a false police report” and Jones “absolutely denies” all allegations. He also claimed that Watson had “recently been attempting to extort money” from him and his family. Woy told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram “don’t believe this story.”
The initial suit alleged that TMZ encouraged Watson to tell Cleveland police officers that Jones was harassing him and that “. . . TMZ even offered money to do so.” According to court documents filed in 2015, Watson “began harassing the Jones family for money” and eventually sold the allegedly erroneous story to TMZ. Although the midlevel appellate court trimmed the lawsuit by dismissing claims of defamation and conspiracy against TMZ.com and other claims such as abuse of process, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction against other defendants, the lower court found that Jones presented enough evidence that the article was published with “actual malice,” which allowed Jones’ claims of libel and conspiracy to survive dismissal.
The media companies argued that Jones did not ask for any correction, clarification, or retraction within a year of the article being published, which should be cause for dismissal under Texas state laws. The media companies stated that a review is necessary to determine how to interpret the statute among the state’s appellate courts.
“We are confident that the Supreme Court will use this as an opportunity to clarify TMZ’s misreading of this statute and prevent other victims from being further victimized by publishers of libelous materials,” Jones’ lawyer, Ben C. Broocks, told Law360.
The Texas Supreme Court holds the power of final determination in the Texas state court system and is considered the “high court” of Texas.
Jones was selected in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft after becoming the most accomplished linebacker in East Carolina University history, where he was inducted into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004. He won three Super Bowls as a Cowboy before signing with the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, and Washington Redskins before retiring in 2002.
Angela Keeling, the widow of Marvin “Todd” Keeling, has sued the Atlanta Braves, as well as more than a dozen other companies that provide services at SunTrust Park, for his death after being locked inside a stadium cooler. The complaint states that the Braves knew the cooler door release mechanism was “faulty . . . improperly constructed, assembled, maintained, and allowed to exist despite notice . . .” but never fixed it.
On June 26, 2018, Keeling was an “invitee servicing and finalizing the installation of a beer tap system installed at SunTrust Park . . . also known as the Braves Stadium”, according to the complaint. While at the stadium, he sustained serious injuries while trapped inside of Cooler 331, resulting in his death. The cooler was “. . . filled with carbon dioxide and had no means of egress . . . ”, meaning that there was no way for Keeling to exit the cooler at no alleged fault of his own. The complaint states that the “asphyxiating gas” began filling the cooler and, as Keeling realized what was happening, he attempted to exit the cooler only to find that the handle was jammed.
Angela Keeling is seeking medical, funeral and burial expenses, as well as damages for pain and suffering and wrongful death, among other claims. It is “the plaintiffs’ intention to bring each and every claim permissible under Georgia law arising from the injuries to and death of Marvin ’Todd‘ Keeling.” The strongly worded complaint also details that at least one employee of Delaware North Companies Sportservice Inc. complained to coworkers prior to Keeling’s death that he and several others found themselves trapped inside Cooler 331 because of the “faulty handle.” The complaint also states that other defendants “received an email before Todd Keeling’s death that there were issues with the door release mechanisms in coolers throughout the stadium.” Keeling “. . . exercised ordinary care and was a victim free of any contribution to his death”, according to the complaint.
A federal judge approved a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit brought by football fans who bought personal seat licenses for St. Louis Rams home games before the team was moved to Los Angeles in January 2016. U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., a Missouri federal judge, granted the plaintiffs $7.2 million in attorney fees after approving two $3.6 million awards. Each of these awards are to be paid by the St. Louis Rams LLC to counsel.
Judge Limbaugh also released an order granting final judgment for the $24 million class settlement agreement, which he initially approved on January 24, according to the Associated Press and Law360. The order also mandated the Rams to pay costs of $200,000 to class counsel as well as incentive awards to plaintiffs.
Judge Limbaugh wrote, “[t]he Court finds that the request for attorneys’ fees is fair and reasonable, considering the amount made available to the Class under the Settlement Agreement and the results obtained by Class Counsel; the contingent nature of the fees; the novelty and difficulty of the issues involved in the case; the experience, reputation and ability of the attorneys; awards in similar cases; the time and work required; and the preclusion of other employment by the attorneys due to acceptance of this case.”
Prior to the team’s relocation to Los Angeles in January 2016, thousands of fans in St. Louis had purchased personal seat licenses for the duration of 30 seasons, which was the length of the Rams lease at their former stadium, then known as the Edward Jones Dome. Personal seat license holders filed the lawsuit to recover 30 percent of the initial purchase price, a refund for the nine unused years of the seat license fee, plus damages. The Rams moved from Anaheim, California to St. Louis after suffering from complexities in securing a new or improved stadium in the Los Angeles Area in 1995.
Initially, other National Football League owners rejected former owner Georgia Frontiere’s attempt to move the team in a 21-6 vote. However, after using the threat of litigation, Frontiere convinced owners to vote 23-7 in favor of moving to St. Louis, along with the Raiders returning to Oakland, in April 1995. The team remained in St. Louis for 21 seasons until current Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, brought the team back to Los Angeles after 21 seasons.
Texas federal prosecutors in Houston indicted a former Rice University football player, Stuart “Mooch” Mouchantaf, for possessing and distributing a potent opioid, carfentanil, to his teammate, Blain Padgett, who died of an overdose in March 2018. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas took Mouchantaf into custody, following a three-count federal grand jury indictment on Wednesday.
Padgett was a Rice University football player who, according to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office, died on March 2, 2018 in his sleep due to the toxic effects of carfentanil, an analogue of the synthetic opioid, analgesic fentanyl, as reported by ABC-13 in Houston. Following the arrest, Rice University released the following statement:
“Out of respect for the legal process, the university does not have a comment on today’s federal arrest or on any possible details of the case.”
ABC-13 also reported that Blain’s father, Mical Padgett, said he believes his son did not know the pills he took were laced with carfentanil. According to prosecutors, Houston police investigators found that Blain allegedly bought the pills from Mouchantaf, believing that they were hydrocodone and not laced with carfentanil. According to doctors quoted by ABC-13, a lethal amount of carfentanil is invisible to the human eye and was originally made as an elephant tranquilizer. It is also “10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which is deadly because it causes the brain to suppress breathing.” Assistant District Attorney Paul Fortenberry quoted that although the pills look like “the real deal,” they are actually “far more dangerous than even cocaine or heroin and are far less expensive.” He also likened taking the pill to “literally playing Russian Roulette.”
Police say that when Mouchantaf was originally charged last October, his bond was set at $250,000 because he was considered a flight risk. Police stated that he bought a one-way ticket to Lebanon at the time of his arrest. He was then ordered to surrender his passport and wear an ankle monitor. Blain’s former coach, David Bailiff, again expressed his remorse and regret, stating that it “makes you evaluate again as a man is there something else you could’ve done? Is there some other outreach that we could’ve led to?”
Padgett’s death came as a shock and devastated both the Rice University student body and the football team. He joined the team as a true freshman in 2015, during which Mouchantaf was a red-shirt senior after having sat out the 2014 season due to injury. Padgett was recovering from a shoulder injury from the fall of 2017, which required surgery and ended his season. He had aspirations of playing professional football. As a 6’5,” 250 pound defensive end, he recorded 65 tackles, three-and-a-half sacks, and a fumble recovery over 37 games during his collegiate career with the Rice Owls. He received a medical redshirt after playing just three games in the 2017 season, meaning he would have been eligible to play college football for two more seasons.
After passing away at the age of 21, his family vowed to remain outspoken to warn other families of his story.
“Don’t go a day without telling your kids and your parents, and your brothers, sisters that you love them, because you never know,” Padgett’s father stated.
As for Mouchantaf, he faces serious legal consequences for giving his former teammate carfentanil, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. In court on Friday, June 21, Mouchantaf told U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Bray that he knew he was facing 43 years to life in prison on charges that he conspired to possess and possessed with intent to deliver the opioid mixture.
According to Mouchantaf’s LinkedIn profile, he has vast volunteering experience as a community volunteer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Red Cross, and other volunteer organizations involving both the medical field and children. He was voted by teammates as a team captain in 2015 and was voted the team’s MVP as well as their “O.J. Brigance Courage Award” by his coaches following that season. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and Exercise Science in 2016. In his final semester, he was a member of Rice’s prestigious Sports Medicine and Houston Medical center Physical Therapy Program, which “assists in rehabilitation across all university sports” at Rice.
Zion Williamson is surrounded by more hype than any other basketball prospect in recent memory. He has limitless potential and franchise-altering talent. With all the hype and excitement has also come some legal issues. On April 20, 2019, less than a week after Williamson declared for the 2019 NBA Draft, he signed a marketing deal with Prime Sports Marketing, LLC. Williamson’s contract with Prime Sports had a clause that the contract could not be terminated for five years.
However, only 40 days after signing the contract with Prime Sports, Williamson signed a contract with CAA Sports for contract negotiations and marketing. The following day, Williamson sent a termination notice to Prime Sports, claiming that the agreement he signed with them was made in violation of North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act (NCUAAA). In response, Prime Sports’ attorney sent a letter to Williamson stating that a valid and enforceable contract still existed. Shortly thereafter, on June 13, Williamson filed a lawsuit against Prime Sports and its principal, Gina Ford, alleging that neither Prime Sports nor Gina Ford is registered as an athlete agent in North Carolina. Williamson further alleges that Prime Sports failed to include specific language that is required to be part of every agency contract.
The NCUAAA defines “athlete agent” as “[a]n individual who enters into an agency contract with a student-athlete or, directly or indirectly, recruits or solicits a student-athlete to enter into an agency contract.” To act as an agent athlete, the person must hold a certificate of registration. An agency contract signed with a person who does not hold the proper certificate of registration is void. The NCUAAA also requires every agency contract to have the following language: “YOU SHALL LOSE YOUR ELIGIBILITY TO COMPETE AS A STUDENT-ATHLETE IN YOUR SPORT.” Based on the above, Williamson alleges that the contract he signed with Prime Sports is void since it was not signed with a registered athlete agent and did not contain the required language.
In response, Prime Sports filed a counter-claim against Williamson and CAA Sports for $100 million for unlawfully terminating his contract. Prime Sports has based its defense on the theory that, since he had already declared for the NBA Draft, Williamson was not a student-athlete at the time he signed the contract. The NCUAAA defines “student-athlete” as “[a]n individual who engages in, is eligible to engage in, or may be eligible in the future to engage in any intercollegiate sport.” Moreover, an “agency contract” is defined as “[a]n agreement in which a student-athlete authorizes a person to negotiate or solicit on behalf of the student-athlete a professional-sports-services contract or an endorsement contract.”
According to NCAA Division I Rules, “[i]n men’s basketball, an enrolled student-athlete may enter a professional league’s draft each year during his collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided:
(a) The student-athlete requests that his name be removed from the draft list and declares his intent to resume intercollegiate participation not later than 10 days after the conclusion of the professional league’s draft combine. If the professional league does not conduct a draft combine, the student-athlete must request that his name be removed from the draft list not later than the end of the day before the first day of the spring National Letter of Intent signing period for the applicable year;
(b) The student-athlete’s declaration of intent is submitted in writing to the institution’s director of athletics; and
(c) The student-athlete is not drafted.”
It is unclear based on the NCAA rules whether Williamson was considered a student-athlete at the time he signed his contract with Prime Sports. As noted by Gina Ford, Williamson “repeatedly and publically declared and made it abundantly clear that he was not ever returning to intercollegiate basketball.” If it is determined that Williamson was not a student-athlete at the time he signed the contract with Prime Sports, then the NCUAAA provisions raised by Williamson would be inapplicable. If the court determines that Williamson was a student-athlete, then it is likely that Williamson will prevail in his lawsuit.
As expected, Williamson was selected first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Hopefully, this legal battle does not affect the play or hype surrounding the potential superstar.
Higgins claims he received phone calls both at his business and home, as well as death threats and other offensive messages which were sent to both him and his wife. His brief stated Kentucky Sports Radio LLC hosts Matthew H. Jones and Drew Franklin’s “conspiracy to defame ” him was not a matter of public concern and therefore the “shield of the First Amendment” does not apply. He also claimed that he, his family members, and Rooferees employees feared for their lives as a result of the defendants’ conduct.
During their radio show the day after the game, the hosts mentioned Higgins’ roofing business while discussing Higgins’ perceived poor refereeing performance. Although Jones mentioned that posting his business card online would “constitute ‘harassment,’” he read the name of Higgins’ company website on the air and even spelled it out for his audience. On March 28, the hosts “happily” announced that Higgins’ business was getting “crushed” on its Facebook page. Franklin stated that he would not link the page on the air, but the hosts read many of the comments posted. Both hosts admitted on the air to calling Higgins’ business themselves, and the FBI answered the call.
Higgins also claims in his brief that he suffered “severe business disruption” including “hundreds of unwanted phone calls per day; crash of the voicemail system because of too many calls” as well as other inconveniences such as receiving “fake calls of leaky roofs . . . requiring follow-up” among other indiscretions. Perhaps most alarming were the detailed phone message death threats quoted in his brief. The brief describes an alleged nexus between these instances and the words and actions of Jones and Franklin as well as the radio station.
U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood initially dismissed the lawsuit on March 20, 2018. Judge Hood stated that although he did not condone the conduct, he felt that their remarks on Higgins’ were protected by the First Amendment. Judge Hood frequently cited Snyder v. Phelps, a landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court decided in favor of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church asserting their First Amendment right to free speech, even if the speech is viewed or interpreted as “offensive” or “outrageous.” In Snyder v. Phelps, church members picketed outside of the funeral of a soldier who was killed in the Iraq War with demeaning signs.
This appeal argued that the district court was wrong to find that the comments were a matter of “public concern” as Judge Hood described because it was merely an NCAA Tournament game. Higgins also questioned the district court’s method of research and failure to address his two claims for conspiracy to defame.
The common phrase among NFL fans of wanting to make it home “before Carrie” comes on might be in jeopardy now that Carrie Underwood and NBCUniversal Media are facing a copyright lawsuit by songwriter Heidi Merill. Merrill claims she pitched her song “Game On” to Underwood’s producer, Mark Bright, in 2017 at a conference, where he suggested she should submit the song to his office. After submitting the song, his office responded to her with an email telling her that they were “going to pass” on the song. Meanwhile, Sunday Night Football switched from Underwood’s “Oh Sunday Night” to “Game On” and has since featured the song on every NBC Sunday Night Football Broadcast.
Sunday Night Football, which has aired on NBC since 2006, is one of the most-watched television programs in the United States, and is “often the single highest-rated broadcast on television during the weeks which it airs.” The complaint states that Merill created the song in 2016 and uploaded it to YouTube in 2017, one year prior to it initially airing on NBC.
“The infringing song is substantially — even strikingly — similar, if not identical, to the plaintiffs’ work not only in title but in many other ways, including in tempo, meter, time signature, rhythmic contours and patterns, melodic contours and patterns, hooks (including the shared key phrase of the chorus, “Game On”), note progression and use, and chord progression . . . ,” Merrill stated in her complaint.
Underwood has performed various introduction songs for the NFL’s signature prime time game since 2013, including “Game On,” “Oh Sunday Night,” and “Waitin’ All Day for Sunday Night.” The lawsuit, which was jointly filed by Merrill’s co-writers, also notably includes the National Football League as a co-defendant in addition to Underwood, Bright, and NBC.
The theme song, which is shown before every Sunday Night Football telecast with an introduction video that includes famous NFL players and Carrie Underwood, has become popular among NFL football fans as it represents the beginning of what is often the most important game of the week during the regular season.
Adidas AG fell short in its efforts to protect broader trademark rights to its three-stripe mark, as the European Union ruled the design was not distinctive enough for protection. This decision invalidated its 2014 trademark registration on “three parallel equidistant stripes of identical width” which are applied on products “in any discretion.”
“Adidas does not prove that that mark has acquired, throughout the territory of the EU, distinctive character following the use which had been made of it,” the court wrote in its decision summary.
Although the ruling will not affect Adidas’ other EU trademarks, it’s significant in that Adidas has sued over the three-stripe mark in recent years in United States courts. Adidas has sued companies such as Puma, Marc Jacobs, Sears, Sketchers, Forever 21, and other products over infringement of the mark. According to Law360.com, the decision affirmed a 2016 ruling by the European Intellectual Property Office which favored a Belgian company called Shoe Branding Europe. The company challenged the agency’s initial acceptance of Adidas’ trademark registration.
This creates a pathway for other companies to use the widely recognized three stripes on clothing. While the Adidas logo itself is safe from mimicked forms through its secured trademark, this could cause confusion among consumers. Adidas can appeal the ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is the top court of the European Union.