Sports law covers the legal issues which pertain to the world of both amateur and professional sports. Sports law can, and typically does, overlap with labor law, contract law, antitrust law, and tort law.
Most courts shield schools, coaches, and athletic associations from liability for personal injury lawsuits brought on by athletes. Courts rely on the doctrine of assumption of risk in justifying such holdings.
"Assumption of risk" is a defense in personal injury claims. A successful defense of the assumption of risk bars or reduces a plaintiff’s right to recovery if the defendant can demonstrate that the plaintiff voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risk inherent to the activity undertaken.
For example, according to this legal doctrine, a high school baseball player cannot sue his school or coach for injuries he sustained from being hit by a baseball while playing the sport.
Although courts do not look favorably upon personal injury lawsuits by athletes, there are exceptions to the primary assumption of risk defense. The following circumstances may justify an athlete’s personal injury claim:
- The athlete was unaware that the alleged activity contained an inherent risk
- The athlete’s coach was negligent in providing instruction on technique
- The sports facility was negligent in providing a reasonably safe environment
The one permissible form of discrimination acceptable in athletic competition is discrimination based on physical ability. The law prohibits all other types of discrimination.
Colleges and universities that receive federal aid are subject to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX") . Title IX provides that colleges and universities may not discriminate on the basis of sex in their athletic programs. The significance of Title IX requirements is that it mandated equal funding to collegiate male and female athletic programs.
High school sports organizations are regarded as an arm of the state. Therefore, high-school sports teams may not discriminate upon the basis of race, nationality, or sex.
Contract law is a major part of sports law. All professional athletes have contracts specifying how much they will be paid for their services and for how long they will perform for the specified team. Regardless of the sport, contracts in sports law are typically worth substantial amounts of money and are thus, heavily negotiated by sports agents.
In professional sports, agents act on behalf of professional athletes in negotiating advantageous contracts. Typically, a Standard Representation Contract governs the agent-athlete relationship. The Standard Representation Contract defines the duties and compensation of the agent during the representation of the athlete. In an attempt to regulate agent activities, many state legislatures require agents to register with some type of administrative agency.
Almost every aspect of athletic competition today involves sports law. Conflicts that arise cover a wide range of complicated legal issues. If you feel that you have a dispute involving sports law, it is wise to consult with a business attorney. Speaking with a proper sports attorney will inform you of your rights,as well as preserve any possible legal remedies you may have.