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Standen in the Media

To learn more about sports law issues, check out Standen’s recent appearances in the national media:

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Willamette professor engages in national conversation on sports law

If you ask the general public about the integration of sports and the law, they'll likely think of Michael Vick or steroid use.

But Willamette College of Law Professor Jeffrey Standen says sports law is a multifaceted field that goes far beyond athletes' transgressions - it uses anti-trust, labor and constitutional law to address the complex nature of leagues and their relationships with players and outside companies.

"Sports leagues are unique entities," Standen says. "They're made up of independent teams, yet those teams are always working through a joint venture with each other. The hybrid nature of leagues makes them unusual, and that presents interesting problems as the law tries to figure out how to regulate them."

A Prominent Scholar

Standen is an expert in sports and gaming law, and reporters from The New York Times, ESPN and other national publications regularly call him for comment on sports-related court cases.

He has published a book on sports law, Taking Sports Seriously: Law and Sports in Contemporary American Culture, and has two other books in the works for Oxford University Press. Industry lawyers and agents frequently read and comment on his blog, The Sports Law Professor.

In November Standen testified in Washington, D.C., before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding the National Football League's StarCaps case, which questioned whether state labor laws could protect players from drug testing by the league.

Development of the Field

Historically, sports law focused on two main areas, Standen says: safety issues and athletes' contracts.

Safety previously was regulated by consent, he says - if two people wanted to engage in bare-knuckle fighting, they could do it, and people could watch. Over time, Standen says, the law intervened to prevent certain blood sports or impose safety regulations on athletes.

In the past, athletes also had greater freedom of contract, he says. Just like any other employee, athletes could sign contracts with whatever team they liked or easily quit one team for another.

"Athletes increasingly have become regulated by status instead of contract," Standen says. "Today's athletes are not free to negotiate with any team, they're not free to sign with any team out of college and they can't negotiate their next contract while they're still under their current contract."

Leagues and Anti-Trust Law

One of the most important sports law cases today, Standen says, is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court: American Needle v. the NFL.

American Needle, a headwear manufacturer, accused the NFL of violating anti-trust law after the league awarded an exclusive license to Reebok to make hats with the NFL trademark and team logos.

"An individual firm is perfectly free to contract with only one supplier for its needs," Standen says. "But multiple firms cannot come together and say they are only going to buy from one company.

"The question is whether the NFL is one firm or 32 different firms. If it's one firm, there's no problem offering the exclusive license to Reebok. If it's 32 teams conspiring to cut other manufacturers out of the market, that may violate anti-trust law.

"The Supreme Court is trying to figure out the definition of a sports league, a basic question that has not been answered conclusively in American law. Their decision could affect everything from broadcasting deals to player negotiations among teams."