« Job Description -- Public Interest Law Center Assistant Director | Main | Bad Lawyering On "The Good Wife": Setting The Record Straight On Music Publishing Law »

Week in Review

By Martha Nimmer

Settling the Score

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has reached an agreement with the owners of the long defunct American Basketball Association team (ABA), the Spirits of St. Louis. The team owners, Daniel and Ozzie Silna, will receive a staggering $500 million from the NBA, and will continue to receive a share of the revenue generated by the NBA's broadcasts of Spirits games. The Silnas have also received over $300 million from the NBA in the years since the ABA and the Spirits met their end. In other words, the Silna family has managed to amass almost a billion dollars from a team that has not played a game since Gerald Ford was president.

How, exactly, did Ozzie and Daniel Silna find themselves in such an enviable position? Their agreement with the NBA dates back to 1976, the year that the ABA closed up shop. The ABA tried to merge with the much more successful NBA, but ultimately, only four teams were successfully incorporated into the NBA: the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs. The NBA, according to The Hollywood Reporter, offered the other teams $3 million to cease operations. The Silnas, however, refused, and eventually "received what the merging teams got: a share of the NBA's "visual media" rights." The NBA has "long regretted" that decision, even trying to buy out the brothers in 2008 before the Great Recession made the deal go south. The Silna brothers were also unhappy with their arrangement with the NBA, and ended up suing in New York district court, arguing that they were entitled to a portion of the NBA's money from international broadcasts, its cable network and digital and online streaming, including NBA League Pass. The NBA countered that those new sources of revenue could "never have been imagined" back in 1976.

Decades later, it appears that the NBA is almost rid of the Silna brothers. The agreement between the Silnas and the NBA was announced on Tuesday. The NBA declined to comment, however, because the settlement must still be approved by the presiding judge, Loretta A. Preska.



Be Careful What You Tweet

On Monday, Courtney Love will "become the first celebrity to defend an allegedly defamatory tweet inside a U.S. courtroom," writes The Hollywood Reporter. Love, the widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, is being sued by attorney Rhonda Holmes over a 2010 tweet wherein Love said, "I was fucking devestated [sic] when Rhonda J. Holmes esq. of san diego was bought off." Holmes' defamation action against Love also involves comments that she made during an interview. Love retained Holmes to pursue a fraud case against the individuals managing Cobain's estate.

During the trial, which promises to entertain and probably confound, one of the jury's responsibilities will be to determine whether those who follow Love on Twitter "reasonably understood the statement to be about her former lawyer (and her law firm)." The jury must also tackle the issue of intent: Love claims that she meant to send a "DM" (a private, direct message to an individual), but unintentionally made the tweet public by posting it to her followers. As Holmes is a "limited-purpose public figure," she must prove that Love acted with "malice" when she posted her tweet.

Although the former singer is free to pursue a "mistake" defense, this strategy risks opening "a wider inquiry into Love's larger behavior," which, in the past, has ranged from odd to downright bizarre and even disturbing. Other witnesses scheduled to testify include journalists, former Love assistants, and "economic and language experts versed in the medium of Twitter." Yes, those experts actually exist.


Chris Kluwe Retains Legal Counsel

After calling Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer a bigot and saying that former coach Leslie Frazier and current general manager Rick Spielman were cowards for their reaction to his advocacy of marriage equality, former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has retained legal counsel. This decision comes after the team hired former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Chris Madel to lead an independent investigation into Kluwe's accusations, according to CBS Sports.

The media firestorm began last week when Kluwe published a piece on Deadspin that claims that he was fired in May from the Vikings after eight years on the team because of his support of gay marriage. According to Kluwe, problems with the team started to arise in 2012, when the punter began to speak out in support of marriage equality. In 2012, Kluwe aligned himself closely with the LGBT rights group Minnesotans for Marriage Equality, which fought to defeat the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment, which was working "to define marriage as being between a man and woman in the state's constitution." Minnesotan voters failed to approve this amendment, and same-sex marriage has since been legalized in the state.

Kluwe also found himself in the spotlight in 2012 "after writing a blistering open letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns, in which he blasted the politician for his 'vitriolic hatred and bigotry.'" State Delegate Burns had written to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, demanding that he prohibit linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo from publicly endorsing same-sex marriage. According to Kluwe, after his letter was published, former Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier approached him and instructed him "to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff." After that encounter, Kluwe says that he was "approached on different occasions by Frazier and Spielman with similar requests to be silent, but he was also ridiculed and treated unfairly by Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer."

The Vikings have denied the athlete's claims, stating "any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his stance on marriage equality is entirely inaccurate and inconsistent with team policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance."


Dennis Rodman, North Korean Ambassador?

Despite decades of human rights abuses and recent revelations that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of his uncle, Dennis Rodman was able to convince six other former NBA players to accompany him on a trip to North Korea. To celebrate the 31st birthday of the "Dear Leader," Rodman, along with Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, Vin Baker, Doug Christie, Craig Hodges, and Charles D. Smith played against "a top North Korean Senior National team" in a Pyongyang sports arena on Wednesday. Attendees were prohibited from bringing cameras into the event, but video posted online shows Rodman leading the crowd in song in honor of his friend, the dictator. The North Korean team won by a score of 47-39, according to Associated Press.

This latest trip marks Rodman's fourth visit to North Korea. The former NBA player's "basketball diplomacy" has not been so well-received stateside, however. Rodman's trip has drawn criticism from "several members of Congress as well as the family of Kenneth Bae, a tour guide and U.S. citizen who has been held captive in the country for more than a year." Rodman later apologized to the family of Bae after an outburst on CNN during which the former Chicago Bulls player implied that the American was to blame for being held captive.



Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 11, 2014 9:56 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Job Description -- Public Interest Law Center Assistant Director .

The next post in this blog is Bad Lawyering On "The Good Wife": Setting The Record Straight On Music Publishing Law.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.