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Week in Review

By Martha Nimmer

Silver's Sterling Problem

Following last week's revelations of racist comments by Los Angeles Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling, National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver has decided to ban Sterling from the NBA for life. As part of the ban, the Clippers' owner "may not attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity." In addition, Sterling must pay a $2.5 million fine to the league. That money will be donated to organizations, chosen by the NBA and Players' Association, that support anti-discrimination efforts. The $2.5 million figure is the maximum amount allowed under the NBA Constitution.

In yesterday's announcement, Silver also stated that he will "urge the league's Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team." The commissioner said that he expected the owners to support his efforts to remove Sterling as the owner of the team. Many NBA teams and owners have come out in support of the ban and Sterling's removal from team ownership. Magic Johnson, who was the subject of some of Sterling's racist remarks, tweeted his approval of the NBA's decision: "Commissioner Silver showed great leadership in banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life."

The NBA's decision to ban Sterling for life came after a three-day investigation into comments that he made to his former mistress, V. Stiviano. During the leaked recording, Sterling tells Stiviano, among other racist remarks, that he does not want her to "bring black people" to Clippers games. Following the release of the tape, more than 10 corporate team sponsors, including Adidas, Kia and Red Bull, ended or suspended sponsorship deals with the team. Doc Rivers, the Clippers coach, also announced that if Sterling remained team owner, Rivers would not return to coach the team for the 2014-15 season.


Give Me an S, Give Me a P, Give Me an O, Given Me an R...

In an effort to improve cheerleader safety, New York state education officials have voted to recognize competitive cheerleading an as interscholastic sport. According to CBS New York, "the state Board of Regents voted unanimously in favor of the measure a day after it was approved by one of its committees." The Board of Regents came out in strong support of the classification, saying that it will ensure that schools abide by a common set of standards focused on limiting the length of seasons or the number of required practice days. Currently, there are no such state-mandated rules.

The state of New York has been trying to decide since 2009 whether to recognize cheerleading as an interscholastic sport. Critics of the move say that students' practice time will be reduced if state authorities get involved: "[s]ince it's not a sport, we can practice as much as we want," said Mount Sinai cheerleader Amanda Rose, adding that her team practices together about 10 months out of the year. According to state officials, 34 states and the District of Columbia classify the activity as a sport.

The increased fear surrounding juvenile head injuries may account partially for the move to categorize cheerleading as an interscholastic sport, a classification that would bring with it new safety and training standards. The American Academy of Pediatrics, testifying before the Board of Regents, said that although the overall injury rate in the sport is low, "cheerleading injuries are increasing in number and severity nationwide, account[ing] for two-thirds of all catastrophic injuries among high school female athletes." The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has already drafted proposed rules and regulations aimed at curbing the rise in injuries to cheerleaders. These rules and regulations will take effect beginning in the 2014-15 season.


Battle for Bukowski

Cyril Humphris, the owner of the rights to Charles Bukowski's semi-autobiographical work, Ham on Rye, claims that actor James Franco took elements from the work, without permission, to make a film about the deceased writer. Humphris says that Franco "optioned the rights to the book . . . in 2009 to adapt it into a screenplay," but that those rights ended in November 2010. Later, Humphris maintains, Franco produced and directed a film, titled "Bukowski", an adaptation of the author's 1982 work about his abusive father and troubled childhood in 1930s Los Angeles. Humphris' complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, goes on to allege that Franco's film lifted "the novel's themes of childhood loneliness; adolescent self-consciousness; the failures, hypocrisy, and cruelty of adults; and, in an unflinching depiction, the crude interest teenage boys take in sex." According to the complaint, "the mood in both works is dark but humorous, through successive scenes in which the boy is attacked by his father, belittled by other adults, or humiliated in front of his peers."

After learning about the "Bukowski" film, Humphris says that he confronted Franco, who replied, "I'm doing a little project with some of my NYU colleagues based on one of Bukowski's biographies." According to The Hollywood Reporter, Humphris tried to see a copy of the script, but Franco failed to respond to the requests. Franco, who is an admitted fan of the author, maintains, however, that his film is not an adaptation of the Bukowski novel.

The plaintiff is seeking an injunction and monetary damages.

Read the complaint here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/custom/Documents/ESQ/bukowski_.pdf



An "Unconstitutional Prior Restraint"

The Third Department of the New York Appellate Division ruled earlier this month that a trial judge's decision to bar Lifetime Entertainment from releasing a television movie based on the murder of a "beloved" Appellate Division clerk was an "unconstitutional prior restraint on speech." The case, Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services, originates in a family tragedy: the action was brought by Christopher Porco, who was convicted of murdering his father and attempting to murder his mother in November 2004. Porco's father, Peter, worked for a Third Department presiding justice and was a popular and respected member of the community.

Before Lifetime's made-for-television movie, "Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story" was set to air last year, Porco initiated a pro se action under state civil rights law to stop the broadcast. Supreme Court Justice Robert Muller, in turn, issued a temporary restraining order just days before the movie was scheduled to air. Lifetime then obtained an emergency stay from Third Department Justice Elizabeth Garry, and "Romeo Killer" aired as planned.

Citing First Amendment concerns, Presiding Justice Karen Peters found that while the "general prohibition against prior restraint" is in no way "absolute," the broadcast of the Lifetime program in question would not "create the type of imminent and irreversible injury to the public" to warrant such an "extraordinary remedy."


From Venice Beach to Federal Court

The removal of a public mural in Venice Beach has set off a legal battle in California. The mural, known as the "Brooks Avenue Painting," was allegedly "improperly expunged" last summer, according to a complaint filed last week by the Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad, which created the mural in 1969. The work, which served as the backdrop of an iconic photo of The Doors, was water blasted, according to artist and Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad co-founder, Victor Henderson.

The lawsuit alleges that Ralph Ziman, who owned the building where the mural was located, failed to give Henderson and the Fine Arts Squad a "90-day advance notice" of the work's removal, as required by California law. The lawsuit maintains that, had Henderson and his group been given the opportunity to discuss saving the mural, the work could have been removed from the facade of the building "without substantial physical defacement, mutilation, alteration or destruction." Instead, Henderson laments, "Brooks Avenue Painting" is "gone forever."

The plaintiff is seeking damages and "increased awareness about mural conservation."


Forced Sale for Sterling?

Yes, there is more to say about the Donald Sterling controversy. Reuters has reported that the NBA's 29 team owners are expected to force the embattled Clippers owner to sell his team. Although the owners did not specify a date for the vote, "early indications were that owners would overwhelmingly support the unprecedented move." The NBA's bylaws allow the league's owners to determine whether to force the sale of the Clippers, but at least 75% of the owners would have to approve the measure. Some observers have commented, however, that other team owners may be hesitant to vote in favor of the sale, fearing that the move could adversely affect their ownership rights in the future. Per the NBA bylaws, "[NBA Commissioner] Silver must provide a written copy of any charges within three days to Sterling, who has five days to answer. A special hearing of the Board of Governors then will be held on a date no more than 10 days after Sterling's reply." A spokesman for the NBA said that the Board of Governors' advisory finance committee scheduled a meeting for next week to discuss the steps necessary for removing Sterling as Clippers owner.

Now that it appears that the sale of the Clippers is a fait accompli, possible buyers have been emerging. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey has been discussed as a potential buyer; in fact, she said, "she was in discussions with producer and film studio executive David Geffen and Oracle Corp computer technology Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison to bid for the team if it becomes available." Other potential buyers for the franchise include Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the former basketball star who is part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and who once owned part of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

Sterling acquired the Clippers franchise 33 years ago for just $12.7 million. According to the Washington Post, the Clippers' estimated value is at least $700 million. Considering that the team plays in the second-biggest media market and has popular players like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, it is likely that the team may be worth closer to $1 billion.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 1, 2014 10:35 AM.

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