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Monday, December 28, 2015

Should Tort Law be Used to Reinforce Intentional Violations of NFL Rules Aimed at the Safety of Players?

The NFL has been promulgating rules to make the game safer for players.  Of particular focus is the reduction of head injuries leading to concussions and long term brain damage.  Odell Beckham, Jr., the star wide receiver for the New York Giants, had his 1-game suspension by the League upheld on appeal.  

Beckham and Carolina Panthers corner back Josh Norman were involved in aggressive dust ups during the teams' meeting a week ago. The provocation was so bad it resulted in multiple personal foul penalties and fines.  Only Beckham received a suspension from the NFL.  One of the reasons for the harsher penalty was a helmet to helmet collision with Josh Norman on a running play. It was also the second infraction from Beckham. He was previously fined for his in-game conduct from the Giants' matchup with the Buffalo Bills earlier in the season.

This brings us to the seminal case of Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals (a staple of Torts textbooks).  The case involved a hit on Broncos' corner back Dale Hackbart by a Bengals wide receiver, which did not result in a rules infraction or foul on the play.  The non call was the result of the officials not seeing it. The hit was also found to be intentional.  The Court of Appeals overruled the trial court's ruling that violence was inherent in the game of football, and, thus, Hackbart could not recover.  

The intention is not create an off field litigation industry aimed at professional football complete with lawyer advertisements.  Rather, in egregious cases (of which I am not commenting on the Beckham case one way or the other), tort law may serve as a basis to reinforce the rules.  Generally, a player should be disciplined by the NFL after receiving due process (please see my earlier post, "What the NFL Can Learn from Administrative Law").  

Posted by Scott Maravilla on December 28, 2015 at 06:21 PM in Sports | Permalink

Comments

Adam Finkel, Glenn Cohen and I are writing a law review article about NFL and safety regulation. soon to be posted on ssrn.

Posted by: orly lobel | Dec 30, 2015 5:52:48 PM

I will look for it. Thank you.

Posted by: Scott Maravilla | Dec 31, 2015 7:52:09 AM

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