- Athletes call for the resignation of university president
- Legion of Black Collegians put out message of discontent
Black players from the Missouri Tigers football team say they will not participate in team activities until the university president, Tim Wolfe, resigns.
There have been several incidents of racial harassment in recent weeks on the college campus and Wolfe has come under criticism for his handling of the situation. In one recent incident, excrement in the shape of a swastika was smeared on a dormitory wall while other students have complained that racist slurs are common at the university. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student at the college, is currently on hunger strike over the issue.
On Saturday night, the Legion of Black Collegians posted a message on Twitter calling for Wolfe to resign.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’” the tweet said. “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!”
Athletes from the team, including star running back Russell Hanbrough, featured in a photo accompanying the tweet.
Poker is gambling. Everyone knows that. But if poker is a game of “chance,” then why are some people so much better at it than others? For daily fantasy sports sites, that fine line between games of skill and games of chance could determine whether they stay in business.
Over the past week, regulators and law enforcement have taken significant interest in the heavily advertised and nominally regulated industry. The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether daily fantasy sports sites violate federal law. Nevada regulators decided that such sites constitute gambling and told them to cease operation until they secured proper licenses. In Florida, prosecutors convened a grand jury to investigate their legality. Then there’s the New York Attorney General’s inquiry, not to mention a class-action suit filed in federal court against the two biggest operators, DraftKings and FanDuel.
Daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel, as we’ve written, have always operated in murky territory. But they’ve been exposed to harsh light following revelations that a DraftKings employee inadvertently released company data on player lineups before the third week of NFL games. That same week, he won $350,000 at FanDuel, raising suspicions that he used insider knowledge to cash in.
Daily fantasy sites operate under an exemption to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The law effectively bans online gambling in the US by prohibiting banks and credit card companies from transferring money to online gambling sites. Congress made an exemption for fantasy sports sites, which lawmakers deemed a “game of skill and not chance.” The thing is, most games involve skill and chance. There’s no catch-all test to quantify how much skill and how much chance are involved in a particular game—and no legal standard that identifies a threshold at which gaming becomes gambling.
‘Games of Skill and Not Chance’
The actual language of the law singles out fantasy sports and says all winning outcomes in such games “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants” and are “determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of [athletes] in multiple real-world sporting.”
This is the carve-out often bandied about as the reason why the fantasy sports industry has so far escaped regulation. When lawmakers passed the in 2006, fantasy sports were predominantly played in small groups among friends. That changed radically about a year later, when daily fantasy sports emerged. The game migrated online, where anyone could join in. Players could create multiple lineups and play daily. Some players use custom-built models and computer software to crunch data and improve their odds.
FanDuel and DraftKings, intense competitors that control some 95% of the North American daily-fantasy-sports market, have made a splash in recent months with lavish spending on advertisements and cash awards for the winners of their contests.
But with the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation opening probes this week into the business model of these companies, and after gaming regulators in Nevada ordered the sites to cease operations in their state, the question is this: Where did these troubled companies come from, and how did they get so big so fast?
FanDuel says it will dole out $2 billion in prizes this year. DraftKings has pledged to give away at least $1 billion. The companies are valued at $1.3 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.
New-York based Fanduel, which was early to the market in 2009 and long the dominant player, started with a relatively muted approach. It gave fantasy-sports players a chance to compete for prizes by building virtual teams of athletes. In 2013, it raised $11 million in financing from venture-capital companies. The following year it raised another $70 million.
But what pushed the business to its current frenzied level was the fast rise of Boston-based DraftKings, founded in 2012, which adopted a more aggressive fundraising and marketing posture and quickly came to rival FanDuel in size and profile.
In September, the Dolphins went public with a plan to significantly curtail the number of tickets it sells to independent brokers. The goal, the team said, was to make sure fewer tickets ended up being sold to fans of visiting teams. But according to one broker who was cut off, the Dolphins gave a big chunk of these tickets to one firm in particular: Atlanta-based PrimeSport Inc., which was acquired in February by an investor group that includes Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
In some cases, PrimeSport is selling Dolphins tickets for well more than their face value. For a Jan. 3 matchup with the New England Patriots, the Dolphins’ official website has offered a pair of lower-bowl seats for $421 apiece. On PrimeSport’s site, seats one row behind in the same section cost $636—a 51% markup. For Miami’s Nov. 2 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, PrimeSport has listed more than 480 tickets at prices of up to $1,200 each. It is not clear whether these tickets came from the Dolphins or another source.
Miami ticket broker Gus Rodriguez said he used to buy about $1 million of Dolphins tickets every year. The team cut his supply back last season, he said, and wouldn’t sell to him at all this year. Rodriguez said that when he pressed the team to explain, he got a call from Nick Forro, the Dolphins’ vice president of ticket sales. “He said, ‘We have a company that our owner owns and we have to do business with them,’” Rodriguez said. “It’s the first time I ever head an executive from a team say, ‘We can’t sell you tickets because we have our own secondary ticket business.”
‘It’s the first time I ever head an executive from a team say, “We can’t sell you tickets because we have our own secondary ticket business.”’
—Miami ticket broker Gus Rodriguez
A team spokesman denied that Forro at any time asserted that the team would only do business with PrimeSport. The Dolphins declined to make Forro available for comment.
In an interview, Ross, the Dolphins owner, said the Dolphins decided to give so much business to PrimeSport because it is a good broker that focuses primarily on packages that include travel and hospitality. “It’s the best one of all of them,” he said. Ross said his stake in PrimeSport, which is held by RSE Ventures, a firm he co-founded, is “very, very small.” People familiar with the deal said it is less than 2%. Ross said he does not believe that the arrangement, in which he earns a small piece of the profits from a company that scalps his team’s tickets, raises any conflict-of-interest issues.
An NFL spokesman said the league office was aware of the investment and had no issues with it.
When Judge Richard Berman vacated Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate, Berman not only handed the NFL a high-profile legal defeat, but he established the courthouse as the most viable option for players hoping to challenge the league’s policies. It’s a sign that the league must reform or face major—and embarrassing—ramifications for its disciplinary actions.
When allegations arose that the Patriots had illegally deflated game balls in the AFC championship game, the NFL hired Ted Wells to conduct an independent investigation. The resulting Wells Report concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Tom Brady “was at least generally aware” of the ball-deflation scheme, prompting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Brady for four games. Brady appealed the punishment, and the matter went to arbitration. Goodell, serving as arbitrator, upheld the suspension and proclaimed that Brady “knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards in support of” the deflation scheme.
The league’s response to Deflategate was reminiscent of its response to the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal in 2013. Allegations arose that Dolphins players had bullied offensive lineman Jonathan Martin to the point of a breakdown. (Martin briefly checked himself into the hospital before leaving the team.) The league commissioned an independent investigation, also headed by Wells, which produced a 144-page report detailing the torment heaped upon Martin by his teammates. It vilified lineman Richie Incognito, who would not find work in 2014, and led to the firing of offensive line coach Jim Turner. The report served as some rare good publicity for the commissioner’s office.
The toxic pro-masculinity camp insists that mere “bumps and bruises” are the sport’s biggest dangers
Last week, I was asked to appear on “Outside the Lines,” ESPN’s flagship news magazine, to discuss what football people tend to refer to, somewhat squeamishly, as “the Chris Borland situation.”
Last March Borland, a star linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, shocked the sports world by announcing that he was quitting the game after just one season, because he feared he might suffer brain damage if he continued to play.
This was not exactly a far-fetched notion, given that the NFL itself had estimated—after years of denying any link between football and brain disease—that up to 30 percent of their former players would suffer from cognitive ailments such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
When I arrived at the studio, I was told I should be ready to discuss the “meaning” of the Chris Borland situation, which did not strike me as particularly elusive. When your employer announces in federal court documents that you have a one in three chance of being neurologically disabled in the course of doing your job, the smart money is on retiring.
Still, I was excited to record the episode because “Outside the Lines” is easily the most intelligent and journalistically sophisticated show within the vast and ever-expanding kingdom of ESPN. The program eschews bombastic punditry and slavish promotion (cue the highlight porn) in favor of in-depth reporting and conversation.