NFL & Concussions: Should the League Be Liable?

By: Alyssa Jones Football is ingrained in American culture. This has been evidenced by the fact that professional football has been voted as America’s favorite sport for thirty years straight. Furthermore, the recent Super Bowl 50 garnered 111.9 million television viewers. And the National Football League (“NFL”) grosses over seven billion dollars annually. Yet, despite our country’s attraction to the game, there are some serious dangers that lurk in the background. Football is a physical sport and with this physicality comes many associated health risks. Besides the long-recognized risk of broken bones and torn ligaments, recently, the risk of long-term cognitive problems have become a salient issue. A few months ago, the movie Concussions was released, starring Will Smith, which further shed light on this matter.   The NFL has even admitted that “it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at ‘notably younger ages’ than in the general population.” For example, the NFL’s report found that “[f]ormer players between 50 and 59 years old develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at rates 14 to 23 times higher than the general population of the same age range.” Furthermore, the [read more]

Affirmative Action: Why Fisher I matters even more

  Abigail Fisher. Photo credit: The Daily Texan   With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining support nationwide, the release of Turning the Tide, a report by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education recommending a college-admissions overhaul, and Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin (“Fisher II”) pending, affirmative action is back in the spotlight just in time for the presidential campaign season. In 2013, the Supreme Court remanded Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin (“Fisher I”) for a stricter application of the strict scrutiny standard of review.  In July 2014, after the remand, a Fifth Circuit panel again endorsed University of Texas’s admissions policies, over an impassioned dissent by Judge Garza.  Fisher appealed, again, to the Supreme Court. In December 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Fisher II.  Considering that the Court probably would not have agreed to rehear the case if it believed the Fifth Circuit was correct, it is possible that the Court will bring an end to affirmative action policies altogether. Although many critics considered Fisher I anti-climactic, Justice Kennedy made several moves in his majority opinion in Fisher I that bear importantly on Fisher II.  But before we examine Fisher I, we first [read more]

Is the NFL liable for player’s concussions?

  Football is ingrained in American culture.  This has been evidenced by the fact that professional football has been voted as America’s favorite sport for thirty years straight.  Furthermore, the recent Super Bowl 50 garnered 111.9 million television viewers.  And the National Football League (“NFL”) grosses over seven billion dollars annually.  Yet, despite our country’s attraction to the game, there are some serious dangers that lurk in the background. Football is a physical sport and with this physicality comes many associated health risks. Besides the long-recognized risk of broken bones and torn ligaments, recently, the risk of long-term cognitive problems have become a salient issue.  A few months ago, the movie Concussions was released, starring Will Smith, which further shed light on this matter.   The NFL has even admitted that “it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at ‘notably younger ages’ than in the general population.”  For example, the NFL’s report found that “[f]ormer players between 50 and 59 years old develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at rates 14 to 23 times higher than the general population of the same age range.”  Furthermore, the report also [read more]

Can Texas Deny Birth Certificates to Immigrant Children

Texas may continue to deny birth certificates to children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants. On October 16, 2015, a Texas federal judge denied an Emergency Application for Temporary Injunction that would have forced Texas hospitals to issue birth certificates to children born in the U.S. to foreign parents, pending a decision in the federal case addressing this same issue. The case was filed in June 2015 by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Texas Civil Rights Project, and South Texas Civil Rights Project on behalf of seventeen undocumented mothers and their children suing the Texas Department of State Health Services. The complaint alleges that the seventeen mothers are all citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, or Honduras residing illegally in Texas. The mothers gave birth to their children in Texas and requested official copies of their children’s birth certificates from the Department of State Health Services Vital Statistics Unit, the state agency charged with the responsibility “to collect, protect and provide access to vital records and vital records data to improve the health and well-being in Texas.” The Vital Statistics Unit requires identification from parents seeking copies of their children’s birth certificates, but refuses to accept as identification foreign passports lacking U.S. [read more]

Police and Mental Illness: A Deadly Combination

“Let me stress the ‘help’ part, this was a call for help.” –Mary Wilsey “I didn’t call for them to take him to the morgue, I called for medical help.” –Shirley Harrison   Throughout childhood you were taught that whenever there is an emergency you call 911-you call the police-and they will come and help you. When a family member suffering from a mental illness needs someone to take him to a hospital for treatment, you typically do what society has encouraged you to do. You call 911. You believe and hope that the police would arrive and calmly help you and you loved one to the hospital. The last thing you ever expected was that your loved one would end up dead. Yet, this turn of events is common. Jonathan Guillory, David Felix, Daniel Davis, Brandon Lawrence, Jason Harrison, and Keith Vidal are a handful of mentally ill people that police killed between 2014 and 2015.   The individual officers are not completely to blame for the lack the knowledge and skill to identify and appropriately deescalate situations involving mental disabilities. These officers are ill-equipped to handle such situations and the end result is unnecessarily violent. Police departments should reform [read more]

Zubik v. Burwell: The Contraceptive Coverage Mandate Returns to the Supreme Court

ACA and RFRA: Setting the Scene The Affordable Care Act (ACA, commonly known as Obamacare) requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance. This insurance must cover certain contraceptive methods, including the so-called “morning after” pill. However, regulations under the ACA allow non-profit religious organizations to opt-out of providing contraceptive coverage to their employees by filing a notice of their religious objection to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the insurer or third-party administrator (TPA) of their health plan. Following an organization’s opt-out, the ACA will then require the insurer or TPA to provide separately for contraceptive coverage for the objecting employer’s employees. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) states that the government may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless the government satisfies the compelling interest test. The government satisfies the compelling interest test where (1) the burden’s application is in furtherance of a compelling government interest, and such application is (2) the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby the Court ruled that closely-held corporations are “persons” for purposes of RFRA, therefore the government is not challenging the assertion that nonprofit religious organizations are [read more]

Is This Really Legal? Warrantless Entry, Arrest, and Excessive Force in Alabama

A recent post-game celebration in Tuscaloosa, Alabama received national attention after local news reported an altercation between University of Alabama students and local police. Videos of the incident, captured by bystanders, paint a violent picture as police tasered students multiple times, threw them to the ground, struck them with batons and dragged them outside of their apartment. The video caused an immediate uproar on social media, prompting outrage and calls to eliminate excessive force and police brutality. In response, the Tuscaloosa Police Department promised a full investigation of the circumstances depicted in the video. However, after seeing the videos, many people still have questions about what happened. One Twitter user, reported by the Washington Post, asked a simple question: Is this legal? The short answer is no, and here is why. The facts, as shown in the video, actually raise two legal issues. First, was it legal for the police to enter the student’s apartment without a warrant and issue an arrest stemming from a noise complaint? And, second, was the use of force by the police in making the arrest—including the taser—legal? Let’s start with the first issue. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure, including warrantless [read more]

Plea Bargains — The Plea Bargainer’s Dilemma

Suppose two of your friends drive over to your house in New Jersey and pick you up for, what you believe, is a night on the town. As their car is pulling out of your driveway, two police cars pull up, sirens blaring, and the officers jump out, weapons drawn. You are arrested and charged as an accomplice in a robbery your friends just committed. You retain counsel, and she has bad news: inexplicably, an eyewitness has identified you at the scene of the robbery, and the case against your friends seems airtight.  She believes you have a strong defense – you have an alibi. The strength of this alibi, however depends heavily on your credibility at trial. She warns you that first degree robbery in New Jersey carries a presumptive sentence of fifteen years, with a minimum sentence of ten years, and you have to serve 85% of the sentence to be eligible for parole. But, there’s a bright side. –The prosecutor recognizes that there’s a possibility you weren’t an accomplice, so he’s willing to offer you a plea bargain: a two year sentence in exchange for your testimony against your friends. Rationally speaking, unless you are almost certain [read more]

Is Daily Fantasy Sports Gambling?

In August of 2015, Forbes published an article highlighting the fast-growing daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry. The rise of fantasy sports and most specifically fantasy football has been truly remarkable. In recent years, fantasy football has absolutely exploded with over 30 million Americans playing fantasy football annually. Fueled by over one billion dollars in venture capital and powered by the internet, fantasy football has been rapidly evolving. It is this evolution that has, in many ways, shaped the controversy surrounding daily fantasy sports sites. Traditional Fantasy Sports: Traditional fantasy football gives players a chance to serve as team owners/managers and compete in a “league” of friends. The fantasy season begins with a “draft” process where each participant is permitted to select players for their team. In the standard league, each “owner” is required to fill a team roster. Each week of the football season, owners are matched up against an opposing owner. Points are then allocated based on various athletic achievements made by the players on their team. The winner of the weekly matchup is the team with the most points. The challenges continue until a winner is declared at the end of the football season. In 2006, Congress passed [read more]

It’s Time to Act (FAST) on Student Loans

Maybe it’s just because I’m a student, but it seems like every day there are new articles online about the decline of the American education system. Whether it’s test scores or school funding, we are constantly competing with other countries on several metrics. We know highly skilled workers drive our economy, so what are we doing to encourage people to go to college? Not enough. The choice whether or not to attend college is generally only made once, where costs—including both tuition and information costs—are imposed up-front, and benefits—potential earnings—are spread out over a long period of time. For many people, college seems unattainable or not worth it. In fact, 64% Americans think that President Obama’s goal of regaining the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020 is “not at all likely to happen” because “most people can’t afford college.” To tip the cost-benefit analysis in favor of attending college, the federal government provides student aid to lower costs. Still, to even have a chance at receiving federal aid, students must first navigate the bureaucratic beast known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. When faced with the 108-question long complex form it is not hard to [read more]
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