408 (12 February 2020)

Welcome!  The articles below caught my attention this week.  What are intended to be relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********).  Article titles preceded by [SR] require a subscription. 

(10 February 2020)What You Need to Know About the Spreading CoronavirusBloomberg.com

********This is a Quicktake on the Coronavirus, update on February 10th from a post on January 6th.  This post covers the basics.

            The coronavirus provides an opportunity to examine a host of issues not regularly covered.  For example, what does the legal term force majeure mean?  It seems to fall under the umbrella of “acts of God.”  Bloomberg has a nice discussion of the expression in “When God Appears in Contracts, That’s ‘Force Majeure’.”  Simply put, unanticipated events such as the spread of the coronavirus provide an opportunity for contractual parties to void their contracts.  It strikes me as a great topic for a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, e.g., “Force majeure and the Flu Pandemic of 1918.”  Also known as the Spanish Flu, this public health disaster must have lead to many canceled contracts.

            Global trade has certainly been disrupted by the coronavirus, and many China-related links in supply chains have been temporarily broken.  This point is clearly illustrated by “Ships Are Skipping China and It’s Causing Turmoil for TradeBloomberg.com.  As the article notes, “February 2020 will come to be remembered as a period of historic disruption to physical supply chains the world over, as the coronavirus wrecks trade.”  The impact on container shipments, chemicals, dry bulk commodities, and crude and oil products have been especially significant as China’s role in world trade has increased.  Shipping companies like AP Moller-Maersk A/S, the world’s largest shipper, has been especially affected “because 90% of all trade moves by sea and China has grown into the maritime industry’s main source of cargoes.”  It is estimated that almost 600,000 20-foot [container] boxes are currently out of action as a result of the virus. .  . Though rates can vary, using an estimate of $1,000 per container, that means shippers had to stomach a hit of $600 million this week.”

(11 February 2020)Should College Athletes Profit From Their Fame?  Here’s Where the Debate StandsThe New York Times

——–“The National Collegiate Athletic Association and its sprawling membership of schools are mire in fights—behind closed doors, in statehouses and on Capitol Hill—over whether and how student-athletes should be allowed to profit off their renown.”  California legislation—effective 2023—has provided an impetus to forward the conversation.  Taken a nod from California, “lawmakers in dozens of other states” are considering “bills of their own, and many have drawn bipartisan backing.  Some of those proposals would take hold far faster than the California law.  In Florida, for instance, one proposal was written to go into effect this summer if it passes.”  Given the fear that a crazy quilt of state laws “could undermine rules that apply to colleges nationwide,” the NCAA “has conceded that it must modernize its bylaws.”  Some withing the NCAA are looking for “a congressional solution” that would provide a uniform approach to all colleges and provide “legal cover to a multibillion-dollar industry where antitrust issues are a chronic concern.”

********Evidently, the NCAA’s Article 12, “which covers amateurism and athletic eligibility, is under the greatest scrutiny by elected officials across the county.”  Part of the article “bars a student-athlete from accepting compensation in exchange for allowing ‘his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”  In addition, the bylaws forbid activities like “taking cash for autographs or monetizing social media challenges.”  Agents are another issue.

            One can’t help but think that the so-called nobility of amateurism in sport is a vestige of a day long gone.  Given that, it is hard to see the struggle between the NCAA (and its members) and college athletes as anything other than an economic competition.  I would like to see someone clearly lay out what is at stake for the NCAA, its members, and college athletes to loosening the bonds of amateurism.  That might help provide some useful perspective.

            The presumed occasion for the NYT article is a testimony before “the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the issue of name, image and likeness (NIL).”  You can learn more about the testimony here.  It included a panel which included the president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert.  Senator Richard Blumenthal, in his questioning, got Emmert, and all the other members on the panel, to indicate that the current model of name, image and likeness needs to be “radically modified.”

May you have a good week!

Bruce

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