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Sports as Legal Systems (Berman)
Fall 2020   LAW 715-001  

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Meeting Times/Location
MW 10:30AM - 11:50AM
Gittis Hall 2

Mitchell Berman

Leon Meltzer Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy

Additional Information

Skills Training
Other Professional Skills: Students will develop familiarity with, and some mastery of, concepts and analytical devices that are fundamental to legal reasoning and argumentation.

70% Exam,
30% Other (Grades will be determined by performance on a final exam and two exercises to be assigned during the semester. The precise details remain to be worked out, but, for enrollment purposes, students should expect each exercise to be worth approximately 15% of the final grade. The key point is that, to minimize the possible adverse impact of illness or other significant disruption, students will not have the entirety of their grades riding on a single exam.)

Multiple Choice,
Short Answer,
In Class,
Open-Book (I'm unsure what an "in-class" exam means for the fall semester. If there is no such thing, then the exam would, of course, be "take-home.")

Satisfies Senior Writing Requirement



Class meets in person.

Course Continuity
Students are encouraged to stay home if you are ill or experience flu-like symptoms. If you miss a class for any reason, it is still your responsibility to make up the work missed.

I offer the following to students who miss class due to illness:

- Class sessions are regularly recorded. I will make these recordings routinely available on the course site to everyone in the class.



Formal organized sports—from the NFL to NASCAR to the LPGA—are either genuine legal systems of a specialized kind or close analogues to legal systems. Like ordinary legal systems, they use general rules, promulgated by rule-making bodies and enforced by impartial adjudicators, to facilitate or incentivize desired behaviors and to prevent or deter undesired behaviors. As such, sports are proper subjects of study by legal scholars and law students. A standard course on "sports law" examines the regulation of sports by law. This course, in contrast, examines sports as legal systems in their own right.

A small sample of the topics to be addressed includes: (1) What are sports, and what is their relationship to games? (The IOC has determined that bridge and chess are sports. Is this correct? Does it matter?) (2) What form should the rules take? (For example, should sports rules contain "mens rea" terms? Should they be more "rule-like" or more "standard-like"?) (3) How much discretion do and should officials have? (Chief Justice Roberts said that "judges are like umpires." Is this true? In what ways?) (4) Should on-field decisions be appealable and, if so, what should the procedures and standards of appellate review be? (For example, is the "indisputable visual evidence standard" of review in the NFL and NCAA football justified?) (5) What is cheating? (Did the badminton players at the London Olympics who tried to lose "cheat"? Do baseball players cheat when they falsely claim to be hit by a pitch?) (6) What should the rules of eligibility be? (Should women with intersex conditions be allowed to compete against other women? Should MTF transgender athletes be allowed to compete against cisgender women? Should double amputees like the South African Oscar Pistorius be allowed to compete against non-disabled runners?)

In exploring questions like these, the course will, where appropriate, draw upon, and examine possible lessons for, ordinary law. The course is therefore both an in-depth and rigorous investigation into sports and a vehicle for deepening one's understanding of law. It is appropriate for law students and for non-law students seeking an engaging and accessible introduction to legal systems and legal analysis.

Course Concentrations

Skills Learning outcomes: Demonstrate an understanding of the individual course skill; Demonstrate the ability to receive and implement feedback; Demonstrate an understanding of how and when the individual course skill is employed in practice.

Perspectives on the Law Learning outcomes: Demonstrate an understanding of how the law affects, and is affected by, the individual course topic; Perform legal analysis in the context of the individual course topic; Communicate effectively on the legal and other aspects of the individual course topic; Demonstrate the ability to use other disciplines to analyze legal issues relevant to the individual course topic, including economics, philosophy, and sociology, as appropriate.