Throughout his­tory, sports have con­sis­tently shed light on issues of jus­tice and fair play in society. Roger Abrams, the Richardson Pro­fessor of Law at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and an expert in sports law, chron­i­cles some of the most influ­en­tial cases, con­tro­ver­sies and char­ac­ters of the last cen­tury in which law and the right to par­tic­i­pate in sports have con­verged in his new book, Sports Jus­tice: The Law and the Busi­ness of Sports. Abrams, the former law dean and a salary arbi­trator for Major League Base­ball, explores a wide range of legal issues facing ath­letes and sports in general—including the rights of the dis­abled, vio­lence on the field, race and free agency.

Was there one case in par­tic­ular that inspired you to write this book?

Casey Martin’s suit against the PGA Tour has always gen­er­ated a lively dis­cus­sion in my sports law course, and I wanted to find out more about how pro­fes­sional golf tours are orga­nized and how ter­rific young golfers become eli­gible for the Tour. Martin was phys­i­cally dis­abled but, with the aid of a golf cart, he was able to play at the pro­fes­sional level. His suit under the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where his right to par­tic­i­pate using a golf cart was upheld. His per­sonal story as a devout Chris­tian who learned about the hypocrisy of some Supreme Court jus­tices was par­tic­u­larly compelling.

Have any of the cases detailed in your book brought sig­nif­i­cant change in our society?

I think the suit brought by the women gym­nasts at Brown Uni­ver­sity under Title IX has fun­da­men­tally changed col­lege ath­letics. Gender equity is now the law and the prac­tice across the nation and those brave young women (with the help of some ter­rific lawyers) made it happen.

Why do you think sports make for such fas­ci­nating legal tales?

There is no easy way to explain the hold sports has on our psyche and everyday lives, but it is some­thing more than a mere diver­sion. Playing sports can be beau­tiful, fun and ther­a­peutic. Watching others com­pete in sports can also be enjoy­able, espe­cially when those ath­letes are among the very best at their game. We can relate to their stories—to their aspi­ra­tions and to their accomplishments—because we have all played sports. We root for them both on the field and off.

Are there any devel­op­ments in sports that you foresee as major legal issues in the near future?

One nice thing about teaching and writing in the field of sports is that the next major legal issue is as close as tomorrow’s news­paper. The owners of the Red Sox just pur­chased the Liv­er­pool foot­ball club in the Eng­lish Pre­mier League. Brett Favre has been accused of sexual harass­ment. Next year, both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens face legal issues in the crim­inal courts. And, of course, col­lec­tive bar­gaining agree­ments in both pro­fes­sional foot­ball and bas­ket­ball are soon to expire. All will pro­duce legal issues that might require another book. That is more than enough for now.