The year was 1998. The Chicago Bulls were playing in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Michael Jordan was wearing his iconic, bright, red number 23 Bulls jersey. Jordan had led the Bulls to their third consecutive finals appearance, pursuing their sixth NBA Championship title of the decade. However, this was not his fight alone, as his teammates were fighting merely to get on the court. Ron Harper was playing while sick, and Toni Kukoc was battling fatigue. Another teammate and future Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen was playing through an injury. The extent of the illness, fatigue, and injury were not disclosed to the fans watching the game. Of equal importance, this was only known within the Bulls locker room, while the Utah Jazz were not fully aware. The Bulls went on to battle, keeping it a close game and eventually overcoming a three-point deficit with under a minute remaining. The Bulls won the game 87-86, becoming the NBA Champions once again.
Now, decades later, one can not help but wonder, what if the Utah Jazz knew of these obstacles the Bulls players were facing? What if there was technology in place to inform the fans, and potentially the Jazz, of the individual Bulls players’ vitals and health information? What if those bright red Bulls jerseys were equipped with bio-sensing, silver fibers that could measure precisely this type of information? What if this game was catapulted 30 years into the future? What if the game took place in 2028 with the technology of the time impacting it? Would the Bulls have ever stood a chance? What information would have been private? What information would have been shared and known?
Wearable technology is infiltrating its way within the sports world and is going to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. The question league commissioners, athletic board members, business decision-makers, legal scholars, lawmakers, and even fans need to ask themselves is: is wearable technology really all for the good? Or is there an awaiting detriment intertwined with this technology that is essential to realize, in order to protect not only athletes’ individual rights, but also fair competition? Plain and short, is wearable technology really something we want in the future of our sports? Is it in the best interest of professional athletes? What about the best interest of amateur athletes?
Wearable technology raises issues of regulation, privacy, and ownership concerns of information stemming from the professional to the amateur sports levels. These are important issues because fundamental rights and liberties are at stake, and the technology of this nature is rapidly expanding. This note will analyze these issues, and address (1) the history and development of wearable technology and why it is important in sports; (2) the regulations, privacy, and ownership implications of wearable technology in amateur and professional sports; and (3) the issues present in current law and possible solutions, including the potential expansion of regulations impacting athletes.
The Emergence of Wearable Technology and the Legal Implications for Athletes, Teams, Leagues and Other Sports Organizations Across Amateur and Professional Athletics,
DePaul J. Sports L. & Contemp. Probs.
Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/jslcp/vol16/iss1/9