The most memorable play of the New York Jets’ 10-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins came from the sidelines, not the playing field. During a punt, Jets’ strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped the Dolphins’ gunner Nolan Carroll, who had been blocked to the sideline. While not the modern-day equivalent of Woody Hayes’ punch of an opposing player, it was a distasteful incident in an ugly game.
The play also had a sports law component. Typically, on field injuries that occur in normal game conditions do not give rise to tort claims. Players accept the risks inherent to the particular sport. Alosi’s act, however, was clearly beyond the rules and accepted customs of the game. It was the type of cheap shot that has given rise to tort claims in NFL (in the case of Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals as cited by Sports Law Blog’s Michael McCann) as well as other professional sports.
As McCann points out, the Jets could also be liable for Alosi’s actions.
Alosi has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the season. Had Carroll been injured, the punishment, and the liability of Alosi and the Jets, could have been much greater.