Sports Law • Risk Management

September 19, 2010: Football or Endangered Species?

The question of whether to continue with Friday night football games or protect threatened Newell’s shearwater birds was one that had to be addressed on Kauai recently. The lights used to illuminate the Friday night football games confuse newborn shearwaters flying from their nests out to sea. Apparently the lights are mistaken for moonlight and have caused about 30 birds to become disoriented and fall from the skies around Vidinha Stadium on Kauai.

Fines of $30,000 for each bird can be levied under federal and state laws, which the school district can ill afford. This issue meant addressing competing values. The community thrives on their Friday night football games and giving up this tradition is a sacrifice to their values. On the other hand, protecting the native Kauaian bird is crucial as evidenced by the hefty fine imposed upon violators. After considering all of their options, the community compromised by holding the football games on Saturday afternoons. This compromise comes at a cost to the community, which has little alternative entertainment. Many felt that eliminating the Friday night games hurt the fabric of the community.

Does your facility or organization impact the environment in a negative way? There is certainly a trend for organizations to consider their environmental impact and to become more green. In doing so, it is a good idea to consider if there are any animals that are being harmed because of your sport or recreation activity. Considering how to eliminate such potential negative impacts will likely improve your bottom line.