Louisiana Passes School Sports Arbitration Law
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed Act 476 into law. The new law forbids any school that receives public funding from participating in any athletic organization that doesn’t allow for third-party arbitration for eligibility disputes. The law further requires that the arbitrators used in such disputes be approved by the American Arbitration Association and that costs for the arbitration be borne by the loser.
Many schools fear these requirements will make it impossible for them to join any athletic association, and fear the costs associated would be impossible to cover. The Louisiana High School Athletics Association (LHSAA) hears between 400 and 500 eligibility complaints annually, and estimates the cost of a typical arbitration to be between $4,000 and $6,000, which could mean millions of dollars a year in arbitration costs.
Proponents of the law point out that there are many levels of dispute resolution before arbitration would become necessary, and believe the bill is in the best interests of students. “All students deserve a fair opportunity to be able to participate in high school sports,” the governor’s office said.
The bill was drafted in response to the predicament of Episcopal High School of Baton Rouge athlete Clement Mubungirwa, who was ruled too old to participate in school sports. Mubungirwa is a late enrollee with a tragic backstory: He survived militants in the Congo and a Ugandan refugee camp before moving to America. Lawmakers believe he and others deserved a chance to make their case.
The LHSAA announced it would comply with the law in the short-term, but may be mulling a legal challenge.