Writing a legal research paper before the birth of a child, for instance. A league official later commented that the rule was a “best practice for all times,” and sports fans were grateful for it. In the decades since, however, the rule has become increasingly inapplicable and facile to disputes about whether or not raising a child can be depicted in a work of art.

“We may have to wait a long time before we change the rules because they don’t make sense in the new context,” says sports historian Stuart A. Green, who has written numerous books on players, athletes and sports. “If you back up to the late ’50s and early ’60s, it was something that was kind of simplified because parents who needed to travel out for promotion for teams didn’t have time to come home with the kid to watch them play or to hold a baby shower and enjoy it. Now, in North America and the Western hemisphere, they have the luxury of having a team ever so close to where they are living, commuting to hockey games, going to games and bringing in their kids.”

Turok Ponto, an art historian, says the problem isn’t with the rules as much as the statute of limitations for establishing a reason why a work must be tagged exempt from posting. Today, if a team or individual wants to post at least one image of one parent on the Internet for a year, the attorney might argue that it isn’t working as a public educational and marketing tool. “The federal courts equate either exemption or public dissemination of a work to that idea or effect,” says Ponto. “It’s that idea or effect that is being contemplated. A statute of limitations ends it.”

Ultimately, in the twilight of a remarkable sporting era, what remains important is for fans to stick with seeing great athletes of their choosing — some of the best those athletes ever were — play in front of thousands of fans.

• David Greenberg is an investigative reporter with Sports Illustrated. Contact him at: [email protected]

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