The Sports Law Industry Group at Ropes & Gray brings together the diverse practices, resources, and experience of the entire firm to focus on sports-related issues. Businesses, leagues, teams, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations and individuals involved in professional and amateur sports encounter increasingly complex and specialized legal issues. Our clients call on us to advise them on sophisticated domestic and international transactions of all sizes and shapes.
Our sports lawyers have critical industry and business knowledge and experience in virtually every area of law that touches sports, helping to ensure that our clients receive effective, sophisticated counsel on every issue, including:
- Complex commercial transactions
- Sports venue leasing
- Broadcast and media rights
- Sponsorship and licensing
- Contract negotiations
- Employment hiring, separation and transition
- Transactional matters such as the purchase and sale of professional teams
- Investigations and compliance
- Dispute resolution
- Anti-corruption protection
- Tax issues
- Organization of charitable foundations and other tax-exempt entities
- Brand management and protection
- Privacy regulations
- Estate planning and wealth management
- Sports-related real estate development
Among our recent successes for clients, we represented:
- National Football League in a strategic partnership with Endeavor to operate On Location Experiences. On Location is the official hospitality partner of the NFL, and a partner to more than 150 other rights holders, such as the NCAA, the PGA of America and the United States Tennis Association, and provides official access for both corporate clients and fans looking for immersive experiences at marquee events.
- National Collegiate Athletic Association in connection with general corporate governance and tax matters.
- National Association of Basketball Coaches as outside counsel in connection with general corporate governance since its inception and in advising the NABC through its Executive Director transition.
- A major sports network in negotiating advertising rights for regional programming and an MLB team in negotiating radio rights.
- A major university healthcare system, in various opportunities with professional leagues, teams, stadiums, concerts and events and individuals in endorsement agreements and licensing opportunities.
- United States Olympic Committee in a 10-month independent investigation into the abuse of elite and Olympic gymnasts by Larry Nassar.
- The head coach of a men’s basketball team and a former student athlete at different NCAA Division I universities in connection with an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York into alleged corruption and bribery.
- A university’s men’s and women’s Division I basketball programs in connection with allegations of delivering improper benefits in violation of the rules and regulations of the NCAA. Assisted in the self-reporting of violations to NCAA. No penalties imposed.
- Various Division I coaches in connection with NCAA investigations into allegations of recruiting violations, delivery of improper benefits to student-athletes, and improper internal controls within the university’s athletic department.
- Various clients in connection with sponsorship agreements with AT&T, LG, Allstate, Under Armour, Coca-Cola, Citibank, Spalding, Nike, Northwestern Mutual, Buick, Hershey’s, Upper Deck, Choice Hotels, UPS, New Balance, Sprint, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Unilever, Werner Ladder, adidas, USA Today, Lowe’s, Capital One, Nabisco, Infiniti and Verizon.
- Super Bowl XLI-winning former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy in contract negotiations with NBC Universal, Inc. and regarding his family foundation.
We represent a variety of organizations and individuals in areas covering many aspects of sports law. We serve as outside general counsel to the National Association of Basketball Coaches, whose members include approximately 5,000 college, junior college, and high school basketball coaches. In addition, we represent various large public companies and colleges and universities in a variety of sports-related matters.
Our clients include:
- National Association of Basketball Coaches
- National College Athletic Association
- National Football League
- National sports associations and foundations
- Athletic footwear and licensed apparel manufacturers
- Professional sports franchises
- Collegiate and professional coaches
- Colleges and universities
- Sports marketing organizations
- Athletic administrators
- NCAA Slates “NIL” Proposal for Vote (October 20, 2020)
- University of Colorado Becomes First Major College Athletic Program to Allow Sportsbook Sponsorship (September 25, 2020)
- COVID-19 and the Challenges of Remotely Running a College Athletics Department (May 22, 2020)
- New NBA G League Program Begins to Challenge NCAA Men’s Basketball Hold on Top Prospects (May 7, 2020)
- NCAA Moves Closer to “NIL” Policy for Student-Athletes (May 4, 2020)
- New York Appellate Court Strikes Down Law Authorizing Interactive Fantasy Sports Wagering (February 18, 2020)
- MLB’s “Sign Stealing” Report Highlights Supervisory Compliance Obligations of General Managers and Field Managers (January 21, 2020)
- And They’re Off: Supreme Court Strikes Down PASPA, Leaving States Free to Legalize Sports Wagering (May 15, 2018)
- National Labor Relations Board Releases Unanimous Decision in Favor of Northwestern University and the NCAA (August 20, 2015)
- Game On! Recent Legal Developments and Tax Issues for Collegiate Athletics (September 15, 2014)
- New SEC Enforcement Action Highlights the Unique Role Advisors Play in China-based Reverse Takeover Companies and Due Diligence Problems They Can Create for PE Investors (August 3, 2012)
- “Colleges Brace for New Student-Athlete Sponsor Rules,” The Wall Street Journal’s Risk & Compliance Journal (January 11, 2021)
- “University Sportsbook Deal Raises Compliance Concerns,” Law360 (October 7, 2020)
- “NCAA Moves Closer to “NIL” Policy for Student-Athletes,” Licensing Journal (September 23, 2020)
- “Even With Virus Precautions, MLB Season Has Legal Risks,” Law360 (June 30, 2020)
- Ropes & Gray Hosts Part Two of the Name/Image/Likeness Primer for Colleges and Universities: Two Part Series (December 2, 2020)
- Ropes & Gray Hosts Part One of the Name/Image/Likeness Primer for Colleges and Universities: Two Part Series (November 11, 2020)
- Sports Lawyers Association and Ropes & Gray Host “The Future of Sports Betting” Webinar (October 20, 2020)
- Ropes & Gray and the Sports Lawyers Association Co-Host Student-Athlete Right of Publicity Panel (November 18, 2020)
- Ropes & Gray Sponsors “NCAA at 100 Years” Symposium at Boston College (November 11, 2010)