Polsinelli’s Sports Industry Group represents a wide variety of "players" in the professional and amateur sports arena. While some firms may concentrate on a particular service within the sports industry, Polsinelli’s national sports practice draws from more than 15 multidisciplinary areas.
Our Corporate and Real Estate attorneys advise clients at every level of this dynamic industry. Supporting teams, leagues, conferences, owners and the businesses that assist each, we help clients:
  • Finance real estate acquisition 
  • Build cutting-edge stadiums and arenas 
  • Negotiate personnel and venue and sponsorship agreements that drive athletic enterprise operations
  • Structure billions of dollars in cutting-edge media agreements that bring live sporting events to living rooms and mobile devices around the world
  • Equity and other investments

Our litigators further represent sporting clients in complex national litigation, including antitrust and personal injury class actions, defending existential challenges to the very existence of sports enterprises.

Harnessing the experience of our Public Policy attorneys, we help advance the policy interests of our sports clients with national and state legislatures and city and county governments.

Hailing from offices across the country, our team creates and connects a national network of relationships in the sports industry, including long-standing national contacts with sports media companies and consultants, experts in emerging sports technology, and professors, private equity firms, and thought leaders in the sports media and national sports industry.

We represent clients across sports industry verticals including:
  • Collegiate and amateur conferences, athletic departments and associations
  • Professional teams, franchises, leagues and their owners
  • Facilities operations, including stadiums, other sports-related facilities and their investment activities
  • Private equity firms, strategic buyers, and target companies across a range of industries, including sports, entertainment, retail, media, and technology in the structuring and negotiations of mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, carve-outs and leveraged buyouts
  • Public and private companies in connection with team sponsorships, athletic event and venue partnerships, individual endorsement relationships and technology licensing
  • Sports equipment manufacturers, retail brands, apparel companies, athletic event operators, sports television broadcast networks, multi-media rights organizations and sports technology entities
  • Professional and amateur coaches, broadcasters, athletic administrators and sports executives 
We advise clients on a range of opportunities to advance their objectives, including: 
  • Advising professional sports leagues regarding strategic relationships with corporate sponsors, co-investors, franchise owners, private equity institutions, foreign entities and broadcast partners
  • Representing sellers of aggregated media rights, such as collegiate, high school, and other amateur sports organizations, in multi-billion dollar media transactions and in preparing to take advantage of the emerging digital media distribution landscape
  • Leading the defense of conferences and other organizations in massive complex class action litigation, arbitration and mediation, including antitrust, concussion personal injury, conference membership realignment and other “bet the industry” legal challenges 
  • Counseling national-level sports organizations on government and construction incentives in relation to stadium development
  • Conducting defense in employment litigation and negotiations with the National Football League Players Association
  • Structuring the protection and strategic licensing programs related to trademarks and other intellectual property
  • Conducting internal investigation for sports-related organizations, both prospectively and following alleged wrongdoing
  • Providing advice to owners regarding the purchase and sale of professional franchise equity stakes
  • Counseling sports organization on “risk mitigation” strategies relating to antitrust, FLSA, NLRB, labor and employment issues
  • Establishing, adopting, maintaining and improving client’s anti-corruption policies and procedures
Corporate and Transactional, Venture Capital, and Private Equity 
  • Representation of a number of collegiate sports organizations, handling the negotiation of their television and sponsorship contracts and other financial arrangements, as well as assisting them in corporate and other business matters
  • Advised private equity client in connection with its $4+ billion bid to purchase a mixed martial arts organization.
  • Represent strategic buyer regarding its multi-billion bid to acquire a multi-media rights entity
  • Counseled foreign investor with respect to its proposed acquisition of adventure race company
  • Formation (including operating, venue, media rights, and sponsorship agreements) of four postseason Collegiate Football Bowl games and sale of three to a national media company
  • Represent professional sports franchises in full breadth of operational contracts and issues, including NFL and MLB franchises
  • Counseled Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Basketball Association owners regarding the purchase and sale of franchise equity stakes
  • Led strategic representation of collegiate conferences in the membership realignment and expansion developments of the early 2010s (including negotiation and mediation of the transition of over 20 school’s conference memberships) and in development of defenses to respond to future realignment initiatives
  • Negotiation of numerous venue, sponsorship, game, and other agreements relating to championship sporting events 
  • Advise Boards of Directors of amateur sports organizations on complex fiduciary duty and corporate governance matters 
Complex Litigation and Dispute Resolution
  • Strategic litigation management of significant class action matters, including antitrust litigation over CFA and NCAA rules, the NCAA v Board of Regents, Law, O’Bannon, Marshall, Arrington, Alston, Jenkins, and the “Same Sport/Same School” Concussion litigation
  • Successfully represented sports media rights holder as lead counsel in six day arbitration against broadcaster regarding contract dispute
  • Successfully defended collegiate conference in class action brought by former-student athletes seeking damages for the use of their name, image and likeness. The claims were dismissed and the dismissal was upheld on appeal
  • Successful resolution of a mediated contract dispute between a collegiate conference and a major media distribution company in a contractual future rights clause dispute
  • Assisted in the successful defense of an antitrust claim against the National Federation of State High School Associations and the National Collegiate Athletic Association made by a baseball bat manufacturer, alleging Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution restrained trade in the non-wood bat market. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a unanimous opinion affirming the dismissal of the antitrust claims, reaffirming the National Federation of State High School Association’s role in setting rules for high school competition. The case is very important to the client in its ongoing effort to minimize the risk of injury to the nation’s eight million high school athletes
Linear and Digital Media Rights Agreements
  • Structured and negotiated television rights content acquisition from sports league on behalf of regional sports network
  • Negotiation of numerous complex multimedia rights agreements for collegiate sports content for various Collegiate Conferences, spanning decades and representing billions of dollars of license fee revenues
  • Formation and negotiation of complex operating and Venture Capital financial structure of first national internet distribution outlet for championship high school sports content on a nationwide basis
  • Represent licensors of live sports content in the ongoing transition from the traditional “wired” distribution models to the increasingly internet-based “digital” distribution alternatives
Sports Regulatory
  • Represent coaches association in connection with recommended modifications to the National Basketball Association draft procedures and positions on NCAA legislation regarding agent regulation, eligibility, amateurism, recruiting, apparel company agreements, and infractions
  • Advise Collegiate Conferences regarding numerous modifications to NCAA and Conference regulatory structures
Labor and Employment
  • Draft and negotiate employment, sponsorship, endorsement and speaking engagement agreements for coaches, broadcasters, administrators and executives in Division I college football and basketball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League
  • Represent collegiate sports executives in negotiated termination of employment relationships
  • Coordination with national executive search firms of searches for major sports executives
  • Negotiation of numerous Employment and Agreements for Conference Commissioners, Athletic Directors, and Coaches and structuring and documentation of complex Deferred Compensation Agreements
  • Provide defensive and strategic legal and public policy advice to clients on application of FLSA and NLRA to amateur sports teams
  • Special counsel to Division I University President in response to Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Dear Colleague Letter; working with committee to review and revise University’s Title IX compliance programs
  • Negotiate and counsel with respect to contracts for Division I Athletics Directors and Head Coaches
  • Represent National Football League team in collective bargaining
  • Represent National Football League team in general employment and labor issues
  • Advise National Basketball Association team in negotiations with Head Coach
  • Advise Major League Baseball Team with respect to benefits issues

Public Policy 

• Lead strategic initiatives on managing and lobbying on state public policy issues involving sports, including tax credits, social legislation (LGBTQ facility access issues, gun laws in sports facilities), sport gambling, and sports facility financing and incentives.

• Developed federal public policy strategy for national collegiate sports legislation 

• Represent sports equipment clients regarding federal legislative initiatives
text icon Publications & Presentations
NCAA, Conferences, and Institutions: Roles and Responsibilities in Governance
May 18, 2017
text icon Publications & Presentations
Briefing on Pending College Sports Antitrust Litigation
November, 2016
text icon Publications & Presentations
Recent Legal Developments Involving College Sports
2016
text icon Publications & Presentations
NCAA Conference Counsel Roundtable
May 12, 2016